Meet Thread Volunteer Spencer Raymond-Smith

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It’s not an uncommon story among Thread volunteers: A transplant to Baltimore City looking for a way to better understand and connect with their new surroundings. For Spencer Raymond-Smith, this holds true. Originally from Ohio and having just graduated college in Rochester, New York, Spencer moved to the city in early 2022 to start his new job as a Production Assistant with Under Armour knowing virtually nothing about Baltimore. But he did know he wanted to do something that made a difference.

“I was always the kind of person who would talk about some of the issues that face different parts of society, but I never actually did anything about it because I was always too busy with school and soccer. But once I finished school, I decided I believe in this stuff so much and it was time to do something about it.” This decision led him to start looking for places to volunteer, specifically working with young people.

Like almost any person in their early 20’s, Spencer’s first stop was Google and Reddit. He saw recommendations for Thread and checked out the website. What stood out to him was Thread’s holistic approach to supporting our young people. “The issues that people in general face, not even limited to just Thread young people, are often multi-dimensional, involve multiple parts of their lives. I liked that Thread was like ‘what do you need, let’s figure it out together.’”

Spencer applied and quickly began volunteering, starting as a Family Member at Dunbar High School for Hector, a more introverted and independent young person. “Hector kind of does his own thing, but he knows I’m here and that’s a win.” Their conversations were mostly via text, and they met up at Hector’s home and at threadHOURS®.

Spencer quickly became a Head of Family and attended threadHOURS regularly, meeting more young people at Dunbar. “It allowed me to get to know a bunch of the young people and do a range of things, from teaching a couple of them to drive to helping figure out community college admissions, to getting meals, long talks in the car to try and figure out interpersonal things. It’s really been a wide range.” He connected with a lot of young people, but formed special bonds with a few, including Ricardo, Damonte, Hezekiah, and Marielis.

When asked to recall times where a young person supported him, Spencer had a list of moments. He remembered the time Damonte made him a hot pocket so they could have breakfast together after noticing that Spencer never ate the donuts they picked up on the way to school. Then there was the time Ricardo found out Spencer had never eaten a mango, so Richardo brought him a whole bag the next week to try. Marielis once made him “the best banana smoothie I’d ever had” as a thank you for taking her to CCBC to take a placement test and choose her classes. Marielis also later stepped in to help teach Hezekiah to drive, since Spencer is admittedly not very good at back-in parking. He even made connections with young peoples’ families, meeting Damonte’s grandmother for the first time at Field Day where she gave him a handmade bracelet to thank him for all the rides to school he’d given her grandson.

These relationships have made a huge emotional impact on Spencer. “Coming out of COVID, I ended up pretty isolated. I think just the community and the connection from the young people and Thread as a whole has been really huge and really changed how I do things because it’s been great to have a group of people I can just belong to.” Being in Thread has also helped Spencer grow. “One thing that working with Thread can do, even for someone who is very open minded, very against stereotyping and such, is break down whatever remaining preconceived notions I may have had about certain groups of people, certain areas.”

Spencer knows that the Thread experience is what you make of it, and encourages people thinking of volunteering who are worried about the commitment to go for it! “You can be working with 20 kids, or you can just really be supporting one young person. You can be as involved as you want to be.”

Marielis holding her award