Rounding the Bases was formed from the collaboration of two of the unlikeliest people who became friends. These two characters moved into a rooming house within days of each other. One, our first CFO, Jerry Clifton, came from a mental facility, and the other, our ED, Carl Baty came from a crack house.
After months at the rooming house, Jerry asked Carl if he would consider sharing a two-bedroom condo for the same price he was paying for the room, $500.00 per month. This was a no-brainer to Carl, and he immediately said yes. They went to visit the condo the following day. What a beautiful place it was. Jerry explained that the rent was $900.00, and they would need cable, internet, phones, electric. Jerry had disability income from his days as district manager for Richmond Brothers, while Carl worked as a VISTA with the assignment to bring the Faces of Homelessness Speakers Bureau to the state of Maryland; salary $936.00 per month.
This assignment called for Carl to schedule 10 speaking engagements a month. He was to find homeless and formerly homeless individuals and train them to tell their stories. Each speaker was to be paid $50.00. This would work fine for well established businesses, schools, or churches, but it was difficult for the smaller, less established organizations to afford even a minimal fee. A rehabilitation program, Baltimore Behavioral Health, wanted the sessions, but they couldn’t afford to pay. They also wanted two sessions a day, five days a week. Jerry agreed to speak at each of the unpaid sessions. He had always told Carl that they needed to do something to help those coming behind them, and thus, Rounding the Bases was formed.
THE MOVE TO BOSTON
With Jerry coming out of the mental institution, and Carl coming out of the crackhouse, it just made sense that we needed a Board of Directors that could bring credibility to the organization. Most of his acquaintances in Baltimore were in recovery, and most had a past similar to his.
Carl met Arnetta Ferguson online who at that time was running Ferguson’s Family Childcare, a business she had operated for over 30 years. Carl decided to ask if she would consider being his board chair. She agreed to travel to Baltimore to take a look at this operation in February 2011. While there, she invited Carl to visit Boston, and he agreed. He traveled to Boston in April and while there, Arnetta’s middle daughter asked him if he could come back for Father's Day.
Father’s Day was on June 19th and Carl's VISTA appointment was ending on June 12th. Since Carl wasn’t getting along with his Director, he decided it was a good idea to leave for Boston. Jerry was more than alright with seeing Carl journey to Boston and explore opportunities there. Jerry would continue to represent Rounding the Bases in Baltimore, and Carl would explore opportunities in Boston. He left Baltimore with $1,000.00 and a dream.
Carl married his board chair on August 20, 2011, and the plan was to stay in Boston until September and return to Baltimore before the cold set in. Little did he know that he would find employment at the end of August. It made little sense to bring Arnetta back to a question mark in Baltimore when she had a functioning business in Boston, and he had found employment. Before the end of the following year, Jerry’s landlord wanted the condo back, and Jerry moved to Boston along with Carl and Arnetta.
Rounding the Bases immediately applied for a business certificate and thus officially became a Boston non-profit.
WHY IS SHE CHANGING THINGS?
Carl and Jerry are reunited, and all that Carl wanted to do was to resume business as usual, helping addicts move forward out of lingering problems. His board chair, Arnetta, had different ideas. She thought it would be a good idea to have a Coffee Hour for the seniors. The coffee hour started once a week on Ashmont Train Station Plaza, weather permitting, and was just a place for seniors to gather and have a cup of coffee and a snack.
The gathering soon outgrew the plaza, so the group moved to Codman Square Library. Arnetta had the idea of bringing in presenters from different organizations to speak about resources available to seniors, Metro Housing brought news of the Home Modification Program. Boston Senior Home Repair came and talked about the emergency repairs that seniors could get at no cost. The oldest volunteer, affectionately known as Momma Grant, had fallen while getting out of the bathtub so Metro Housing installed a walk-in tub and grab bars. Soon more seniors were getting these tubs and ramps installed and enjoying the benefit of living risk free.
Arnetta also wanted to have Tech Goes Home teach a course in basic computer skills to seniors at the church she attended. The course was scheduled to take place at Mildred Avenue Community Center. The instructor went through the material so quickly that three of the four clients Carl enrolled dropped out. The solution was for Carl and Arnetta to become the instructors and slow down the pace of the course so seniors could easily grasp the material and learn basic computer skills.
The next brilliant idea was to install a raised bed garden behind the library. Arnetta presented Carl with a picture of the garden she envisioned and asked, “Can you do that?” “We can’t afford that'' was the answer. “Not buy it; can you build that?” “Well, it certainly won’t look as good as that.” Carl started to collect pallets. Momma Grant had a roll of heavy duty plastic. Andrea Burns, of the then Elderly Commission, had some youth for whom she wanted to find a hands-on project. Her friend and colleague, Patricia McCormick, got all of the connection and watering materials donated from Home Depot and Norfolk Hardware. Councillor Charles Baker donated the soil.
Rounding the Bases had taken off in an entirely different direction. This bothered Carl to the point he had started praying. “God, this woman you gave me is changing everything. Why did you give me the broken one?” One night he woke up from a sound sleep with one thought in his head, “You asked her to be your board chair. Why don’t you shut your mouth and let her do her job?”
By the end of the summer, the garden had won “First Prize for Community Engagement'' in Mayor Walsh’s annual garden contest.
OBEDIENCE IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICE
The award ceremony took place around the end of summer. We took Momma Grant to the ceremony with us. When it was announced that we had won first prize for “Community Engagement” Arnetta said, “Go get your award”. I took Momma Grant up with me to receive the award.
It's 2017 and we’ve just won our first award. We’re listed on Tech Goes Home’s website as community partners and Arnetta is not out of ideas. We’re doing the Coffee Hour every week. The Age Strong Commission has asked us to start the Food Delivery Program with them. We are now part of the city’s Retired Senior Volunteers Program and along with that, we are part of the Companionship Program. We are volunteering at ABCD North Dorchester/Roxbury. We’re doing everything except what RTB was originally created to be doing.
By the end of that year we had won AARP’s Andrus Award, the highest award issued by them for community service. Along with that award the City of Boston issued Certificates of Recognition as did the Commonwealth of Massachusetts House of Representative and the Senate. In 2019 we become the first recipients of the newly created Annette Richardson Impact Award. Also that year we were selected for ABCD’s Community Heroes Award.
In 2020 the Urban Farming Institute, the first farm to donate to the Food Delivery program, presented us with the Community Cultivator Award and HNS issued Carl the Community of Excellence, Community Service, Wisdom and Excellence Awards; while Arnetta was awarded the Community of Excellence, Community Service, Resource Connector, and Dedication Awards.
Not too bad for a team that was only assembled to help with addiction.
AND THE BEAT GOES ON
Please accept our apology for the delay in posting this episode of our story.
COVID-19 threatened to shut everything down. Seniors were advised to stay indoors. We had seniors that were on our regular delivery schedule, and by this time had become extended family. We continued to pick up vegetables from the farms and bread from When Pigs Fly; making delivery as we always had. When Pigs Fly allowed us to pick up bread on days that the other organization had stopped picking up. We picked up every weekday and every other Saturday.
On a trip up to First Parish Church we ran into Nancy Jamison founder of Fair Foods that had been providing 10 to 15 pound bags of vegetables to mostly all areas of Boston and giving away bags of vegetables. She suggested that I take her van and deliver 500 pounds of vegetables twice a week to help eliminate the need for seniors to venture outdoors. Other organizations were performing similar activities. One such organization was Viet Aid that serviced the Asian population. Their vehicles were small. Nancy suggested that I load her van with over 1,000 pound of food and deliver it to Viet Aid’s office. They in turn asked for names and addresses of seniors that we serviced that they could deliver for us. Two cultures that had never even held a conversation were now working together to service people. It was a good feeling to know that there are other ethnicities that would work alongside us in dire straits.
In July of 2020 we had a fundraiser and raised enough money to purchase a 2008 Chrysler Town and Country. The seats folded into the floor and this vehicle could carry well over 1,000 pounds. We applied to the Resiliency Fund and received a grant for $5,000 to deliver 500 pounds of vegetables, five days a week for four weeks. We purchased the vegetables from Fair Foods for the ridiculously low price of $.25/pound. The other $2,500 went towards commercial vehicle insurance. Nancy knew all of the sites and loaded us with more than enough food for each site. For the larger sites, we carried bulk vegetables and packaged onsite. For the smaller sites we bagged the vegetables and carried more than enough vegetables to each site. We wound up delivering over 12,000 pounds of bulk produce, not including the weight of the bags! We never missed a farm pickup on Saturday from the farms that now included Urban Farming Institute, Dudley Grows, and Allandale Farm.
We applied for the second round of the Resiliency Fund to teach basic computer skills to seniors, virtually. This was the first such collaboration between The AgeStrong Commission, Tech Goes Home, and RTB. Teaching virtually to seniors that have never even touched a computer, let alone set up a Zoom account for class, was next to impossible. We did however, manage to graduate 37 students virtually thanks to the great support provided by Tech Goes Home. It is an understatement to say that Nessie went above and beyond.
Twin brothers, Haakim Ferguson and Kareem Ferguson start their own businesses after taking RTB's small business class.
Delores received the Volunteer of the Year award from TGH (2014).
In Memory of "Mama"
Mrs. Cornelia Grant, "Mama" to most and Aunt Connie to others, was the oldest RTB, Inc. volunteer until she went home to Glory On August 5th, 2019.
"Mama" as everyone at Rounding the Bases, Inc. referred to her, was always there to help out and to lend a hand when it came to food preparation and taking the funds at the $2.00 a bag program at several Fair Foods site locations. In 2018, after losing our senior "Coffee Hour" site at East Boston Savings Bank in Codman Square, "Mama" offered her home at 447 Norfolk Street, Mattapan, 02126 for RTB, Inc. to continue having the weekly Senior Coffee Hour and inviting family, friends and members from senior organizations. Visiting programs included the Senior Home Repair & Falls Prevention Program with ESACBoston, and Metro Housing's Home Remodification where "Mama" became the first senior to receive a walk-in tub through this program.