Standing with a crowd on the porch of the Clifton Mansion in Northeast Baltimore recently to celebrate the 95th birthday of Samuel Hopkins, a descendant of one of Baltimore's great philanthropists, Johns Hopkins, it was hard not to reflect on what philanthropy and service have meant to Baltimore - and on what they still mean to the future of our city and its residents.
"Johns Hopkins made a positive difference in the lives of countless people, but most importantly, he left a profound and lasting legacy to the city he made his home," was the way Sam said it.
Sam Hopkins' death Wednesday ended a lifetime of civic involvement. Following in the Hopkins tradition, he engaged in public service and made a positive difference throughout his life, as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, as a director of the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt hospitals, as a member of Baltimore's Recreation and Parks Board and its Planning Commission, and as a founding member, at age 82, of the Civic Works Board of Directors.
Clifton Mansion, the former summer home of Johns Hopkins, is now a city property and the home of Civic Works, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to build a future for Baltimore's youths through community service and skills development. Each year at Civic Works, hundreds of young volunteers spend a year or a summer in service to Baltimore and, in return, receive a modest living allowance and an education award that can be used for college or vocational school.
It was an evening to reflect on philanthropists, a high-sounding word for those who choose in simple or grand ways to show love and appreciation for their communities and fellow citizens. Of course, not all who gathered to honor Sam Hopkins will give fortunes to establish hospitals and universities. But all can share the spirit of service and can add their work to the vast, cumulative good that has been bestowed on Baltimore by this remarkable family. In recognition of Sam Hopkins' lifetime of good works and the importance of all volunteer service, Civic Works last month established the Samuel Hopkins Lifetime of Service Award, to be given annually to someone who carries on the legacy of philanthropy and service founded by Johns Hopkins and carried forward by Sam.
It is not in one grand gesture that communities are built or cities develop, or that hospitals and schools succeed and thrive. Rather, it is by slowly collecting the good will, good ideas and good works of many that our institutions are planted and grow over the years to serve others in a future not even imagined.
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Mary Louise Preis, a member of the Civic Works Board of Directors, is the recipient of the first Samuel Hopkins Lifetime of Services award