Why do you volunteer your time specifically with this organization?
As a child, I personally saw the blessings and benefits of an outward-focused, faith-based ministry. Volunteerism, caring for people of all backgrounds, and demonstrating love in tangible ways has always been a central part of my faith expression. My husband and I began Captivate Christian Church as a way to provide hope to the hurting and significance to the successful in and around Baltimore.
Does this organization affect Baltimore as a whole?
Since our start in 2009, Captivate has grown to three locations: Towson, East Baltimore, and Dundalk. Each location looks as unique as its neighborhood. The Towson location serves as our anchor and provides much of the capital, both financial and human, necessary for the outreach at our other locations. Additionally, our Towson campus has sponsored youth sports, hosted block parties and organized teams for events such as Relay For Life.
Several years ago, we partnered with our friend Colleen Smith to start the GEM (Gospel, Education, Mentoring) Program at our East Baltimore campus. GEM is for children in grades K-12 and meets every Wednesday night, with various trips planned throughout the year including camping, Orioles games, go-kart racing, farm visits, etc. So many of our kids have never been more than a few blocks from home until they go on an outing with GEM volunteers. GEM provides 50+ children in the community a safe environment to do homework, check out books in the reading room and use computers for school projects, in addition to being paired up with a mentor. We hold block parties for the McElderry Park neighborhood, provide bedroom makeovers for kids in need, and host summer camps with the help of other church groups that travel from across the nation to volunteer with us. We cook an annual Thanksgiving dinner for our GEM families, often provide Christmas gifts, and regularly minister to members of our neighborhood who have lost loved ones through homicide.
Our Dundalk location is our newest of the three campuses, and we’ve been pleased to see a new GEM Program begin here. We also host an annual Easter egg hunt, which includes 5,000 individually stuffed eggs, carnival games, and food – all free to the community. Additionally, we work to support the nearby Norwood Elementary and Holabird Middle School faculty and families through our volunteer time, allowing them to use space for conferences, and even offer donuts and coffee most Fridays of the year to parents dropping off their students.
What is your favorite memory of working with this organization?
There are many, but one in particular that stands out is from last year when my husband and I obtained legal custody of a teenage boy from our GEM Program. In his first week with us, he made a comment that his belly had never felt so full before. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and something we will do again in the future.
If you could do one thing to change the organization for the better, what would it be?
My hope is that as our ministry continues to grow, we can get more people involved in effecting change in Baltimore. Donating money is great and much needed, but I believe personal investment and building supportive, healthy relationships within our most vulnerable communities is key to help break the cycle of violence and poverty.