Feb 23, 2022

A simple donation call to The Salvation Army prompted a Party City Manager to make a 20-year return to his favorite childhood memory.

“We wanted to do anything we can to support The Salvation Army. At Party City, we had 250 boxes of party supplies, and the only place I wanted to donate these items to is to The Salvation Army. I have seen different things The Salvation Army has done for people, firsthand,” said Davon Baptist, 31, father of 4, and Experienced Lead (right under General Manager) of Party City.

Baptist called The Development Department in early January and requested The Salvation Army picks up every item on location. Select staff rented a truck and individually lugged each box, full of surprises. Some boxes had Halloween costumes, and other boxes carried birthday supplies. It was a treasure hunt, and talk emanated on which items will help which branch of The Salvation Army.

Baptist face lit up. And for that instant, this 32-year-old man transformed back into a 13-year-old. He told staff that he hopes these items benefit The Boys and Girls Club of Franklin Square, because he, his younger brother, and his uncle and aunt were former members. He regaled us on activities he participated in, and how he misses the old basketball court upstairs.

“My time at the boys and girls club influenced me to do sports like Basketball,” said Baptist. “The Boys and Girls club has a gym upstairs, so we would always play basketball. I always played sports at the boys and girls club. I also went to all the camps. I went to camp two years in a row, it was a cool experience.”

Unbeknownst, to many of us, The Boys and Girls club of Franklin Square geared Baptist into his dream job as a manager.  

“I was always bossy as a kid. My mom always said I should be a manager because I was a bossy kid, said Baptist. “I had so many enriching experiences at The Boys and Girls club. One time we had Mr. Fisher in charge there, and he always had different activities. He would pick out the different group leaders, and I was usually one of the group leaders. I would try to lead by example.”

Being a lead at Party City demands strong computer knowledge, people skills, organization skills, and creativity. The Boys and Girls club first introduced Baptist to using a computer, at 13-years old, and the rest of the skills he picked up after school or during Summer Camp.

“I handle almost everything electronic at Party City,” said Baptist. “I handle database and network-related activities. Such as if the network is down, I would handle that. My foray into technology started at the Boys and Girls club. I started using computers when I joined The Boys and Girls club, and devoted much of time in the computer labs. From there I learned how to build and program a computer too.”

Our long talk outside a truck full of party supplies inspired him to make a visit back to The Boys and Girls Club of Franklin Square the following week. Baptist received a personalized tour of the premises from Captain Michael Chisolm and from Lt. Schelika Chisolm. He schooled our Temple Corps leaders on where the pool table used to be and how, 20 years ago, his peers got away with having a slip n’ slide outside the club on hot summer days.

Speaking of nostalgia, Baptist wondered if “Chubby still work here?”

Chubby is a familiar and kind presence at the Boys and Girls club, who was a friend to all the kids. “Chubby was a cool guy. Everywhere we lived, we always run into him,” said Baptist. “He always played with the kids and always led kids in different activities. He was a friend to everyone. He was always at the club helping and he would walk around the neighborhood, waving to everyone. He had a great memory and knew everyone.”

At the end of the tour, a relationship solidified between Party City and The Salvation Army of Central Maryland. Along with being linked to future party supply donations, Boys and Girls club members who are interested on hands-on-job experience will work with Baptist and his team to learn the ins and outs of the work world.

Baptist returned to give back. Because what The Salvation Army gave him was a ticket out of a deadly path.

“If I didn’t have the Boys and Girls club in my life, I would’ve been in the streets or locked up,” said Baptist. “That choice my mom made was a good choice. Back then, it was a bad area. Back then it was drug infested. Everything. It was a real bad area. And the only place I could even go was The Boys and Girls club. My mom was keeping us safe.”

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