William McLennan: A life dedicated to service

By Leah Polakoff

William McLennan

William McLennan

William J. McLennan, executive director at Paul’s Place, lives a life dedicated to service. For over 30 years, Paul’s Place has aimed to improve the quality of life in the Washington Village/Pigtown neighborhood and surrounding southwest Baltimore communities. The nonprofit provides programs and services to support and strengthen individuals and families.

Through education programs for children and adults, health and wellness programs, day programs and case management, McLennan wants to take on these challenging areas of Baltimore and develop Charm City into a stable community.

Q: What inspired you to work for an organization that cares so deeply for the Baltimore community?  Did it stem from a personal experience or the simple desire to give back?  

McLennan: Immediately following the 1968 riots, as a young boy, my father would purposely drive me along the toughest routes from rural Baltimore County to the inner city, where he worked to understand the differences in Baltimore. He reinforced JFK’s belief that for those that much has been given [to], much is to be expected and given back.

We would take Reisterstown Road from Reisterstown to the Druid Park Drive area. Much of the … area looks the same today as it did in 1969. A challenging area then. A challenging area today.

Q: What inspires you to wake up and go to work every morning? 

McLennan: Knowing that my amazing staff and board are 100 percent committed to our mission of making a difference in southwest Baltimore.  We are helping to strengthen the community by transforming lives one at a time, one day at a time.

Q: How do you plan on teaching and helping Baltimore children to prepare for a better tomorrow?  

McLennan: By broadening their personal experiences … showing them a Baltimore (and Mid-Atlantic region) outside of their usual five square-block radius.  We do that for 90 children during the school year and through summer camps. We have structured programs with highly trained staff providing academic reinforcement and cultural enrichment.  Summer camps include swimming, athletics and arts and crafts.

Q: What do you do outside of work for fun?  

McLennan: I like to travel – love touring the United States and also enjoy visiting Europe. [I also enjoy] spending time with my grandchildren and new Westie puppy, Gus.

Q: How do you plan on giving back to the community in the future?

McLennan: I will always give back to the community through my board positions [with The Journey Home and Health Care Access] and by direct volunteering. I represent the voice of the homeless in Baltimore by being their advocate. Whenever you volunteer, you always walk away with much more than you contribute.

About The Human Element:
The Human Element is a regular, web-exclusive column that aims to get to know the leaders behind great companies. Rather than talking about business models and growth strategies, CEOs open up about what motivates and guides them in their professional and personal lives. To be considered for The Human Element, email tina@smartceo.com.