By Matthew Cregger
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
For the past two years, Katie Warner has witnessed growth in the service organization she leads at Towson University.
Love Baltimore came as a result of the death of Freddie Gray, an African-American man who was severely injured and died in police custody. The death sparked violent riots in the spring of 2015. When Baltimore city officials enforced a curfew, plenty of Towson students who live in the city were unable to attend evening classes and other nighttime events on campus.
With these tangible effects on their lives, this was the first time for many at Towson University where the adversity in Baltimore had affected their lives or somebody they knew. Two students, Aaron Arms and Erika Havrilla, decided to love their city in response.
A group of about 40 students over the course of the week following May 21 volunteered to be a part of the student-run service project that became known as Love Baltimore downtown.
In the spring of 2015, the Towson students gathered in Baltimore for a day of service that continues annually today. Typically, school supplies are distributed to several elementary schools downtown. Recreation centers frequented by local children and teens are cleaned and painted. Hygiene and food packages are distributed to the homeless, and churches in need of painting and other sprucing efforts are tackled.
Warner acknowledged that Aaron and Erika graduated and she now organizes Love Baltimore activities.
“Aaron and Erika were good friends of mine and I was taking a gap year and they were telling me about it,” said Warner. “When I came to Towson I thought, ‘I’ve got to get involved in it.’”
Warner, a junior at Towson, became immediately captivated by the goal of Love Baltimore and has considered starting her own charity once graduating. She said she has always been service minded. Growing up as a child of a Montgomery County pastor has had a profound effect on Warner’s view of others.
“It’s what I’m kind of working on now,” said Warner. “This coming year I will be co-leading with Meg Smith and hopefully she will be able to head that up after I’m gone.”
Smith, a sophomore, said, “I am really honored by Katie being willing to teach me. She’s been such an amazing leader and I’m glad I have this opportunity to sort of learn more from her and also work with her.”
Smith, like Warner got involved with Love Baltimore very quickly and just this year began helping organize the event.
“My freshman year, I was just a volunteer,” said Smith. “We signed up for tabling and we signed up for the day of service just because it was such a cool team that I didn’t even know about.”
Soon after her first experience with Love Baltimore she was asked to join the team and has been involved ever since.
“I’m a very service-minded person,” said Daniel Hatfield, a volunteer for Love Baltimore. “I’m glad we have this.”