In a pair of working gloves with the Ravens logo emblazoned on the front, San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee painted broad brush strokes at a West Baltimore police station Friday to make good on a bet.
Had the Ravens lost to the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake would have traveled to the West Coast to complete a day of service, which was the wager she and Lee made on the February game.
"I think San Francisco is a lovely city, but I am glad I did not have to go there in payment of a debt," said Rawlings-Blake, who traded in her signature high heels for a pair of wedge booties for the day of activities.
The mayors joined 130 AmeriCorps members to revitalize a vacant lot in Franklin Square as part of the city's Power in Dirt initiative, to paint and repair the Western District station house and to tutor children in Cherry Hill for the Third Grade Reads project.
But before they got down to work, Rawlings-Blake and Lee made and tasted crab cakes at Faidley Seafood in Lexington Market.
"Your blue crab and your soft crab and your crab cakes were just — just tremendous, and then we had to work it off," Lee said. "I am glad to put my arms to work. We need to present the spirit of volunteerism. Mayor Rawlings-Blake is not only committed to it, she's considered a national leader on this."
Rawlings-Blake said she wanted to wager a day of service rather than a fleeting gesture, such as exchanging sports jerseys with Lee.
"We're shining a spotlight, not just on Baltimore, but on the power of volunteers," Rawlings-Blake said. "We have a couple thousand [AmeriCorps members] in the city. They are enriching our community in both of our cities.
"Mayor Lee and I wanted to highlight and thank the volunteers that give so much."
Wendy Spencer, who runs the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps, the Corporation for National and Community Service, said when high-profile figures like city mayors become involved in volunteer service, other community members follow suit.
Baltimore has more than 2,100 AmeriCorps members, about the same number as in San Francisco.
"When you have mayors of two fabulous cities like Baltimore and San Francisco using service as a message to promote their cities, it draws attention to the impact of AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and volunteerism in general," Spencer said.
"What I love about mayors is they're so connected to local needs. And they know they can't do it all within the budget constraints, that they actually need citizens' support."
Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said the service provided Friday helps fill in a gap between needs and resources.
At the Western District station house, the mayors and AmeriCorps members painted hallways and rooms, planted flowers, mowed the grass and rebuilt a fence. Batts said service projects are good for the community and good for officers' morale.
Maj. Robert Smith, the district commander, also gave the visitors a tour of the station, including what he called the "war room," where maps of the area covered the tables and photos of suspects were scattered throughout. On a large board decorated with yellow paper, fliers of wanted criminals with the words "captured" scrawled in red letters were posted under the heading "Western District Battles Won!"
Smith said he's grateful for the improvements to the 55-year-old station.
"You see where we're situated; it's right in the heart of the community. Any improvements we can do to an old structure, it's a blessing that they came in and did the work," he said.
Leah Goodman, a 23-year-old AmeriCorps member from Chicago, said volunteerism is vital to a community.
"It's really great that the mayors made a commitment wider than food or just having fun, that they're really giving back to communities," Goodman said. "It really does show good sportsmanship and creating this partnership, not just between the two cities, but the mayors, the community and then the people who volunteer."
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