On May 14 leadership teams from the JCC of Greater Baltimore and the Y of Central Maryland met at Union Craft Collective for a day of discussion, learning and volunteering to increase diversity and inclusion at both of their institutions.
The event began many months ago when Barak Hermann, CEO of the JCC and John Hoey, president and CEO of the Y conceived of the idea to join the leadership teams of their organizations for a day of mutual engagement and learning.
The idea was realized by a committee including professionals from each organization. The committee included Reeut Singerman, associate marketing director at the JCC.
“We started out as strangers,” Singerman said. “We didn’t know our counterparts at the Y. We met. We knew we had this day set but didn’t know what the day looked like so we really started from scratch … we worked together really well. We all became friends from this experience. It was a really fun collaborative effort for everybody.”
“The day was a truly wonderful moment,” Hermann said. “John and I might have had the vision but it’s these 10 people who really became friends with each other and really planned the day over five months.”
Another member of the steering committee, Emily Stern, senior director of J Camps, felt the event itself was a success.
“I think that the vision that we had and that Barak and John had came together. I think it was a really wonderful event that our staff enjoyed,” Stern said.
The day included an opening breakfast, a history of both organizations and an activity modeled off Shark Tank, the television show where entrepreneurs compete for investment backing. In the afternoon, everyone broke up into groups and “went across Baltimore to do community service projects,” Hermann said.
The Shark Tank-inspired activity yielded many fruitful ideas that Hermann, Hoey and many of the participants referenced as the next step in the partnership.
“We had groups of folks, J folks and Y folks together, come up with ideas around different topic areas about things we can do together that are focused around the broader topic of diversity and inclusion. So there’s probably 20 to 30 ideas in that hopper and I think we’re going to cull from that some things that we can do and do soon,” Hoey said. “There were a lot of consistent themes, a lot of them related to serving young people who were falling between the cracks. There was a theme around mental health needs in the community…[that] we could be conduits to help people identify resources in the community for folks who need them.”
Michelle Becote-Jackson, chief social responsibility officer at the Y, said that she found the event inspiring. She is excited to see the two organizations begin working together to achieve better outcomes for the community.
“Though there was never a doubt prior to convening with our friends at the JCC, when we got around the table and starting tackling issues and concerns and more importantly identifying areas where we could really elevate the work in a grander and broader way … we realized that the way to do that … was to do it together,” Becote-Jackson said.
Many people left the event excited about the possibility of reaching out to their counterparts at the other institution for advice and collaboration.
“It’s going to be really helpful for me to think about reaching out to some of my colleagues that I might not have reached out to [before] because I didn’t know that they existed. But now I definitely feel like I have people that I know that I can call on if needed,” said Kim Keating, chief human resources officer at the Y.
The afternoon portion of the day included service projects at a variety of Baltimore-area organizations serving communities ranging from those experiencing homelessness or drug addiction to women leaving abusive relationships.
“It was really nice that there was such a great variety of projects that we could participate in,” Singerman said.
Both institutions benefitted from the mutual exchange of ideas and experience and are excited to bring this new knowledge back into the community, which in turn is bettered by the existence of the JCC and the Y.
“Everybody needs a J or a Y in their life,” Hermann said. “So you can feel like a part of a community.”