While Baltimore certainly has its charms, it’s also a city with struggles. As Jews, we are taught early on about the importance of tikkun olam, of contributing to the improvement of society. Many of us want to do what we can to make our community better, but it can be overwhelming to figure out where you fit in and how to best contribute.
I’ve been there, but through my work in the nonprofit sector I discovered an amazing opportunity for young folks who want to focus their time and energy into strengthening Charm City. Called GIVE (Getting Involved in Volunteer Experiences), this nine-month fellowship was established in 2010 by Business Volunteers Maryland, a nonprofit that recognizes the lack of and need for community involvement from young professionals.
The fellowship was created for those rising leaders, ages 25 to 40, who are interested and ready to take their community involvement to the next level. GIVE educates fellows on Baltimore’s history and introduces them to a variety of area nonprofits; develops leadership skills necessary for community engagement; expands personal and professional networks; and creates ambassadors of civic leadership, volunteerism and business involvement in community service. The fellowship has three core components: monthly workshops, advisory projects and networking events. Once a month from February through November, fellows gather for workshops focusing on skill development or community learning. Workshops equip fellows with the knowledge and experience to become more aware of community needs and better prepared to address those needs.
In addition to the monthly workshops, fellows are divided into four- to six-person teams and matched with a nonprofit for an advisory project. Each team is immersed in its nonprofit during a five-month period to help problem-solve and provide advisory consulting around complex organizational issues and questions.
The purpose of the project is to expose fellows to the inner workings and challenges of nonprofits, to allow fellows to think creatively and use their skills, and to empower them to contribute on a deeper and more dynamic level. The selected nonprofits range in cause areas and missions, but all are working toward strengthening Baltimore in some way.
On top of the workshops and advisory projects, there are a variety of networking events hosted by GIVE each month, including coffee talks with community and business leaders, happy hours and volunteer experiences. Some events are for current fellows to get to know one another on a more personal level, but many events are open to all GIVE alumni to facilitate deeper connections among the GIVE network.
GIVE fellows now constitute a network of more than 300 civic-minded professionals. All share a desire for personal and professional growth, as well as a powerful vision for Baltimore’s future. They are united by their desire to make a positive impact in Baltimore, and this is what keeps them connected long after the fellowship ends. Fellows are diverse in gender, ethnicity, education, profession and experience, and it’s this fusion that is crucial for Baltimore’s success.
I want to share this opportunity with other young Jewish professionals who have roots here or are new to Baltimore and looking for ways to connect to the city. Consider applying to the GIVE fellowship if you want to elevate your engagement in Baltimore or are just getting started and need some guidance on your journey.
To learn more about the fellowship and to add your name to the interest list for the 2019 cohort, visit businessvolunteersmd.org. Applications are open from Sept. 4 to Nov. 16.
Allie Gerstley is program coordinator for Business Volunteers Maryland.