BCF’s Board of Trustees elected new officers at the first quarter meeting of 2020. We thank Laura Gamble for her fourteen years of service on the BCF board, including the last four as board chair, and we welcome Tom Bozzuto as our new board chair. We caught up with both of them to talk about the role of the Community Foundation in Baltimore.
What initially inspired you to serve on the board of trustees?
My introduction to BCF came through an invitation to serve on the Community Development Committee, which was the forerunner of the Neighborhoods Committee. I really enjoyed the rigorous discussion and debate that the committee members had about Baltimore and the region’s redevelopment efforts. So, when [former board chair] Bob Kent and [former CEO] Tom Wilcox asked me to be on the board, I said yes.
Are there areas in which you think BCF has been particularly impactful during your time on the board?
I think there are a lot of areas where we have been impactful, but I would say that our efforts in early childhood education—advocating for universal Pre-K and our work with the Judy Centers—really stand out in my mind. Now, everyone sees early childhood education as a true game changer for children, but I don’t think you could say that ten years ago. I think BCF was instrumental in galvanizing the support and the dollars to make that happen.
You led BCF through its first executive transition in 17 years. How have you seen the organization change?
I think for most of its life, BCF operated at a distance from the community, convening partners and making grants. After Freddie Gray’s death, we saw the need to be working alongside and within communities, not as a distant partner. Our work with the three selected school communities is a great opportunity to get closer to and partner with people who we didn’t know before, and they certainly didn’t know us.
What inspired you to serve on the BCF board of trustees?
I joined and am proud to serve on the BCF board because I think the Community Foundation is uniquely positioned to encourage Baltimoreans to focus their extraordinary generosity on the various needs of the city and the region, from basic human needs to arts and culture. BCF helps guide and encourage philanthropy locally, bringing expertise you can’t find anywhere else to support donors’ charitable goals in Baltimore. And donors want to see Baltimore get stronger: for all its warts—or because of them—people love this city.
What do you see as the top issues and opportunities facing Baltimore today?
Baltimore has always been challenged, but there was a time when you had a sense of direction and purpose, shared by elected leadership and a number of businesses anchoring the city, with a real commitment to the community. We’ve seen a breakdown of that civic culture in recent years, but I think the way the community is coming together in response to the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates how essential it is, and that we have the ability to work together to rebuild that civic culture and shared purpose. If we can do so, it will help us not only in the present emergency situation, but in the long term to live up to the legacy of Baltimore’s rich cultural history.
What role do you hope to see the community foundation play in the region going forward?
BCF is pretty universally respected as an entity that exists to try to improve the quality of life for all Baltimoreans. To the degree that we can do that as well as can be done, we will have accomplished something. There is a role for BCF in channeling funds to organizations that are doing important things in the community, for helping cultivate those organizations, and helping improve neighborhoods and supporting schools.