By Elizabeth Heubeck, For The Baltimore Sun
5:28 PM EDT, April 21, 2013
On any given day, you might find 27-year-old Teddy Krolik in the neighborhood of Reservoir Hill operating a Bobcat tractor in a rubble-strewn vacant lot, dropping by the home of an elderly woman to see if she needs a ride to a community meeting later that day, or checking out the progress of a recently installed urban farm.
Krolik's job as environmental and sanitation program director of Baltimore's Reservoir Hill Improvement Council (RHIC) Inc., created to assist Reservoir Hill residents in finding solutions to their community's social and environmental issues, didn't come with a precise list of job responsibilities.
"It's not the kind of job you take if you need direction," Krolik said. It is a job you accept — or, as in Krolik's case, embrace — if you possess copious amounts of vision, creativity, compassion, and perseverance.
Krolik does, and his efforts to rebuild Reservoir Hill have not gone unnoticed. He is one of 100 people from around the world who made it onto the GOOD 100 list.
Compiled by GOOD, a for-profit business that defines itself as a global community by and for pragmatic idealists working toward individual and collective progress, this year's list includes dozens of innovators, including the CEO of MALO, which helps farmers find efficient, cost-saving ways to produce rice with nutrients in Mali; and the founder of Hot Bread Kitchen, an enterprise that empowers immigrant women to produce ethnic bread made from organic, local ingredients.
"The list identifies and honors the catalysts who drive change in their communities in creative and inspiring ways," said GOOD's CEO and co-founder, Ben Goldhirsh.
Before starting the position in 2010, Krolik didn't know much about the historic and diverse Baltimore neighborhood of Reservoir Hill beyond its Beth Am Synagogue, where he's worshiped with his family since childhood.
He was raised in the leafy neighborhood of Mount Washington and attended the independent Friends School of Baltimore, far removed from Reservoir Hill, whose central hub, the intersection of Whitelock Street and Brookfield Avenue, was notorious for its drug-related shootings. Now, intimately familiar with Reservoir Hill and fiercely protective of its reputation, Krolik can barely bring himself to admit the community's troubled past.
But he's eager to talk about the neighborhood's broader history and recent turnaround. Krolik explains how, after the race riots in 1968, the commercial storefronts on Whitelock Street never recovered. By the 1990s, many were shuttered and Baltimore City in 1994 demolished much of the street.
"It literally removed the heart of the neighborhood," said Krolik, whose efforts at galvanizing residents and financial support to bring back the neighborhood's center rank high among the list of GOOD's do-gooders.
By coordinating funding and resident volunteers and generally acting as chief neighborhood cheerleader, he has facilitated several improvements to Reservoir Hill: the development of the Whitelock Community Farm, which has produced over 6,000 pounds of produce at an intersection previously known for its open-air drug market; the establishment of the local school, John Eager Howard Elementary, as a Maryland Green School; and the dramatic makeover of a desolate concrete lot into a playground with a wide swath of grass and a brand-new jungle gym area.
But Krolik says it's the relationships he's helped forge that he's most proud of.
"It is great that we can plant trees and remove impervious surface and grow food; it's even better that the people working together on those projects typically didn't know each other before the project started," Krolik said. He notes that, whether tending the farm or erecting the playground, young and old, black and white, renters and owners have come together to improve the neighborhood.
They appreciate that Krolik is there for the same purpose. "He's done so much. He takes some of our kids on, and is mentoring them. He's into the farm. He's all over the place, wherever there's a need. He does a fantastic job," said Juanita Thompson, a 16-year resident of Reservoir Hill.
Krolik acknowledges the progress, but isn't completely satisfied yet.
Across the street from the thriving community farm sits a vacant lot that consists of approximately 30,000 square feet of broken-up concrete and mud. A shortage of resources has hampered Krolik's vision of turning it into an attractive community space where neighbors could hold flea markets or maybe even enjoy movies under the stars during the summer. He stares down the vacant lot with determination.
"This is a real opportunity. When there's so much to do, a will, and only so many days," Krolik said.
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