In the fall, The Baltimore Sun joined with non-profit Baltimore Homecoming Inc. for the third time to seek nominations for the local group’s annual “Homecoming Heroes” awards, which are presented by T. Rowe Price and recognize exceptional community leaders who are working creatively to inspire and motivate change in Baltimore City. A selection committee made up of past winners and area business, nonprofit and community leaders whittled nominations down to 10 semifinalists in October, based on the challenges the individuals address, the areas they impact, the lives they transform and the potential of their work to break new ground as a model for change. And now, after tallying thousands of votes submitted online via The Sun’s website, five winners have been selected for 2022.
Each will receive a $3,000 cash prize and the opportunity to share their visions in May at a three-day Baltimore Homecoming event, known as Amplify, with a select group of innovators looking to bolster Baltimore through investment, collaboration and partnership. They will also be invited to join the Baltimore Homoecoming host committee to help shape future events and are welcome to take part in a “capacity building program” run by the T. Rowe Price Foundation, as are the those who made it to the semi-finals.
“The Homecoming Heroes have had a positive impact on the lives of so many of our neighbors,” Chip Wendler, vice president of strategic distribution initiatives for T. Rowe Price and a Baltimore Homecoming board member, said in a statement distributed by the group. “Our city is a better place because of their creativity and tenacity — we’re thrilled to amplify their amazing work.”
Past participant, MOMCares Founder Ana Rodney, who was named a “hero” in 2019, said the experience was “catalytic” for her.
“Gaining the attention and support of Baltimore alumni has served to open doors and increase support that we’ve been able to use to grow our work.” Ms. Rodney said in a statement. “The Homecoming Hero title has won me meetings with elusive prospective partners and [provided] a larger stage to amplify our mission to those who want to support and believe in our work.”
This year’s winners are:
Steve Allbright: chef and culinary director, Franciscan Center of Baltimore
Mr. Albright, and volunteers at the Franciscan Center, serve as many as 600 healthy meals a day, made from ingredients donated by local farms, to food insecure people in Baltimore. He says feeding the city’s “beaten down” is his calling.
Janet Glover-Kerkvliet: director, Baltimore Job Hunters Support Group/Life Career Pivoters Inc.
Ms. Glover-Kerkvliet has a background in workforce development and therapy, and puts all of those skills to work helping older unemployed workers deal with the social, emotional and psychological pain of losing a job midcareer.
Noah Smock: executive director, Baltimore Community Toolbank
Mr. Smock “serves the servers,” providing tools and resources to enhance service projects in the community as well as helping to conceive and launch ambitious projects, with an eye toward positive change in the Baltimore region.
Dorian Walker: executive director, Family Survivor Network, Inc.
Mr. Walker works to support the mental and physical health of communities impacted by violence in Baltimore, with a focus on supporting and uplifting African American men and boys.
Atiya Wells: and CEO and founder, Backyard Basecamp
Ms. Wells, a pediatric nurse, has made it a mission to reintroduce BIPOC people (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) to nature, starting through walks in their own communities and soon venturing into Maryland’s other wild spaces.
The five runners up will have the opportunity to attend the Amplify event and network alongside their peers, as well: Michael Battle Jr., founder and executive director of Restoring Inner City Hope; Alanah Davis, assistant director of community arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art; Tyde-Courtney Edwards, founder of Ballet After Dark; Ateira Griffin, CEO and founder of Building Our Nation’s Daughters; Sam Novey, founder of Baltimore Votes.
“The Homecoming Hero Awards support our mission to spark new connection and investment in Baltimore by bringing Baltimore City’s visionaries, entrepreneurs, activists, artists and leaders together with notable Baltimore alumni,” Baltimore Homecoming Executive Director Robbin Lee said in a statement. “These Heroes showcase why Baltimore is worth investing in.”
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