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Gov. Moore digs in on importance of community service

Courtesy of the Moore-Miller administration.
Gov. Wes Moore high five's a volunteer at the Baltimore Community tool bank.

If there is one thing, Gov. Wes Moore is steamed about, it's leading by example in getting his Service Act passed. The governor visited a toolbank Friday afternoon, where he rolled a wheelbarrow full of mulch onto a rain garden.

“The goal was to make him sweat,” said Noah Smock, executive director of the Baltimore Community Toolbank.

Before Moore got to work, a room full of Americorp volunteers welcomed the governor.

“[Your] vision for the state of Maryland is really going to revolutionize what service looks like in our country,” said Samelia Okpudu-Pyuzza, associate director in the governor’s office on service and volunteerism.

Sonali Nijhawan, Dir of Americorps State and National.jpg
Wambui Kamau
Gov. Wes Moore speaks about a service year across Maryland nearby Sonali Nijhawan, Director of Americorps State and National.

Okpudu-Pyuzza, a former Americorps volunteer, says involvement in the program changed the trajectory of her life. The former biomedical scientist now leads volunteer efforts.

“There are two women here, from the first class [thirty years ago] of Volunteer Maryland,” said Okpudu-Pyuzza. “They met and they've been friends ever since.”

Supporters say lifelong connections are common as people meet through service projects.

Wambui Kamau
Americorps volunteers listen to Gov. Moore as he talks about his Service Act.

“In Maryland, there are more than 5,000 AmeriCorps members serving,” said Sonali Nijhawan, AmeriCorps State and National Director.

She added that the independent federal agency has invested more than $25 million across the state supporting a variety of programs.

Moore’s visit comes at a crucial time. Monday is the deadline for bills to win approval in either the House or the Senate. This annual occurrence in the Maryland General Assembly legislative session is known as ‘crossover day’ which means bills that have met such a threshold stand a good chance to become law.

Wambui Kamau
Samelia Okpudu-Pyuzza and Noah Smock pose outside of the community tool bank. Smock is the Executive Director of the tool bank.

The governor has pioneered the Service Act which creates a service-year option for high school graduates.

“We’re not telling them what to do or how to think,” Moore said. “We’re giving them options. They can work on education issues, with veterans or serve animals.”

Earlier this week, the Maryland Senate gave the Service Act initial approval.

“Those who serve together, generally stay together,” said Moore. “In this time of political divisiveness and vitriol, it is service that will save us and Maryland is going to lead the way.”

Smock, the tool bank’s executive director, said he is already seeing momentum build. He says corporate and higher education groups are showing “an increased interest in doing service.”

“You want to have the highest office holder in the state, talking and making noise about service,” he said.

Wambui Kamau is a General Assignment Reporter for WYPR. @WkThee
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