[Community] Community Outreach: My Experience working at Dre Johnson's Pull Up Backpack Giveaway [Written by Brandon Williams]

This past Sunday I had the privilege of taking part in the first annual Pull Up Backpack Giveaway sponsored and organized by 92Q’s very own Dre Johnson. If you’re thinking to yourself, you’ve never heard of this kind of event, that’s because so far this is the first of its kind, and due to the overwhelming success of the event,  there will definitely be more of them in the future. The idea of the event was to pull up in the heart of various inner city neighborhoods or housing projects and hand out book bags to the children of the community. There were book bags fully stocked with supplies given to the children in Pre K – 5th Grade and the older children received boxes of pens/pencils and notebooks.

The locations we went to were located on the East side of the city and the first was across from the Church Square shopping center in the courtyard of the Eastview Place Apartments. There was a decent turn out with parents and children already out there waiting before we arrived. After giving out a decent amount of supplies as well as snacks to the kids, we packed up and made our way to the next location. From there we ventured to the corners of Eager & Ensor; Gough & Caroline; and finally ended the day at Patterson Park & Hoffman. Each turnout was a bit bigger than the last and most of that was based purely off of word of mouth. From the people within the group walking around the streets calling out and letting the people know where we were posted, to some of the elders of the neighborhood themselves going around and doing the same, we were able to give out all 100 book bags and an assortment of other school supplies that filled our trunks and back seats earlier that morning. What was slated to take all of 4-6 hours, we were able to accomplish in 2 due to the extreme support of the community and the hard work done by all those who volunteered. We initially thought we’d have to park and go walking around and through the neighborhoods but we forgot to take into account the speed in which word travels around the hood, because almost as soon as we pulled up and began unpacking, more and more people began to approach, some kids with parents and some without, but all of whom walked away with school supplies with which to begin the school year. Being an outsider (not originally from Baltimore) I naturally was a bit apprehensive about being in unknown/unfamiliar territory, for during my time here I’ve gone around and through these neighborhoods several times but this was my first time actually within the hearts of these neighborhoods. However, once we got set up and the people saw what we were doing and all about, they were a bit more open and inviting than when we initially pulled up. Once they found out who was actually responsible for the event, they were even more receptive, many stopping to ask Dre Johnson for photographs and handshakes.

I know and understand that a lot of times people and organizations come into low-income areas such as these and hold events like this and while yes, in most cases they are providing much-needed services to the community, it is still used as nothing more than a photo opportunity just to give off the ILLUSION of affection rather than actually wanting to see and make an impact on the youth, and the people in these neighborhoods know that more than anyone which is why I can say that being a part of something like this and witnessing it first hand showed that Dre Johnson is here to show that he has nothing but love and consideration for the children in the city that raised him. Another beautiful thing was that we had every news outlet in Baltimore (ABC2, WBAL, WJZ, and FOX45) come out to get coverage of the event with little to no prompting or probing, simply based on the gravity and necessity of this kind of event attracted their attention, and while they only broadcasted a snippet of what was done, just the fact that they were there speaks volumes and hopefully gets Dre Johnson the exposure and support that allows him and his foundation to keep this and other similarly important events going in the near future. I personally would like to thank Dre Johnson for allowing me to be apart of this and would like to give a shoutout to him and his entire team for the work they’ve done. I look forward to helping out in any way that I can in his future charity work. If you’d like to see footage/photographs or reach out to Mr. Johnson they can be seen on his website www.drejohnson.com or on his Instagram page (@drejohnson1), as well as any further updates to all other events he’s doing in and around the city of Baltimore.