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In Old Line Society, a new generation of philanthropists

Brothers Justin and Jeremy Batoff are about to trade in their condominium overlooking the lacrosse fields at Johns Hopkins, their alma mater, for a Greenspring Valley farmhouse.

They share a real estate portfolio. They work together at the family law firm. And they fill their free time with the same pursuits — fine art, evening games of squash, fox hunts and steeple chases.

"After Justin got into racing, I figured, 'There's nothing we can do alone, so how can I get involved without actually getting on a horse?'" says Jeremy, 27. "'I know, I'll just own the horses.'"

The brothers, born 18 months apart, have the same initials, J.A.B., and the same polished good looks. They even share an academic resume — Gilman, Hopkins, and University of Baltimore School of Law.

"We're just better together," says Justin, 28, an attorney at the firm founded by their father.

So it's no surprise that the brothers teamed up to create a social organization — the Old Line Society.

The brothers, who grew up in Hunt Valley, had long accompanied their parents to society balls and charitable fundraisers. But they felt too few of their peers were donning black tails and ball gowns and attending such events.

"We wanted to introduce local causes to our friends," says Justin Batoff. "We want to raise as much money as we can while being inclusive."

"If you're going to try to get younger people out there, you have to draw them in with a fun party or a cool venue," says Jeremy, who manages the brothers' real estate holdings.

And so the Old Line Society was born.

It's society without the stuffiness, the brothers say. Charity events where you can let your hair down. Old money without the old people — and, perhaps, without the money.

The brothers say they try to keep ticket prices low, usually less than $100, so that students and interns will be able to attend. Admission to many of the events is just $20.

Since founding the society in 2010, the brothers have thrown parties such as a solstice soiree in the gardens at the Cylburn Arboretum and a fundraiser for Living Classrooms with a nautical theme, all jaunty sailor hats and navy blazers.

They threw a party at September's Legacy Chase at Shawan Downs to raise money for Greater Baltimore Medical Center's pediatrics programs. Guests in riding boots and bow ties posed for photos in a vintage green Land Rover, watched the races — Justin was among those competing on horseback — and played a few rounds of beer pong.

The brothers say they hope to spark an interest in charitable giving among young people — recent graduates and fledgling professionals who might not be able to make major donations right now, but likely will be among the region's philanthropic leaders in another decade or two.

About 500 people are fans of the Old Line Society on Facebook. There are no dues, and no paid staff, although the brothers have secured 501(c)3 status for the society, and formed a leadership board.

Cultivating bright young things to become future philanthropists is a rising trend, but it's hardly a new idea.

The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers launched a program to groom young donors a dozen years ago. Many of the city's cultural institutions, from the Enoch Pratt Free Library to the Maryland Historical Society, have or are creating groups to encourage twenty-and thirtysomethings to get involved.

What the Batoffs bring to the scene is a certain social clout, a Gatsby-like good time, like a pair of party promoters for the seersucker and pearls crowd.

Katie Caljean, director of programs and community partnerships for the Maryland Historical Society, says the brothers helped make her organization's Bootleggers Bash a raging success.

"They have a very wide social network. They know Baltimore so well," says Caljean, herself a recent transplant to the city. "They're in the middle of the web and they have all these connections."

Roswell Encina, the Pratt's director of communications, says the Batoffs have been active in the library's Pratt Contemporaries group.

"Both Justin and Jeremy have displayed that they care," says Encina. "They set a good example of spotlighting nonprofits and charities in the community that other young professionals should emulate."

Since they were art history majors at Hopkins, the brothers have taken pride in showing off the gems of the city and surrounding countryside. They've taken their friends to see the Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum.

Their love of art was inspired by their parents' collection, Jeremy says.

"Being able to look at incredible museum quality pieces of art outside your bedroom door every morning… when you get to school, it's like 'Oh, OK, now I'm learning about what mom and dad collect," he says.

The Batoff brothers have been active in the Walters Enthusiasts group for younger patrons of the arts, says Mona M. Rock, a museum spokeswoman, lending their "energy, connections, love of art and true belief in the mission of the Walters" to events.

Carol Batoff, the brothers' mother, says she is not surprised that her sons have gotten involved in charitable giving. She and her husband, Steven Batoff, have been "quietly involved" in a number of organizations over the years, including giving money to Hopkins when the boys were students to help launch the Center for Financial Economics.

"We included them in everything," she says. "They did understand from an early age that it is important to give back. If you have dreams and aspirations for these organizations, then you need to play your part in helping them be successful."

The brothers say that they hope the Old Line Society will help charitable organizations create their own groups for young professionals. They want to see their peers form lasting relationships with nonprofits.

And, even when they trade their Tuscany-Canterbury condominium for the farmhouse in the country, they plan to stay active in the city — side by side.

As Jeremy says, "We stay together."

Julie.scharper@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/juliemore

Sloane Brown is a contributing writer for The Baltimore Sun.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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