By Steven McAdams
The writer served as executive director of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives during the Hogan administration.
The strongest communities are built on a surprisingly simple concept: a willingness to step up and give back. That’s the heart of what “Maryland Strong” means to me: the simple act of showing up.
As Director of Community Initiatives under former Gov. Larry Hogan (R), it was my honor and privilege to witness what’s possible when our friends and neighbors commit to showing up for the communities we call home. Whether it’s a donation to a nonprofit organization or a family in need, organizing a day in the country for inner city youth, or simply participating in celebrations at local churches or temples, Marylanders make our state stronger every day simply by showing up.
Shortly after his inauguration, new Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) redoubled our state’s commitment to the concept of showing up by establishing the new Department of Service and Civic Innovation. This new, cabinet-level agency will serve as the home for one of Governor Moore’s top priorities: the establishment of a service year program for Maryland high school graduates. The service year, according to its supporters, would give local high school graduates the opportunity to serve their communities and their state, be paid for their work, and learn skills that will serve them in their futures.
This is a powerful idea — a win/win concept that would deliver immediate benefits for our communities while also better equipping graduates for the future.
Initiatives such as the Department of Service and Civic Innovation or the Community Initiatives and the work I did for the prior administration are examples of Maryland Strong in action. And as powerful as these initiatives are, they’re far from the only arrow in our quiver.
The business community plays a crucial role in being good corporate citizens and is particularly well-equipped to quickly drive positive impacts. We relied extensively on public/private partnerships to help improve and expand our initiatives to have the maximum impact on communities. And while these partnerships don’t always make the front page in today’s news environment, such contributions still deserve our attention and play an indispensable role in building the future we’re all working toward.
Take CSX, one of the nation’s largest railroads. Founded right here in Maryland, CSX has a long history of active partnership with nonprofits and other entities across Maryland. This local civic engagement is a core part of the company’s identity, and you don’t have to look far to see its impact — or its alignment with the concept of showing up for Maryland.
In April, CSX and City Year — a nonprofit organization focused on uniting young adults from diverse backgrounds for a demanding year of full-time community service — hosted a day of service at Curtis Bay Elementary school in Baltimore. The day of service included both indoor and outdoor work, constructing picnic tables, enhancing the outdoor garden space, and painting interior school corridors.
The event was a perfect illustration of the mutual benefits of showing up. Curtis Bay Elementary saw the benefits in the form of improved facilities and more, and those who participated saw the benefits in the form of new skills and the satisfaction that comes with — you guessed it — showing up.
The day of service wasn’t a one-off. CSX and City Year have been partners in service for more than 20 years, and the event at Curtis Bay Elementary was just the latest in a long history of giving back and making a difference.
CSX has also been an active partner to other nonprofits in Maryland, including the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. CSX donated $2.6 million to fund the construction Curtis Bay Athletic Field, which was built to serve as the home field for the Ben Franklin High School football team as well as the boys and girls soccer teams.
All of us have an opportunity to make a difference, from the public sector to corporate partners to individual members of the community. Whether it’s Governor Moore’s new Department of Service and Civic Innovation, good corporate citizenship like CSX’s, or something as simple as donating to a neighbor in need — it really is as simple as showing up.