Every resident counts: Civic Works making a difference in Baltimore
Civic Works’ volunteers constructing a hoop house at Real Food Farm. (Courtesy Photo)
AmeriCorps celebrated its 20th birthday this past September. The organization engages more than 75,000 Americans in service projects annually. More than 4,000 AmeriCorps members have served in Baltimore through Civic Works, a non-profit I founded in 1993 to strengthen Baltimore’s communities through education, skills development and community service.
We love to talk about the numbers to showcase results: tutoring and mentoring close to 40,000 students, growing nearly 60,000 pounds of fresh produce, planting 25,000 trees, making energy improvements to nearly 6,000 households, and converting over 200 vacant lots into community green spaces. But what I’d like to talk about today are people, not numbers, because behind every statistic is a Baltimore resident whose life has been positively impacted by Civic Works. Today, I want to share Davon Baynes’ story.
Davon was born and raised in Northeast Baltimore. After spending two years as a member of Civic Works Real Food Farm’s high school youth crew, Davon joined Civic Works as the farm’s AmeriCorps Mobile Farmers Market Assistant in the summer of 2013. In his four years with the farm, Davon has gained a wide-range of skills, from farming, harvesting, and composting, to customer service and public speaking.
The pride he takes in a job well done is evident. Davon was featured on The Today Show as part of the Mobile Farmers Market team; selected to participate in a Boulder-White Clouds Mountains Retreat – a trip for urban AmeriCorps members, which expanded his view on the importance of protecting the environment; written about in the Huffington Post; and chosen to present at The U.S Department Of Agriculture. He continues to pull more than his fair share as a member of the Real Food Farm team.
“We are not just working but also saving lives, saving our community, and making Baltimore a better place one day at a time,” Davon says. “As an AmeriCorps member with Civic Works, I am proud of the work we do. Bringing healthy food options to neighborhoods with limited access to fresh produce and working on a farm to improve the environment are two ways I make a difference in my community. This program has made a big difference in my life as well. I’ve seen mountains, hiked in a national forest, been interviewed on national TV, and most importantly impacted my city in a meaningful way. I’ve learned so much, and I feel prepared for what’s next.”
What is next for Davon?
He’s applying to college – first to Baltimore City Community College to focus on art (ceramics and photography) and then to MICA for the building blocks that will allow him to follow through on his dreams. The experiences he gained as a Civic Works AmeriCorps member are opening doors to new opportunities. Davon’s career path may or may not include urban farming, but the skills and work habits he learned during his time at Civic Works— attention to detail, communication skills, problem-solving strategies—will help him with all of his future endeavors.
Encouraging higher education and building skills through community service are two ways that Civic Works helps to make an impact in the lives of Baltimore residents. When we share our impact statistics, we feel an enormous sense of pride. But when we share our stories about the Baltimore residents changed by the work we do each day, we feel an enormous amount of joy. Our work is guided by the belief that every resident counts, and that’s what makes the numbers matter.
Dana Stein is the executive director and founder of Civic Works, a nationally-recognized “urban Peace Corps” that transforms the lives of young adults through community service. Participants rehab homes, build parks and gardens, tutor and mentor students, make improvements in the homes of senior citizens, and grow fresh produce at an urban farm. Civic Works also operates a combined middle/high school in Baltimore City and is based in the historic Clifton Mansion.
Dana also is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates and represents District 11 in Baltimore County. He was first elected to the House in 2006 and is vice-chair of the Environment and Transportation Committee. He also chairs the education subcommittee of the Baltimore County delegation and co-chairs the State’s Financial Education and Capability Commission.
Prior to establishing Civic Works, Dana practiced law for several years at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey in Washington, D.C. He has a B.A. in government from Harvard University, a law degree from Columbia Law School, and a Masters in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Dana is an adjunct professor at the University of Baltimore and is the author of the novel Fire in the Wind (Tate Publishing: 2010), which imagines a future in which significant climate change has set in.