When Erricka Bridgeford first met Lorig Charkoudian, Bridgeford was on edge.
A shooting had left her brother critically wounded, and a snide remark from her supervisor when she left work early one day to visit him in the hospital prompted an argument that brought Charkoudian into her life.
“From the beginning, she saw something in me,” said Bridgeford, introducing her friend Sunday to dozens of people at the Baltimore Community Mediation Center, which Charkoudian co-founded. “She said, ‘You should be a mediator.’ ”
Bridgeford went on to co-found the Baltimore Ceasefire, the citywide violence-prevention effort that earned her The Baltimore Sun’s 2017 Marylander of the Year recognition.
On Sunday, she ran the last mile with Charkoudian as the mediator completed her fifth annual "Run for Re-Entry," a two-day, 70-mile run from Hagerstown to Baltimore. It’s not the only run she’s taken on this year: Charkoudian is the Democratic nominee for the House of Delegates seat in District 20, which represents Silver Spring and Takoma Park.
The charity run this weekend raised about $3,000 for the Mediation Center. Designed to bring attention to the benefits of re-entry services, the run symbolizes the journey inmates and their families face as they leave prison and return home. (Several prisons are located near Hagerstown.) Runners for Justice, another activist organization, raised money for the program in a run from the Baltimore City Detention Center to the Mediation Center’s Greenmount Avenue headquarters.
“Re-entry mediation actually decreases the predictive probability of recidivism by 10 percent for one two-hour session, and another 7 percent for each additional session,” Charkoudian said.
The Community Mediation program helps hundreds of people per year, she said, and while it has both public and private funding, the fundraiser helps take care of other costs.
“This run raises the money that supplements parts of the program — transportation costs, those kinds of things — that those other funds don’t pay for,” Charkoudian said.
The roughly 50 people packed into the Mediation Center in Waverly after the run Sunday broke into applause for spoken-word poetry by mediators Lydell Hills and Adrika Lazarus. In addition to Charkoudian and Bridgeford, they heard from Bridgeford’s mother, Jerri Thomas, who is also a mediator.
Ex-offender Ricky Mannen went through the program, which he said allowed him to open up and connect with his mother and younger sister after being incarcerated on drug-related charges.
He told the crowd he plans to begin training to become a mediator.
“It taught me to seek to understand, not just to be understood,” he said. “Y’all taught me to listen, more than anything.”