The mood on Sunday afternoon at Oriole Park was largely festive. Families chowed down on hot dogs and hamburgers. Parents looked on as their children played cornhole, got their faces painted and posed for photos with the Oriole Bird. But the hometown team wasn’t playing, and the sudden midafternoon storm didn’t push them out.
Instead, while the O’s blew a six-run lead to the Red Sox at Fenway Park, hundreds of Bank of America Greater Maryland employees and their families visited Camden Yards to stuff 1,000 backpacks for Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPSS) students. The service event, which doubled as an employee appreciation day, is part of Bank of America Greater Maryland’s continuing philanthropic work in Baltimore City and the surrounding counties. A report from the financial institution noted that it has already donated $625,000 in the city alone in 2019.
“We knew that this time of year being back-to-school time, there’s lots of need for school supplies,” said Janet Currie, Bank of America’s regional market manager. “It was just really a nice, natural fit to bring our employees together for a picnic and let them do good for our community.”
While she spoke, employees and their families went assembly line-style down rows of tables covered with boxes of school supplies filling backpacks with notebooks, erasers and other school supplies that many Baltimore City school students need but cannot always acquire themselves.
“We have an amazing group of kids and amazing teachers, and our kids sometimes don’t have the resources they need to be successful,” city schools chief of communications and community engagement Tina Hike-Hubbard said.
Both Currie and Hike-Hubbard noted that the event’s structure and focus on filling 1,000 backpacks grew from conversations between the company and district over what students may need before the school year begins on Sept. 3.
“We did an investigation on who was getting [support] and who wasn’t, and really tried to figure out what schools were going to benefit the most,” she said.
The backpacks will be delivered on Monday and Tuesday to two main locations: Armistead Gardens Elementary/Middle School and Sandtown-Winchester Achievement Academy. BCPSS manager of partnerships and volunteers Monique J. Simms added that some of the bags will go to a new welcome center for immigrant and other new students at the school district’s offices.
Hike-Hubbard said that Sunday’s event is just one example of how Bank of America and other local corporate entities can partner with the district to improve educational outcomes for city students. For Bank of America employees, it offered an opportunity to give back to communities in which they live.
“To be able to give something back to a state that has done so much for me, it’s really important,” said Michelle Jones, a Rockville-area native who lives in Catonsville and works as Bank of America Greater Maryland’s community engagement manager. “Now getting to live and work in Baltimore, it’s even more special to get to actually contribute something meaningful.”
Kenneth Jackson Jr., who packed several bags with a non-employee friend, attended Mary E. Rodman and Edgewood elementary schools during his childhood. He now works with Bank of America’s fraud department in Hunt Valley. Sunday’s event let him contribute in a way that he didn’t see much during his school days.
"We didn’t have too many events like this that will actually contribute to getting school supplies to kids,” he said. "A lot of inner-city youth don’t have the opportunities that other counties and things of that nature have. So this is a great thing, to be able to give back.”