Women’s Empowerment Conference comes to Barclay

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On July 24, GHCC and AHC Baltimore held the first Women’s Empowerment Conference.  While the targeted audience was young adult women between the ages of 18 and 35, the event quickly evolved to include elders.  Keynote speaker Dr. Pamela Love, challenged the women to confront life challenges with the help of each other and emphasized that seeking support is not a sign of weakness.

Other speakers, local leaders, and residents participated in sessions on money management, co-parenting, self-esteem, and domestic violence.  There were 27 women in attendance and 18 children.  The response was extremely positive and already there are inquiries regarding the next conference.

Special thanks to Dallas Nicholas Sr. Elementary School for hosting the conference, all of the businesses that provided in-kind support, and the numerous volunteers who helped make this event happen!

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AmeriCorps*VISTA Spotlight: Tom Pfeifer

561440_2995395563847_1260786681_nGHCC thanks Tom Pfeifer, VISTA Leader, for his year of service to our program. Read below for his recap of what brought him to serve and how he has grown personally and professionally through volunteering.

My entire childhood I grew up in Montgomery County, MD. To sum it up, I was raised in financial comfort in an exceptionally privileged area of the state. This is not to say that my childhood and teen years were all peaches and cream (because boy were they a struggle at times), but I never had to experience crime, drugs, poverty or any other manifestation of a struggling area. Of course, I did not know anything different growing up. It was not until later in life I realized my upbringing was closer to the exception than the rule, and I developed a desire to discover how my fellow Americans lived.

I think an unconscious need to break out of my sheltered upbringing planted the seeds for my interest in the AmeriCorps VISTA program. After college I was back and forth attending graduate school full-time and working retail/sales jobs to make ends meet. Extremely unfulfilling! Meanwhile my younger brother was volunteering with the Peace Corps to do HIV/AIDS outreach in Tanzania. Inspired by his adventures in East Africa and excited for the prospect of acting in service to others (instead of just toward a sales quota), I embarked upon a VISTA term in Baton Rouge, LA. After a successful year of service in the Deep South, I knew I wanted to leverage my new skills and knowledge. VISTA Leader would give me the opportunity to work on my own professional skills, while utilizing my acquired insights to help other VISTA members have a successful year of service.

My VISTA Leader year at GHCC ended up providing me these opportunities and much more. My year of service forced me outside my comfort zone on a regular basis. There were certainly challenging times adjusting to the role of VISTA Leader and GHCC’s work culture, but I believe I was consistently able to rise to the occasion to the best of my ability. In particular, presentations and public speaking have always been my bane, and facilitating monthly Professional Development Meetings for the VISTAs was no easy feat for me. However, while I doubt I will ever be an Abraham Lincoln or Barack Obama, I grew more confident as the year went on and am proud of what I accomplished.537313_2995374363317_76433113_n

Challenges, successes, and my personal and professional growth aside, I will always remember this year fondly, predominately because of the amazing people I was able to meet. GHCC really feels like a family, and you can tell that the people around you care. Then there was this VISTA class…a truly awesome and unique bunch of personalities.  I may be moving halfway around the world after my term ends, but I hope to keep in touch with this great group of people. Seriously people, keep in touch!

We will miss you, Tom!

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AmeriCorps*VISTA Spotlight: Toney Dixon

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As the Affordable Care Act Outreach Coordinator for Charm City Clinic, Toney Dixon is helping connect underserved and low-income Baltimore city residents with healthcare options and information.

Hey friends, good day! My name is Toney and I have lived in Baltimore for about 14 years or so—I was born in Alleghany County, MD but also lived in Chicago, IL for 2-3 years as well. Both of my parents are from Baltimore and I have sisters that live here as well.

Concerning my AmeriCorps *VISTA experience, I was more of a realist when it came down to choosing to serve: I was 24-years of age and about to graduate from baccalaureate studiesfrom Morgan State University—and needed to obtain gainful employment. I was not sure, at the time, of what I wanted to do, but I was absolutely certain of what I did not want to do! Prior to AmeriCorps service, I worked as a tutor in the Baltimore City Public School system, as a law intern at an entertainment law firm, and as an intern at the Democratic Party Headquarters in Annapolis, MD. These experiences provided great skills and mostly positive experiences, but did not fulfill me. Therefore as graduation was approaching, I made sure to target only opportunities that would nurture the seed in my heart for passionate work—work that would bring me closer to the heart of humanity and their deepest struggles.

I actually did not intend to volunteer for *VISTA: in the catalog of the job fair that I attended, it was an AmeriCorps NCCC representative that was to be present. They were not, but my carefully prepared cover letter and 100% cotton, natural royal fiber #28 resume` paper did not go to waste! I met a former *VISTA and a RPCV who introduced me to his former program. I was excited about the work that *VISTAs performed because I wanted to serve my country, I wanted to be part of a coterie of heart-first people, and I also saw *VISTA as an opportunity to leave the potential career path that I was heading towards.

In July 2013 I was placed at Charm City Clinic, a healthcare access clinic located in East Baltimore. My prior knowledge base of government and politics were practical advantages for the clinic. But more central was my ability to connect with the heart of a person, and to provide compassion and health-related solutions to the East Baltimore residents’ respective situations.20140711_115049

During my *VISTA year, I have been challenged beyond the limits that I thought previously existed. I manage the cases of 50+ clients in the clinic, and also serve as team leader for around 5 case managers who also manage clients. Through this, I developed a system to sustain the entire cadre of case managers and provided a medium to meet, discuss and sustain/increase volunteer motivation.  I have had wonderful experiences meeting folks from all walks of life, and have had my perspective—my personal horizons—extended. I am so grateful to the program through the work and the struggle, and I am beyond amazed by the transformation that has occurred in me and my community served. The capacity that I helped to build will provide the infrastructure for Charm City Clinic to exist in years to come. I am so thankful for this experience.

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Sponsor Spotlight: Joe’s Bike Shop

JoesBikeShopOur blog team caught up with Joe Traill, owner of Joe’s Bike Shop, to hear a bit about what he loves about North Baltimore, and cycling in the city.

Tell us a bit about Joe’s Bike shop and the products and services your offer?

We are a typical neighborhood bike shop, with bicycles for the whole family and a full repair shop.

Why did you choose to sponsor Greater Homewood this spring?

I am very drawn to the Greater Homewood area. I go through this area when I ride between the Mt. Washington and Fells Point Shops, our two locations. When you see a neighborhood from a bicycle seat you get a superb feel for what is going on. This area has such tremendous potential, but may need a little help in certain areas. I would like to be a part of that.

What’s your favorite bike trail in North-Central Baltimore?

The Jones Falls Trail is my favorite. I think it does a fantastic job of connecting the city.

What do you like most about being located in North Baltimore?

There are so many positive aspects about our locations, but I would have to answer; the support we get from the city. There is a special sense of loyalty in Baltimore for local shops and businesses. You can really feel that people care about your continued success and welfare.

What do you like most about the cycling community?

Their dedication. It is truly inspiring to see the work the community does to make cycling better for everyone. To me, this makes the city just that much for livable for all of its residents.

Location, hours of operation, specializations 

Locations in Mt. Washington and Fells Point. Open Monday through Friday 10AM-8PM, Saturday 10AM-6PM, Sunday, 12PM-5PM. www.joesbikeshop.com

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AmeriCorps*VISTA Spotlight: Angela Mack

Angela Mack is a GHCC sponsored AmeriCorps*VISTA serving at The Magic Johnson Community Empowerment Center in Bladensburg, MD.

angelamackI was born and raised in Washington, DC and educated in the Montgomery County, Maryland school system, where my Mom was a teacher. Education was always very important in my family and community, and I took it very seriously. Gratefully, I was an excellent student and have always loved to read and to learn in every academic and professional area. This was a huge part of what drew me to my VISTA assignment to develop a literacy program in a community where children struggle greatly with socio-economic success that begins with educational deficits.

After high school I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Computer Systems Engineering at Howard University in DC. I worked in corporate IT for 7 years. During the latter years I worked as an IT and professional soft skills trainer. I fell in love with education, training and working with people instead of machines. I moved on to work for the next 10 years at George Washington University as a Director of Technology Education, where I also obtained a Master of Arts in Educational Administration. After moving on to a government contract as a relationship manager for a few years, I was laid off and for the first time since I was 15 years old I was unemployed. While looking for work I began to expand my community service efforts until I was volunteering full-time. I became committed to using all of the gifts, talents, and skills that I’ve developed throughout my lifetime to serve others.

The VISTA opportunity came to me via email. The “job” description was ideal for me although initially I didn’t realize it was a stipend-based position. The more I found out about VISTA, the more I knew that this opportunity was a Godsend. I was especially impressed with the knowledge, experience, and passion of my site supervisor, Sonia Keiner. Her passion for community, sustainable agriculture, food & art, and so much more were impressive, and I was excited to be her student and mentee while serving as a VISTA.

My one concern about being a VISTA was my age. VISTA seemed to be an opportunity suited for students exiting college and considering graduate school or their career. As a 45 year old woman with two school aged children who is fully obligated to provide support for my home and family, I was afraid the commitment would not be a fit for me. I knew if I committed, I would not quit. But I thought the consequences might become too much to bear. I had to consider foremost the impact on my children. I am glad that I did not let my fear deter me from my VISTA assignment. There have been some tough financial times; but I believe that I am supposed to do everything I’ve done to serve as a VISTA. In return for serving with a grateful heart, God has provided for all of me and my families needs throughout the year.

During my year of service, I’ve assisted with developing a literacy program, recruiting and orienting families and students for the program, recruiting and training volunteers, and creating documentation so that the program could be sustainable once my service year ends. Much of what I already learned was applied to these efforts and the results were pleasing for me as well as for my site supervisor and the success of the program. I also learned a great deal about non-profit organizations and community engagement. Our biggest challenge was obtaining volunteer commitments. I love a challenge and learned a great deal about why this is an issue for many programs. I also learned about many ways to overcome this challenge over the life of the program. We began the program with only 1% of our goal for volunteer recruiting met. We ended the program at 85% of our goal!

The most rewarding parts of this year have been my connection to the community. I immediately fell in love and developed a connection with my site supervisor, families and students of the program, and many other community members. Experiencing living at the poverty level for the first time in my life had a huge impact and drew me even closer to the understanding the needs of the community. I feel that I’ve become a part of the community and will continue to serve in this or in other similar marginalized communities. The knowledge I’ve gained has helped me to decide what I will do in the next phase of my life to make a difference in communities in need.

“In all that I do my goal is to uplift, empower & equip communities in the creation & expansion of opportunities for themselves and others.” – Me

Each year GHCC sponsors a diverse selection of AmeriCorps VISTA projects that build and strengthen vibrant urban communities throughout Baltimore City and now across Maryland. Our VISTAs develop K-12, college, and career opportunities for at-risk youth; create access to healthy options through community organizing and gardening; improve programming that empowers refugees and the homeless, and much more. Our next class of 22 VISTA volunteers will enter service on July 25, 2014, and we’re very pleased to announce the nonprofit, community, and city agencies where our incoming members will be serving. To learn about their service sites and projects, click here.

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Waverly Elementary/Middle Arts Program is a Huge Success!

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On June 8th, students from Waverly Elementary/Middle School gathered with their families, community members, and local artists at the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation for a special gallery exhibit and art auction.

This past winter, Anne Stick, a tutor at Waverly, was attending a Parent Teacher Organization meeting when she was inspired by a group of students who came to advocate for themselves. “The students stood up at the meeting and asked for art classes” she recalled, and they were told that would only be possible if there were volunteers to run it and donations to provide the supplies. That’s when Anne and GHCC’s Community School Site Coordinator, Christine Garrett, jumped into action.

Anne, who is an artist herself specializing in print making, was excited about the ideaIMG_0555 of bringing her passion for art to her neighborhood school, and recruited a cadre of volunteers from her church, The Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation, to staff the program and support it financially. Christine went to work to ensure that all the program management was taken care of; liaising with school administration, running a volunteer training, and working with Anne on the program development. Together they created a full semester long after school arts program for Waverly middle school students.

The program consisted of four different themes: print making, ceramics, computer graphics, and paper mache. Anne developed the curriculum and Utrecht Arts store generously donated supplies for the classes. Wanting to give the students a sense of the impact art can have on their own community, Anne recruited four local artists, Sam Christian Homes, Kylis Winborne, Ursala Minervini, and Greg Otto (a Waverly alum), to be guest teachers.

The program was a huge success, and though it was created for middle schoolers, it ended up welcoming a number of little siblings from the elementary school as well. The class met biweekly during the 8 week spring session and enrolled 23 students. Next year, Ann and Christine plan to expand the program to offer multiple classes for both middle and elementary school students.

IMG_0556The exhibit sold all of the more than 50 original pieces at the Cathedral that night, and the students decided that the proceeds will be used to support program’s continuation and expansion in the fall.

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Neighborhood Institute Sponsor Spotlight: Healthy Neighborhoods

HNBarbara Aylesworth is the Senior Programs Officer at Healthy Neighborhoods 

Tell us a bit about Healthy Neighborhoods, how long has the program been around and when did it come to Baltimore?

Healthy Neighborhoods has been operating in Baltimore since around 2000, although the original idea was established in Battle Creek, Michigan. The program started as a small initiative, and is now supporting 14 community based organizations working in over 40 Baltimore neighborhoods. We work in what we would describe as strong, but undervalued neighborhoods – places with solid assets where resident engagement and modest investment yield big results. We provide grants for neighborhood organizing and marketing and operate a 60 million loan fund for purchase and renovation of homes and home improvements.

What are “target blocks” and what communities in Greater Homewood is Healthy Neighborhoods working in?

We cover a lot of territory in Greater Homewood.  Waverly, Better-Waverly, Ednor Gardens-Lakeside, Oakenshawe, Abell, Harwood, Old Goucher, Remington, Barclay, and Charles Village. We target blocks based upon a building from strength strategy. We work first on the blocks with the best home values and active residents to create those marketable “postcard blocks” and build out from there. A list of the target blocks can be found on our website www.healthyneighborhoods.org.

How does Healthy Neighborhoods work in collaboration with GHCC?

GHCC is an excellent partner for the delivery of Healthy Neighborhood resources. IMG_0763GHCC has generated millions of dollars of Healthy Neighborhoods loans and matching grants.  Among their numerous  neighborhood projects are painted ladies and mosaic number plaques in Harwood, and improvements to the playground at Margaret Brent Elementary School.  Their marketing of neighborhoods and schools has really made a difference, too.

Why do you think it is important to support the Neighborhood Institute?

The Neighborhood Institute provides great information sharing and networking among community members looking for positive change. It brings in good speakers on big picture topics and also provides positive peer learning experiences.

What is the biggest piece of advice you would offer to someone looking to become a first time home owner?

Two pieces of advice: first, meet with a housing counselor to find out if you are ready to buy.  Second, choose a home based on your needs and desires, not just based on how many incentives you can patch together.

How can we get more information, and who should someone reach out to if they are interested in taking advantage of they are interested in participating in the program?

Visit the Healthy Neighborhoods website at (http://www.healthyneighborhoods.org/). Also, Andre Stone from GHCC is a great resource if you are located in the Greater Homewood area.

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AmeriCorps*VISTA Spotlight: Boi-Baindu Robin

Baindu1From West Africa to West Baltimore, GHCC-sponsored VISTA Boi-Baindu Robin shares about why VISTA service is a challenge worth pursuing.

My name is Boi-Baindu Robin, and I am originally from Freetown, Sierra Leone. I am married and blessed with two kids – a boy and girl, ages 10 and 2 respectively. I have postgraduate degrees in International Development and Development studies. My background in development and, of course, having come from a country ranked low on the Human Poverty Index, both increase my desire and passion to help vulnerable populations. This is my way of showing gratitude for the opportunity I had to become educated even in the midst of poverty.

Relocating to the United States, I found myself starting all over again with my career; however the one thing I held on to was my passion to work with organizations that focus on improving the lives of challenged populations and communities. A lot of my friends and family members who relocated to the United States ended up changing their career path for economic reasons, but I decided to do a year of service – despite the low allowance and health benefits – so that I could be part of the change that the community needs.

I am serving in West Baltimore at Project PLASE, a nonprofit organization that provides transitional and permanent housing for vulnerable homeless citizens. We target people with HIV, AIDS, mental health ailments, substance abuse, and those who have been incarcerated. As the Community Development Coordinator, I do outreach and networking with other organizations in order to identify and cultivate partnerships and secure resources for Project PLASE. I support fundraising efforts and work with our residents to assist them gain stability by functioning well within the organization and the community.

My year of service has really been exciting but not without challenges. The most challenging part of my job is working with a mentally and emotionally challenged group of people, and trying to empower them with a sense of focus, commitment, responsibility and leadership. At the start of my year, it was difficult to get the residents to commit to attending Resident Advisory Board meetings, a venue for them to express concerns, make recommendations, and connect. Undaunted, I explored methods to ensure they stayed connected with the group and events and am proud to say the group has grown from 5 members to over 15 members at every meeting. They now plan and organize events on their own which has largely helped them in attaining the stability that they so needed.

By the end of my service year, I am hopeful that my efforts will be sustained and am exploring grant opportunities to hire a staff person who would continue this VISTA legacy. Being a VISTA is really intriguing; it is a feeling of giving to the most needed and there is so much to gain while at it. VISTA gave me a feeling of fulfillment by being that person who contributes towards bettering the lives of others in need.

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Sponsor Spotlight: Miss Shirley’s Cafe

miss shirley'sNoted for beautiful presentation, exceptional service, and award-winning dishes, Miss Shirley’s Café has grown into a Baltimore landmark sought out by both locals and visitors alike. 

Tell us about your company and the restaurants you operate?

Our company, Miss Shirley’s Management Company, owns and operates three Miss Shirley’s Café locations: in Roland Park, Inner Harbor and Annapolis. Miss Shirley’s Cafe offers our guests a unique award winning culinary experience for breakfast, brunch and lunch.  Our specialties are rooted in Southern fundamentals and the abundance of fresh ingredients from the Chesapeake Bay region.  We pride ourselves in beautifully presented plates, prompt and professional service, as well as clean, comfortable and well-maintained premises for our guests.

Established in 2005 by restaurateur and Baltimore native Eddie Dopkin, Miss Shirley’s Café was created as a tribute to an inspirational employee and personal friend, Miss Shirley McDowell. McDowell, a food professional at The Classic Catering People, was known for her sassy charm and sheer joy of preparing dishes for those she loved. Corporate Executive Chef Brigitte Bledsoe has crafted a bold menu that reflects both McDowell’s southern flare and Bledsoe’s love of fresh Maryland ingredients.

We will be celebrating our 10-year anniversary in May of 2015, and we couldn’t be more excited to share this occasion with our loyal guests, friends and colleagues.

You have been a Roland Park landmark for a long time, what do you love about being in that neighborhood?

We love the small town community feel that the Roland Park neighborhood exudes, while still being in Baltimore city. It is a warm welcoming, family friendly neighborhood, and that is exactly what Miss Shirley’s is all about. The Dopkin family has lived in or close by, and built businesses in the area for years.

We take pride in helping to beautify the neighborhood, by regularly planting flowers and hanging baskets along Cold Spring Lane, picking up trash off of the street and sidewalk, decorating the block for the holidays with pumpkins & hay stacks in the Fall, and holiday wreaths & decorations in the winter, as well as maintaining not only our premises but helping others to do the same.

What inspired you to sponsor this year’s neighborhood institute?

We are inspired to sponsor this year’s neighborhood institute, because we love our city and we value the importance of the GHCC’s mission to improve and strengthen Baltimore City neighborhoods. It is essential that we support each other in this effort; if our urban communities thrive so do the business districts.

As a business owner, how do you stay involved in the community?

Miss Shirley’s Café stays involved with the community in many ways!  We support dozens of local charities and foundations, including The Roland Park Community Foundation, Roland Park Baseball, Roland Park Library, Roland Park Fire Station, Church fundraisers, Gilman Bull Roast, Baltimore Child Abuse Center, FARE Allergy Walk & Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, Loyola University, Maryland SPCA, American Cancer Society, American Heart Society, Maryland Library Association, Centerstage, Keswick Foundation, as well as many more!

In addition, we organized a clean up of Stony Run Park with our staff, we have five Sponsor A Highway signs in the area, and we plant the flowers along Cold Spring Lane year round.

What is your favorite thing to order for brunch?

That’s a hard question, since my favorite meal is brunch!  However my absolute favorite brunch item on Miss Shirley’s menu is the Crab Cake & Fried Green Tomato Eggs Benedict!  Two perfectly poached eggs, mini jumbo lump crab cakes on fried green tomatoes, roasted corn & grape tomato relish with asparagus & Old Bay hollandaise – It doesn’t get any better than that for a true Southern style Maryland brunch!

Miss Shirley

Monday – Friday 7 a.m. – 3 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

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24th Annual Adult Learning Center Achievement Event

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward. Intake and Assessment specialist JoAnn McKinney shared Ward’s words this past Tuesday evening at GHCC’s Adult Learning Center’s (ALC) 24th Annual Achievement Event, which celebrates the accomplishments of learners enrolled in ALC classes. More than 100 community members, ALC supporters, volunteers, and learners attended the event, which was hosted at the Second Presbyterian Church’s Smith Hall.622A7833

ALC director Garland Thomas kicked off the evening by highlighting some of the great accomplishments the center has made this year: including a dozen new GED graduates, 2 ESOL graduates who have moved on the Baltimore City Community College, as well as more than 50 adults enrolled in the ALC’s workforce development program.

As the guests settled in to their dinner, compliments of Yum’s Asian Bistro, assistant director Teddy Edouard began a series of recognitions by honoring Julie Ritchick as the ESOL teacher of the year. The evening featured a host of honors and acknowledgments including Learner Programs Coordinator Kimi Lillig’s recognition of Zachary Bass as the volunteer of the year. In speaking of Bass’ contributions Kimi 622A7869noted that “…As our Computers I and now Computers II instructor, he patiently instructs and guides our learners to understand and use the computer in their daily lives.  He goes beyond simple explanation and ensures the learners in his class feel empowered and comfortable to solve their own technology issues. … [and] .  It’s that kind of dedication and care that I want to recognize and commend.”

For all those who attended, keynote speaker; the actress, dancer, teacher, and story teller Maria Broom, (best known for her roles in HBO’s The Wire and The Corner) was a true highlight. Framing her congratulations and support of ALC learners in the context of her own life, Ms. Broom weaved together a tale success and a message of persistence and dedication that undoubtedly inspired all who were present. “Do what you love” she repeated as she applauded the accomplishments of the ALC’s learners and reminded us all that happiness is the greatest achievement worth pursuing. By the end of her talk Ms. Broom had the entire room on their feet, dancing along with her, in celebration of themselves and in acknowledgment of the power and wisdom that every person posses. 622A7915

Following the keynote address, ALC staff continued to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of learners in the New Citizens, ESOL, and ABE programs. Of special note on the evening however, was Community Workforce director Chris Wilson’s recognition of one of GHCC’s first workforce connections graduates Kirk Bumbrey. Kirk, who Chris praised for his diligence and commitment to finding work, successfully completed the workforce training program last year and is now gainfully employed with White Cap construction.

The entire evening was a huge success. Though special recognition was given to some outstanding learners, volunteers, and teachers, as director Garland Thomas reminded us in closing, it was a night to honor the accomplishments and dedication of all those at the ALC. For the staff and volunteers it was a thank you, and for the more than 500 ALC learners across the city it was a testament to their dedication and in turn an inspiration for us all.

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