On July 23, I volunteered with more than 150 other ARAMARK employees at the East Baltimore Development Inc (EBDI) Community Center as part of a company-wide service day, ARAMARK Building Community. This was a very significant experience for me because I spent the first 17 years of my life, raised by a single parent, only five blocks away from where we volunteered.
The EBDI community center was such a large part of my life growing up. I have worked for ARAMARK for 23 years and it was really a great feeling to see that my company understands the importance of these community centers for families and through this program is committed to supporting these organizations that made such an impact on my life.
It’s truly a blessing to have the chance to volunteer with my colleagues in the same building that was a safe haven for me during summer camp – building book shelves, painting and transforming a space into a workforce readiness room – in the neighborhood where I grew up and where the majority of homes were abandoned and where violence and crime were prevalent. There are so many people in the community in need of jobs and job training programs so creating a place dedicated to providing families with workforce opportunities is so important.
One thing that really touched me during the day was when I was walking around the grounds of the center and reminiscing about growing up in the neighborhood and saw a kid about 10 years old riding his bike to the center from down the street. I introduced myself and talked with him for a while and saw a reflection of me in him. We talked about what was happening at the center and I brought him over to the volunteer projects and to see him get really excited about what was taking place gave me a real sense of pride.
I feel a real sense of responsibility to serve as a pipeline for youth to expose them to new experiences and opportunities and to see how big this world is beyond the drugs and violence of their community. It’s that same support and mentoring that I received in this community at this community center as a youth that made me who I am today and that has helped me to realize that we all can make a difference and give back.
It is especially encouraging that this wasn’t a one-time-only volunteer outing. As a company we have created a partnership with EBDI. ARAMARK volunteers are coming back in just three weeks to support their Family Fun Day and Health Fair. My colleagues will be showing local families in Baltimore how to eat better and live healthier lives.
Volunteering has changed my life and made me stronger and more determined to do more. During the day, I spoke with some of the other ARAMARK managers who had all been positively impacted by their volunteer experience. As a result of their day of service, I think they too are inspired to give more, to encourage their colleagues to volunteer. Everyone had a great sense of pride on the commitments our company has made to improving communities, supporting families and continuing the spirit of service that has always been part of our culture.
Rodney Myers is a District Manager at ARAMARK. To learn more about the East Baltimore Development Inc, visit www.ebdi.org, or get involved at your local community center by searching keyword: “community center” “community development” “workforce readiness” “mentor”