Interview #52: Tom Baker

Tom Baker Pittsburgh

Tom Baker certainly knows how to stay engaged with the Pittsburgh community.

He speaks, runs marathons, volunteers, writes books, raises money, mentors, hosts networking events, and so much more. This man doesn't stop and you can tell he loves every minute of it. Tom models exactly what he encourages young people to do—he believes staying engaged in the community is so important that he has started the Get Involved! movement in Pittsburgh.

A fun fact about Tom is that every year he hosts a birthday party fundraiser—with the suggested donation being a dollar for every year of his life! This year the event will take place Pirates Game June 9th, featuring post-game entertainment the legendary Boyz II Men.  Any other children of the 90's out there have a special place in their heart for the song Water Runs Dry?

I met Tom for the first time when I sat on a panel at Baker Leadership Power Hour. (Remember our friend Regina? She introduced us!) I've since attended many of the Power Hour events since then and knew I'd like to learn more about Tom.

It was fun getting together with Tom and learning more about his projects and see his place of work. While we were touring the Big Brothers Big Sisters space, Tom and I decided that it would be fun to make a short video about the 3rd Annual Get Involved! Pittsburgh Service Summit. I can't wait to serve as the co-emcee for the evening! We will be celebrating some amazing local leaders and I know that it will be one of those events that will make me love Pittsburgh even more. 

Here's what you can expect:

Hopefully we will be seeing you at the Service Summit! Enjoy Tom's Q&A.

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Name: Tom Baker 

Job title: Chief Community Affairs Officer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh and Founder/Chief Program Officer of Get Involved!, Inc. 

Twitter: @BakerLeadership

Blog: www.bakerleadership.blogspot.com showcases the first three years of my speaking career. Information about Get Involved!, Inc. is at www.getinvolvedinc.org and Baker Leadership is at www.bakerleadership.com Details about the 3rd Annual Service Summit are at www.pittsburghservicesummit.com and we are very happy that the Founder of Yinzpiration.com will be my Co-Emcee at the event on April 4! 

Neighborhood you live in: We live in Ross Township and I am very proud to serve on the North Hills School Board. 

Coffee Shop Drink of Choice:
Coffee Tree Roasters in Shadyside because we host the Get Involved! Morning Mix and my Rotary Club meetings there. I am a diet pepsi drinker though. I also got my nickname of Chugger when I was three days old for drinking all of the milk in the nursery. I was actually not called Tom until I hit my mid twenties and Chugger sustained for my entire education. Today it’s about a 50/50 split. Either way, I still enjoy milk and fat free chocolate milk! 

Why do you choose Pittsburgh as your home?
I grew up in Pittsburgh and honestly took our city a bit for granted the first time around. After living in Lancaster for 6 years, we decided to come back so that Erin and I could attend graduate school. We really dove both feet into the city and haven’t looked back since 2003. It is our involvement in community groups and the friends that we have made along the way that have made us become strong advocates for the region.  

Who do you spend your time with?
I always enjoying spending time with my wife and my family. I also am fortunate to work with a good group here at BBBS and also through our Get Involved! efforts. 

What are your favorite aspects of your job?
I first got involved with BBBS in 2002 when I graduated from college and am very proud of my little brother, Preston, who is now a 20 year old sophomore at Franklin and Marshall College. He is still a very important part of my life and a good friend after spending so much time together over the last decade. Through my role at BBBS, I am able to provide others with similar opportunities to become mentors and learn about the program. In my position I manage all of our coalition groups as well and really enjoy collaborating with our partners and friends to raise funds and generate awareness for our program. Finally, I really like conducting volunteer trainings and getting to spend two hours with soon to be bigs. If anyone is interested in being a Big they can visit www.bbbspgh.org or email me at tbaker@bbbspgh.org 

Do you have a soul food?
I’ve lost 65 pounds since I started campaigning last winter for school board and am pretty strict about eating chicken and lettuce for most meals. A combination of eating better, playing hoops and running 5K’s/half marathons, more fruit, less candy, and reducing late night snacking has enabled me to get back down to my 9
th grade weight! 

What are some of your recent personal goals?
It was a major goal for Get Involved! to become a 501c3 non-profit organization, which was accomplished last fall in large part thanks to my fellow Rotarian and friend, Eric Davis. His law firm was incredibly generous with their time in making this dream a possibility for me and our Board of Directors. We are continuing to expand our four core programs for Get Involved! – the Fast Track Community Leaders program (Co-Hort III kicked off this month), our Morning Mix series, our Power Hour series, and the annual Pittsburgh Service Summit. We had the first Southcentral PA Service Summit last fall, which went well, and we continue to look at ways to provide more Get Involved! programs beyond Western PA.  Finally, I also had a very contested and competitive campaign in 2011 and am proud to have won on both sides of the ballot last May for school board. Now, I simply want to represent members of Ross Township and West View honorably and do what is best for our thousands of students in the district. 

What are your favorite Pittsburgh restaurants?
Great question! I would go with Fatheads, Nakama, Mad Mex, Fox and Hound, Buffalo Blues, Patron, and Sesame Inn. It makes me hungry just thinking of all of these great spots. 

Describe your ideal day.
I drop my wife off downtown every morning around 7:30am, which is a nice way to start the day. I would kick off with either Morning Mix or a Rotary Club meeting at 8:30am, followed by an outreach speech about BBBS and a community event to recruit BBBS volunteers over lunchtime. In the afternoon, I would give two back to back Get Involved! speeches with college students. In the evening, I would train participants through either Coro’s Running for Public Office program (this will be my fourth fall training the group), through our Get Involved! Fast Track course, or onboard new BBBS volunteers here at our office in East Liberty. Afterwards, around 9 or 10pm, my friends and I would do our usual Movie Night tradition or I would play a PSL Basketball game. On most days, I am on the go for 14-15 hours and enjoy every second of it! 

What is the most memorable live show you have seen in Pittsburgh?
I am a huge concert fan and enjoy a diverse assortment of shows. Some of the best shows that I have seen in Pittsburgh include Dave Matthews Band, Lil Wayne, Sara Bareilles, Jay Z, Daughtry/Lifehouse, Blink 182, Snoop Dogg, Maroon 5, and Busta Rhymes. I also like to take my mama on the road for shows every year and we have seen Jason Mraz, Adam Lambert, and Kelly Clarkson the last 3 years. The American Idol tour show is also a must every year for my family. 

What do you think Pittsburgh will be like in ten years? 
Through my time as President of the PUMP Board, coordinating Get Involved! programs, and working with other community organizations my goal is quite simple: Pittsburgh is the place that young professionals come to and is the city that they are retained by. I hope that this goal becomes even more of a reality in the next decade. 

What do you love most about the city?
There is no reason to be bored in Pittsburgh! Whether it is going to the theatre, a sporting event, volunteering, eating at our amazing restaurants, or exploring our neighborhoods there is always something going on it our city. Our city has endless opportunities but also a comfort level that makes attending a diverse assortment of events feel doable and comfortable. I often share with young professionals that instead of being bored, be on a (non-profit) board. I just back from a trip to Florida for baseball spring training and it was great to see the pride that current and former Pittsburgh’ers have for the city. There truly is no reason not to be proud to be from Pittsburgh!