Guest Blogger: Rich Blake, Tillman Military Scholar, Inaugural Class, Loyola University Maryland PhD Student & Executive Director of The 6th Branch
Earlier this year, the Pat Tillman Foundation collaborated with The 6th Branch cofounders, Dennis Robinson and myself, both Tillman Military Scholars, to organize and execute a day of service for the 2nd Annual Pat Tillman Legacy Summit. Partnering with Baltimore BORN (Boys Opportunity and Resource Network), a nonprofit started by Baltimore Raven’s cornerback Dominique Foxworth, the day of service quickly became a widespread community effort with One Green Home, the Veteran Artist Program (VAP), The Mission Continues, Baltimore Love Project, Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness and even the Baltimore Ravens’ cheerleaders.
Months of planning culminated on July 11, 2011 when more than 200 volunteers, including 90 Tillman Military Scholars, arrived at the corner of North Bond and East Hoffman in Baltimore City. For four hours, garbage was collected and removed by the truckload, weedeaters were on full throttle, machetes cut through high weeds and fresh mulch was laid down. Meanwhile, VAP, the Baltimore Love Project and the boys from BORN were hard at work finishing an amazing mural at 1516 East Oliver Street that the boys helped design.
When we first started spreading the word in Baltimore that we were thinking about conducting a large community service effort in Oliver, many said we were crazy. “It is a huge liability,” they said. Yet, The Pat Tillman Foundation and The 6th Branch were not deterred. This is why I am so proud to be a Tillman Military Scholar. We do some unconventional things, because we are carrying on the legacy of an unconventional individual.
Building on the momentum from this unprecedented event, The 6th Branch recently launched Operation Oliver, a one-year commitment of service to the Oliver Neighborhood. Several major events are planned, including more large-scale beautification projects and even an Oliver 5K. Additionally, there are ongoing efforts focused on community building and crime watch. The Oliver community is changing, and it all started with a day of service in the spirit of Pat Tillman.
Interested in volunteering? Sign up to support the upcoming Operation Oliver Day of Service on October 1.