Yeah, Partnerships Can Be Hard, But It's What We Do (And Well)!
From The ODA Blog
Tags: construction, exoffenders, insulation, Oliver neighborhood, workforce development, your baltimore community development, baltimore, Component Assembly Systems
BALTIMORE -- From our fourth-floor Weinberg office at the corner of Milton and Ashland overlooking slum lords, drug kings, and bright-eyed children, we began a bumpy, snaking journey in 2011 that helped mold us into the resilient organization we are today. Like the shiny new ornament on the family Christmas tree, it didn't take long for our brash approach to catch people's attention. We became known as the little nonprofit that CAN, the crazy people who don't take NO for an answer, and the intrepid community agent that fears NOBODY.
Like any worthwhile venture, our pilgrimage in pursuit of urbanity's Holy Grail of social solutions -- the GOOD job, the FAIR employer, and the BOUGHT-IN community partner -- tested our mettle and refined our vision far beyond our initial capabilities. Who knew helping poor people gain meaningful (living-wage) employment could be so challenging? Six years later, a string of East Baltimore jobs partnerships has slowly built into a movement connecting scores of young adults -- including many young men with criminal backgrounds -- with full-time employment in construction, manufacturing, and administrative jobs. Though our steps have not always been sure-footed and our pathway not always certain, we never lost sight of our destination.
What started with the seed faith suggestion of a downtown Christian attorney (anonymity protected) who came to us with the life-changing potential of two low-paying jobs in houses he was rehabbing, eventually got us noticed by others, and in due time, led to partnerships with three of the largest construction development companies in the United States -- TRF Development Partners, Component Assembly Systems, and Clark Construction. Large manufacturing firms like Tulkoff Foods and Tenax got involved in the fall of 2016, already hiring several well-prepared clients.
Throughout the journey, our vision has always been clear and simple: our clients are HUMAN BEINGS, not crime STATISTICS. They need a helping hand that holds tight for as long as it takes. We've come to see it as our God-given responsibility and patriotic duty to advocate for them when others too quickly disregard their skills and ambition.
While success with partnerships has not always come easy -- and yes, some of the young men have definitely broken our hearts -- our work with the BIG players has shown us time and again that even the toughest problems nearly always come with solutions. That's because BIG players bring BIG capabilities. The challenge is helping them see the BIG play. When they do, America wins.
The current success stories of East Baltimore neighborhoods like Oliver did not happen by accident and will not continue through blind luck. Serious people must continue to take their work seriously -- people like Earl "Duke" Johnson at Your Baltimore Community Development -- who continues to honor us through his loyal friendship and patient partnership.
Business profit is a good thing but community success is even better. At Open Door America, we remain forever grateful for the jobs that TRF, CAS, and Clark have made available to our clients. The lessons we've learned through these partnerships have prepared us for the new partnerships that are coming our way. Stay tuned.
Open Door Baltimore, a nonprofit that fights poverty by working with businesses to provide living-wage jobs, is expanding beyond the beltway. To better reflect the organization’s larger mission, the board of directors recently approved a new identity and logo.Read More