The opening of the Building African American Minds Athletic Center at 31 Jowite Street in December 2019 was a dream come true for BAAM founders Dina and Derick Daly.

The forward-thinking couple founded the nonprofit organization in 2005 to help educate, build character, and lay a foundation for success with African American boys. Their goal was to address socioeconomic barriers that inhibit a child’s ability to learn effectively and to provide academic programs in a safe, caring, and structured environment.

“We provide after-school services and tutoring for African American males – all males really – in the Easton Elementary School system,” Derick explains. “We do everything we can to get the child to a level academically and socially where they can succeed in school and in life.”

Building a facility has simply allowed the organization to be more flexible and self-sufficient. At the athletic center, BAAM now can offer programming when the school building is closed and expand their services to include others in the community. It also gives kids a safe place to spend time after school and during the summer months.

Even more important, the services and gym memberships are free to all Talbot County residents.

“We don’t want money to be a barrier for anyone in the county to get services,” Derick explains. “We want the athletic center to be open. We want it to be accessible. We want it to be within walking distance of those who need it. This building brings the community together. We have been able to make it a part of the community so that people feel they are welcome.”

The athletic center is just the first of several infrastructure projects the organization has planned. The next project will be an academic center that will allow BAAM to bring its after-school programming in house and expand its educational programs to include other students and even adults.

Hope is the word that come to mind when Derick thinks of all that BAAM has accomplished over the years. With the help of volunteers and community partners, the organization has nurtured and developed hundreds of children and helped them grow into happy, productive young adults. Many of the early participants have attended college, and some program alumni have even returned home to lend a hand to BAAM.

“The future is bright for our kids because they have hope,” Derick says. “They have a feeling that they can achieve anything they want, and that is what this building represents. As they saw the building come together, they became believers. They have that inside of them because they saw it happen.”

Derick recently stepped down as executive director and will be turning his attention to other projects in the organization’s portfolio. Dina, who recently retired from her position as head of the Caroline County Department of Social Services, has accepted the role and will lead the organization into the future. “It’s her turn now,” Derick says with a smile.