Last Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, the Baltimore Ravens selected their 2018 community quarterback winners to those who exhibit leadership, dedication, and commitment to making their communities better.
Each Community Quarterback winner received tickets to the game against the Raiders that Sunday, personalized Ravens jersey, T. Rowe Price giveaway and a $2,500 grant. The grant goes towards their respective nonprofit organization.
Here are facts about each winner, who were also honored on the field during the game:
Erik Atas (Gaudenzia)
Atas resides in Baltimore, MD and leads the criminal department at Zirkin & Schmerling Law. He has committed countless hours to improving the lives of individuals seeking treatment for substance use disorder at Gaudenzia, a local nonprofit that provides substance and alcohol-use treatment through detoxification, residential treatment, halfway house services and outpatient treatment. Gaudenzia admits more than 17,500 individuals annually including pregnant/parenting women, HIV/AIDS symptomatic individuals and the incarcerated. Utilizing his legal training and experience, Atas offers counsel to individuals presently in treatment at Gaudenzia, helping to expunge nonviolent crimes from their criminal records. In the last year, Atas has expunged more than 4,000 cases for nearly 450 individuals. By expunging these nonviolent records, Atas has offered life-changing opportunity for these individuals who are then able to get jobs, housing and success in long-term recovery.
Rick Bernstein – First Fruits Farm
Bernstein, a resident of Freeland, MD, founded First Fruits Farm a nonprofit Christian ministry dedicated to providing fresh and nutritious produce to those experiencing hunger in the Mid-Atlantic region. What initially started as a small garden in his backyard in 2004, has turned into 200 acres of farmland. Alongside thousands of volunteers, has been able to harvest over 13.4 million pounds of fruits and vegetables that are distributed to local food banks, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other food providers. Despite a recent diagnosis of cancer, Bernstein continues to go out in the field every day, working hard to inspire and provide for Baltimore’s underserved communities.
Renee Meyer – Ballet Mobile
Meyers is the founder and director of Ballet Mobile, a charitable performing arts organization. Ballet Mobile brings live ballet to non-traditional places, making ‘ballet-to-go’ a reality. Comprised of volunteer dancers, roadies and stage crew, Ballet Mobile holds over 60 performances annually in Baltimore-area assisted-living centers, hospitals and rehab facilities. Tailoring each performance to each individual audience, Meyer’s integrates what she calls the three M’s: music, movement and mental imagery. Starting every Wednesday this fall, Meyer has taken the Ballet Mobile to the community in a new way. She teaches “Ballet for Wellness” classes to seniors at Weinberg Village, as part of the Ballet Mobile’s “Ballet for Senior Wellness program.” Meyers’ rolling ballet company brings an interactive experience through music, movement and inspiration.
Zion Smith – MERIT Health Leadership
Smith, a 17-year-old resident of Baltimore, MD, serves as the student president of MERIT Health Leadership Academy, which focuses on empowering hundreds of young Baltimore people to becoming community health change agents. Determined to transform her community, Smith has worked with Parks and People Foundation to create green spaces in her community. Her efforts have enabled her to bring equitable food access to families in Baltimore, through the creation of youth-led community gardens, which have been built in abandoned spaces. This year, she is continuing her mission to bring “whole foods” to impoverished communities by partnering with The Greener Garden in Baltimore City. Through continuing her education and community work, Smith hopes to impact her community through gardening, education and health advocacy.
Jake Turner – Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
Turner, an 18-year-old resident of Phoenix, MD, is the founder of the CASA Club at Hereford High School. Starting the club as a freshman, Turner, now in his senior year, saw how many of his classmates struggled to get to school. Many students at Hereford High School reside in group or foster homes and move frequently, thus uprooting them from friends and family. Seeing the need for stability, Turner believed CASA could be the one constant in their lives. Working with CASA of Baltimore County, Turner founded the club with the goal to raise funds and awareness of the challenges of being in “care.” He raised thousands of dollars in the four years since the club’s inception and has impacted not only students, but also their families and the surrounding communities. Several schools, including Bryn Mawr and Towson High School, have followed Turner’s lead and developed similar clubs. Turner’s vision has led to sponsoring dress down days, holiday gift distributions and the cleaning and stocking of the children’s play room at the courthouse. Turner’s hope is that one day all children will find stable and loving homes.