Maggie Porter explained that becoming a community organizer was something that she fell into more than she set out to become.
But now that her year working to help strengthen neighborhoods in the York Road corridor is coimg to an end on Feb. 1, she said the experience has made an impression.
“I’m definitely very inspired by Baltimore City after this year," the 26-year-old Porter said. "And since I grew up here, I sort of always thought that I would want to get out and move elsewhere, and experience another city.
"And I didn’t know if I would ever come back here. I’m realizing I was pretty ignorant about all the work that is going on in Baltimore right now," she said.
The Glyndon native graduated from Colgate University with a degree in peace and conflict studies, worked in communications with Friends Committee on National Legislation and after that waitressed at the Mt. Washington Tavern before becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) with the Greater Homewood Community Corp.
“I’m not sure what I expected going into this year because I really just needed a job. So I was excited to be hired somewhere,” Porter said. “And I’d never done this work before and I found that I really love directly working with people.”
For the past year, Porter has worked as a sort of liaison between the York Road Partnership, a volunteer umbrella group that advocates for communities throughout the York Road corridor, and the community associations that represent neighborhoods on both sides of York Road.
During her time as a VISTA, Porter helped neighborhoods and the York Road Partnership address issues that were causing problems in the neighborhood. She has done everything from organize a community cleanup, to helping communities develop responses to public safety issues and attended the meetings of all the community associations along the corridor.
“Part [of my job] is trying to help figure out what’s going on in the various and very diverse neighborhoods, all of which have different needs,” Porter said. “In one community the biggest issue will be dealing with problem college houses, and then in another it’s vacant homes, people who are squatting and doing drugs, and really kind of a blight on the community."
But Porter has also left an impression on the people that she has been working with for the past year.
Bill Logan, a Mid-Govans resident who is also involved with York Road Partnership, had high praise for Porter, and said he hopes that she can find a job that lets her stay in Baltimore.
“I wish I had a job I could offer her and have her work for me,” Logan said.
Logan praised Porter’s work ethic and her commitment, and said that he wished more young people took their work as seriously as Porter does.
“She volunteers for everything. She’s a person who commits herself to whatever task she’s given,” Logan said.
Karen DeCamp, president of the York Road Partnership and a employee, said Porter’s help has been invaluable because she takes the burden off volunteers already stretched thin between work, family and volunteering in the community.
DeCamp credited Porter with the increase in the number of people involved with the York Road Partnership, as well helping to form committees made of residents from various neighborhoods to address issues in the corridor, such as public safety, liquor licenses and housing
“Maggie is pretty special because she has an incredible ability to relate to people and get them motivated to be involved,” DeCamp said.
Porter also said the residents she has worked with for the past year inspire her.
“I’m constantly inspired—not only by the corridor and Greater Homewood—but the city in general. I feel like there’s a lot of positive stuff going on right now,” Porter said. “And after a year of being in the mix… I’m thinking about staying in Baltimore much more than I ever would’ve before this year, which is good, because Baltimore needs people to decide to stay.”