David Baker, owner of the local public relations firm VoxPop Communications, is involved in a number of community groups, including the Downtown Westminster Coalition.
The coalition, a group of local business owners, aims to connect local businesses and cross promote their services.
Formed in December, the group of business owners meets on a monthly basis to discuss ideas to bring more people downtown.
The Times recently caught up with Baker to discuss the progress of the Downtown Westminster Coalition and other community organizations within downtown.
Q: Could you describe the Downtown Westminster Coalition, how it was founded and its goals for the city?
A: About a year ago, as part of my work to build VoxPop, I started talking with other local business owners in Westminster about what we could do to help improve our downtown. As a result of those conversations, the Downtown Westminster Coalition was formed. It's grown from a few casual conversations into an all-volunteer organization of businesses, neighbors, community members and other stakeholders with an interest in keeping downtown Westminster a great place to live, work and shop. Our goal is to connect stakeholders, one with the other, and foster dialogue focused on solving our common problems and meeting our common objectives of economic growth, business opportunity and a livable downtown Westminster.
Q: Who is involved in the coalition and how could people find out more about it?
A: The coalition is primarily comprised of business owners, service organizations and residents of downtown Westminster. Our members represent a great cross section of the people and businesses that make our downtown a unique and enjoyable place to be.
We have enjoyed excellent support from the city, and we continue to look for — and find — new ways to work together. For example, this year we're hosting a community fundraiser during Starlight Shopping and we're working with the restaurants, retailers, nonprofit community and the city to make it happen. It's truly a community effort, and I'm pleased to see the role that DWC is taking in it. We'll be announcing details soon, so folks should definitely check us out on Facebook to learn more.
Anyone who wants to learn more should look for us on Facebook at facebook.com/downtownwestminster or call 443-487-7164. We meet on the second Tuesday of every month at 8:30 a.m. at Birdie's Cafe, and everyone is welcome to attend. We only ask that you bring ideas and a positive attitude.
Q: Since its formation, how would you describe the progress of the coalition?
A: We've grown from a few people to about a dozen regular members, and we're planning to keep growing as an organization. In addition to planning events and partnering with the city to promote Westminster, we are absolutely committed to constantly creating and promoting the vibrant, funky, hip downtown we know Westminster to be. And we're seeing some great progress, so I guess you'll just have to stay tuned.
Q: You're a local PR pro; tell us more about your company VoxPop Communications.
A: VoxPop Communications was launched right here in Westminster about three years ago. We offer end-to-end marketing and PR services to small businesses, nonprofits and community groups.
For me, VoxPop was the logical outgrowth of my career as a journalist and communications director. I like to help people tell their story, find their voice. I like to think that everyone, from the scrappy startup to the erstwhile nonprofit group deserves to have their voice heard. That's really what motivated me to start VoxPop: I wanted to help people find their voice and take it to the street in a real and meaningful way.
Q: What other community organizations are you involved in and in what capacity?
A: Well, you know, running VoxPop is kind of a full-time thing, but I also give a lot of my time to two very important nonprofit organizations: Rotary International and Habitat for Humanity.
I serve as the PR chair for the Rotary Club of Sykesville/South Carroll and I'm the board president for Habitat for Humanity of Carroll County. I'm involved with both organizations for one simple reason: They help a lot of people. Habitat, for example, is building five brand new homes on Union Street in Westminster, which means that five families will finally have affordable, safe and stable housing. I firmly believe that community service is a moral obligation, and that we have a duty to our community to make it a better place in some way, shape or form.
I'm also very active in my own neighborhood and am presently working with a few of my neighbors to establish a community organization tasked with bringing our neighborhood together and addressing some quality of life issues in the Westmoreland-Chase section of Westminster.
I won't deny that it can be exhausting, but the rewards of community service are just amazing and worth the effort.
Q: Habitat for Humanity is nearing completion of its Union Crossing project; could you provide an update on that?
A: We are very excited about the Union Crossing project. Five brand new, stick-built townhomes that will be sold to five deserving, working families. The amount of support we've gotten from the city, the community, the trades … it's just amazing. The families have been chosen — stay tuned for that announcement — and we're on track for a formal dedication ceremony in November or early December.
What's really important for people to understand, however, is that Union Crossing is just the beginning. Five years ago when we built 49 Union Street, we had 37 families apply for a mortgage. This time around, we had 35 families apply. The need for affordable housing in Carroll County is real and it is persistent. We still have a lot of work to do.
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Reach staff writer Blair Ames at 410-857-7874 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.