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January 24, 2007

Barlow Receives 2006 Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Community Service

Allison Barlow

Allison Barlow, MA, MPH, research associate in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of International Health, received a 2006 Martin Luther King, Jr. award for community service from Johns Hopkins University. Ten awards were given to Johns Hopkins faculty and staff members who demonstrated the same spirit of volunteerism and citizenship that characterized the life of Dr. King. Working as director of behavioral health at the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, Barlow’s research and program development work focuses on family-based approaches to child and adolescent health and well-being for reservation-based American Indian tribes.

In the early 1990s, Barlow volunteered for The Baltimore Station, Inc., whose mission is to provide self-help programs to support men who are transitioning from poverty, substance abuse and homelessness to self-sufficiency. She introduced programs that drew from the strength of Native American communities, such as talking circles for the men in the residence homes. She was elected to the organization’s board in 1993 and has served in leadership positions since that time, including vice president and president.

“Allison is considered the heart and soul of the Station, [and is] often referred to as the backbone of the organization,” explained Clare Gorman, director of resource development at The Baltimore Station. [She provides] inspirational leadership that has helped stabilize and bring structure to the organization through guiding the development efforts, recruiting a diverse volunteer and paid workforce to the Station and providing guidance on programmatic content.” Mathuram Santosham, MD, MPH, who nominated Barlow for the award, added “Allison has affected positive change in the lives of countless individuals through her volunteer efforts.”

Woody Curry, The Baltimore Station director of program services, has known Barlow for more than 14 years. He said, “Our programming is a direct reflection of Allison’s positive, upbeat, ‘can do’ approach. She embodies the qualities of selflessness, inspiration and motivation at a level higher then few other people in this world.”

In order to give The Baltimore Station men an opportunity to give back to their community, Barlow also includes the residents in other service projects in which she is involved. She invited the men to prepare meals for and mentor children during SuperKids Camps, a summer reading intervention for economically disadvantaged elementary school students, which she has organized and led in the past. More than 1,600 children attended the camp, which for most of the children involved, was the first time they had had the opportunity to leave the city and sleep at an outdoors camp.

In 2005, in another demonstration of her service and commitment to the community, Barlow pulled together a team to raise $180,000 to build a playground at a Baltimore City public school. It took less than six months from the beginning of fund-raising to completion of construction. Now more than 1,300 students have a safe and positive environment in which to play.

Johns Hopkins faculty, staff, students and retirees are eligible to receive the annual community service awards. Additional recipients from Johns Hopkins include Sharon Baylis, Matthew Haag, Janet Hicks, Shawneen Kelley, Monica Maxwell, Anita McFarlane, Jackqueline Meadows, Kristina Obom and Marvina Wright.

The awards were presented January 19, 2007, and followed by a lecture by Maya Angelou. She commended the award recipients for being courageous. Angelou said, “Without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue. Courage belongs to all of us, all the time. All we have to do is claim it.”

Santosham and others from the Center for American Indian Health also surprised Barlow with a reception later that day. It included JHSPH colleagues and administration and staff and residents from the Baltimore Station, the NFL Players Association, with which the Center co-sponsors Native Vision camps, a sports and life skills enrichment program for American Indian children from around the nation.

“This award is really for the men and children who have been helped by Baltimore Station and SuperKids Camps,” Barlow said. “I’m grateful to be a part of the projects and missions represented by the leadership [at the Bloomberg School of Public Health]. The only reason I’m being honored is because of the people [I work with.] We have so much more to do, but there is a lot of hope here.”

Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Kenna Lowe or Tim Parsons at 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.