They hit the streets to lend a hand


November 27, 2005

When charities talk about giving, they usually mention money, and with good reason. Cash is a flexible tool - something that can be used for whatever is needed. But some in Baltimore have been giving something as valuable: personal time, energy and organizational skills to tackle problems in their community.

This year, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a national organization headquartered in Baltimore that focuses on the problems of children, families and communities, honored people in this city whose personal contributions have been extraordinary. Here's a look at some of their good works:


Anderson led an effort to turn around her run-down Southwest Baltimore community, weighed down by drugs, a lack of jobs and despair. Her group adopted a vacant lot, planted flowers, got traffic lights fixed and sewers repaired, and lured a credit union to serve the neighborhood, which lacked basic banking services. Now, she's president of the credit union - Our Money Place, which provides check cashing at a fair price, tax assistance and financial counseling.

"We were at the bottom of the totem pole. We knew what was wrong. We just had to figure out what to do to make a difference," Anderson said. "A lot of our seniors are now saving money for their grandchildren's education, and our young parents are starting to do the same."


Dittmar coordinates the Parent and Family Pantry Program at Tilghman Elementary School, where she runs a food pantry on a shoestring budget and offers encouragement to parents and grandparents attempting to raise kids in tough circumstances.

When 13 children were hit by cars on the way to school one year, Dittmar helped form a volunteer group called the "Yellow Jackets," who patrolled neighborhood street corners in yellow jackets and black hats. The Yellow Jackets are also a presence on school grounds, picking up needles and broken bottles and "keeping the craziness at bay," Dittmar said.

"They do the really important work," she said. "I'm just here to support them."


Jackson is an outreach worker for the Baltimore Pediatric HIV Program. Her work takes her "into crack houses, hotels and street corners" where she talks to women at risk of developing HIV/AIDS. Jackson knows the territory well. She is HIV positive, a recovering drug addict and former prostitute who was homeless for several years.

She credits the staff at Baltimore Pediatric HIV Program with helping her start down the road to recovery. "They held on to my hand even when I let go of theirs," she recalls.

With six years of sobriety to her credit, Jackson shows women she meets before-and-after photos of herself. "When they see me, they say `Maybe I can do this too'," she said.

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