By Pierce Jaffri
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
When Dave Landymore returned home to Baltimore a few years ago after a military career overseas, he realized that his life of service to others would have to continue.
In an effort to help improve his hometown’s urban blight, the 32-year-old former Marine joined The 6th Branch, a nonprofit organization that uses the leadership of military veterans to serve local communities.
The 6th Branch focuses its efforts in the East Baltimore communities of Oliver, Darley Park and Johnston Square. Landymore, who joined the group in 2011, said the organization works to turn vacant lots into playgrounds, parks, gardens and operational urban farms.
“Most of our work is kind of focused on land stewardship,” Landymore said. “East Baltimore is riddled with vacant lots, formerly residential areas that are just open spaces, where homes used to stand before they were razed to the ground. We see our function to convert those spaces into areas that can be considered resources for the various communities.”
According to Landymore, the organization has built an urban farm, a playground and two parks.
“It’s all the same stuff,” he said. “You take any vacant lot and you remove all the overgrowth, remove all the trash and kind of create yourself a clean slate and then build from there. It can be anything, within reason, that community members desire.”
As director of the organization, Landymore leads and organizes volunteers, completes administrative tasks such as bookkeeping, assists in the sustainability of the group and brainstorms what community projects will entail.
He also decides what tools they will need for those specific projects, places orders for tools and picks them up.
Although he enjoys the position, Landymore acknowledged that it is no easy task to direct a nonprofit organization, specifically in the areas of resource gathering and fundraising.
Landymore likened nonprofit organizations to a business, saying The 6th Branch has two full-time employees and one part-time employee who must be paid on a regular basis. He said the organization does not have any revenue stream, so fundraising tends to rely on charitable foundations and corporate giving.
“Those funding streams are never guaranteed,” Landymore said. “You have to stay creative to stay relevant in the eyes of those who are current or potential funders of your organization.”
In a city that has a reputation of crime, drug abuse and poverty, Landymore said he has found purpose through his commitment to service through The 6th Branch.
He also said that he admires the efforts of volunteers to partake in a joint effort to help Baltimore, and that he envisions a cleaner and more sustainable environment in the city.
“My hope is that we provide a responsible, thoughtful service to the communities we work in,” he said. “We have a ton of volunteers that work with us, and we just try our best to fit everybody’s volunteerism into a service that will hopefully have a lasting impact on the community we work in.”
Landymore has not only touched the lives of various communities and residents through his work, but also the lives of many who are not directly attached to East Baltimore.
Collin Lyman, who is an active member in The 6th Branch, said Landymore has helped him grow as a person over the years while serving by his side through community service.
He attributed much of his growth as a community serviceman to Landymore, and even described him as a “role model.”
“He’s helped me become a leader,” Lyman said. “He’s a friend, boss and mentor. He has helped me see what I want to do with my life.”
Landymore has also exposed college students to the world of community service through his annual partnership with Professor John McTague of Towson University, who requires a certain political science class to serve the communities of East Baltimore with The 6th Branch to have a better understanding of societal inequity.
“Dave’s leadership style is the epitome of leading by example,” McTague said. “He is not merely a figurehead – and there are no grand speeches, no trite slogans, no empty symbolism. He is out there working his heart out every day and that sets a tone for those who volunteer to put their heads down, get their hands dirty, and get things done.”
Landymore began his military career when he joined the Marine Corps in 2001, spending his first two years in Hawaii.
After his service in Hawaii, he provided embassy security in Bogota, Columbia, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In 2006, Landymore left active duty and transferred to the Marine Corps Reserve. He was deployed to Iraq for seven months in 2008.
He was deployed once more aboard ship in 2009, conducting military training with a host of countries in the Southeast Pacific such as Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines.
He returned in 2009 and rejoined the reserves, but ultimately ended his military career when he retired from the Marine Corps in 2012.
Landymore eventually enrolled at the University of Maryland Baltimore County to study geography, with the hope of finding a career in sustainability and/or urban planning.
When asked why he chose to study geography, he attributed his answer to his love of the urban environment.
“I think cities are interesting,” he said. “I like learning about them and about how people congregate and why. It can be viewed as a puzzle to solve. Cities are always evolving and, you know, it’s interesting to think about how that could happen better and more comfortably in a more environmentally friendly manner.”
While at UMBC, he sought volunteer opportunities at the university’s Shriver Center, which is a resource used to connect students with real-world experiences in the community.
It is through the Shriver Center that he found The 6th Branch.
“I had been volunteering through the center for a few years at that point,” Landymore said. “One of the staff members knew that I was a veteran and she was aware of The 6th Branch so she sent me to their website, which I checked out, and I loved what I saw and joined the organization in 2011.”
Landymore currently lives in East Baltimore with his wife and nearly 1-year-old son. He said he plans to stay in the Baltimore area and continue to utilize his skills to improve the urban environment.
“Baltimore has more character than you can shake a stick at,” Landymore said. “It’s rewarding to help the community members achieve a vision.”