Mark Counselman: Susie and I live in Oakenshawe with our three sons. I work for RCM&D, a local insurance firm; Susie works at St. Agnes Hospital in southwest Baltimore. We got involved in the Oakenshawe Improvement Association when we moved here 7 years ago, and now we're the co-presidents. We've enjoyed rolling up our sleeves to help on neighborhood projects and meeting great neighbors.
GHCC: Are you a Baltimore native?
MC: I grew up on Wickford Road, and now we live on Oakenshawe Place. So I haven't made it very far in life, about a half mile east on University Parkway. When we came back to Baltimore from Chicago, we looked for a neighborhood where everything was within walking distance - grocery stores, places to eat, parks. Oakenshawe has that, plus it's about halfway between our offices and close enough that I can bike to work or take the bus.
GHCC: When did you first discover Greater Homewood Community Corporation and what prompted you to become a supporter of our work?
MC: I first learned about GHCC when I got involved with the Jones Falls Watershed Association, a group born as a project of GHCC, and which recently celebrated a merger and creation of city-wide environmental powerhouse Blue Water Baltimore.
Like most neighborhood associations, the Oakenshawe Improvement Association is a volunteer group. GHCC has been a key partner when we need professional expertise or heavy lifting beyond our capacity. A recent example: GHCC is helping us handle funds to establish our Brentwood Avenue Garden project.More often than not, our neighborhood issues are not unique. GHCC has been a conduit for us to get to know our counterparts in Waverly, Abell, Tuscany Canterbury, or any other of the 45 neighborhoods GHCC serves who in many cases are working on similar projects or challenges. From those relationships, our associations have been able to work together on a range of issues, whether that's protesting a problem liquor establishment, or rehabbing our neighborhood firehouse. Also, the staff at GHCC is a great resource. When we have a challenge or need help with a City agency, there's usually someone at GHCC who we can call for advice or to get the inside story.
GHCC: Why do you believe it's important for individuals to support a nonprofit like GHCC?
MC: We're all pulled in myriad directions, from disasters overseas to supporting our schools and colleges, to the squeeze felt in every household during this difficult economy, but our neighborhoods are the basic building blocks of community, of society. It's at the neighborhood level where we can make the most impact. Baltimore faces tremendous challenges as we continue to lose population. Unless we make real, structural changes that strengthen our neighborhoods, we're not going to bring middle class families back to the city. That vision and leadership isn't going to come from City Hall or Washington or the Internet, but from groups like GHCC with feet on the ground addressing neighborhood issues head on.
GHCC: What do you love most about living in Greater Homewood?
MC: Our morning circuit with the kids includes coffee from Eddie's (or Carma's or Donna's), a stroll through the Wyman Park Dell with a stop at the playground, visiting the lions at the BMA, then on to JHU to check out the fountain at Mason Hall, the fish pond by the Hopkins Club, and the animal sculptures in Dunning Grove, Camel one hump or two. How many more great places could you want on your morning walk? Of course, we could stand to clean it up a little (OK, a lot), fix up a few houses, and open a restaurant or two...and that's why we need GHCC.
Images courtesy of Mark Counselman and the Oakenshawe Improvement Association