Veterans are taking the lead in Baltimore, cleaning up years of blight and helping residents in a mostly poor, African-American neighborhood to rid the area of drug dealers.
“Along blocks dotted with boarded-up homes, veterans are applying lessons they learned in Iraq and Afghanistan in an effort to restore the community’s sense of pride – and their own sense of purpose,” reports the CS Monitor.
The long-term commitment of these veterans and their non-profit group, The 6th Branch, has mobilized hundreds of volunteers from nearly every Baltimore area university and has led to many partnerships with local organizations. The result is that new homeowners and renters have now taken up residency in Oliver, once the city’s worst neighborhood.
“There are hundreds of veterans organizations that advocate for veterans benefits,” the group says on their website. “We believe that veterans can lead this country and solve our toughest problems.”
Accomplishments of “Operation Oliver” include 65 tons of garbage and debris removed from streets, two large murals painted, more than 100 trees and shrubs planted, and whole lots of weeds knocked back.
Nearly 2,000 volunteers have logged time to help out in Oliver. One resident has been enrolled in a job retraining program and many others have benefitted from day labor opportunities. Boys attended a Veterans Day lecture from a Marine gunnery sergeant about how to “Dominate your Environment.”
This Pentagon Channel documentary below tells the story of Operation Oliver and some of the leaders behind the restoration of the East Baltimore neighborhood.