Calvin Woodland will take your money any way he can get it. But don't be mistaken - the decision will be yours.
The more money Woodland can raise, the better it is for the countless children who participate in Woodland's impromptu Anacostia-based recreation programs.
The words "beg, borrow, hustle and steal," don't faze the former professional boxer one bit. As a matter of fact, they're regular words in his vocabulary. Money has been the number one obstacle in his 12-year fight for his "cause," which is too show Anacostia children that there's more to life than the ghetto.
Woodland, 35, is best known for his football team, the Woodland Raiders, who in their nine years of existence have won all but two of their 147 games. The Raiders are "$740 in the hole," said Woodland. "It's a damn shame, because you got people in Anacostia who could go a whole lot better. Everybody in Anacostia isn't rot-gut poor . . . and there are businesses, black businesses, that are booming.
"I get it (money) anywhere I can get it. Money is money. Money talks. I don't do anything illegitimate because I fought hard to make this area clean. I don't do anything wrong, but I'll take wrong money. I don't ask where it comes from."
Woodland said it is hard to get public assistance in Anacostia. "Anacostia is the last to get any grant, the use of any facilities," he said. "It's not so much forgotten here, they know it's here. It's (Anacostia) the city dump . . . because of the people you have here. You have the oldest and the youngest people here. They're basically poor and black, because the middle class runs away."
So Woodland relies more heavily on the area residents who do help him. He is particularly ingratiated to the Rev. Peter Kenny of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church on Morris Road SE. "Without him, this thing folded long ago," Woodland said. "Without his generosity, the use of his facilities, we would never have made it. There's never been a time he's refused us."
He also said Calvin Rolark of the Black United Fund had been of great assistance.
While football produces the most notice for his activities, Woodland is always open to suggestion and will help produce anything to keep the area kids involved. In his apartment complex, he has set up a makeshift boxing ring with two punching bags. And for those youngsters not interested in sports, particularly the girls, Woodland has staged talent and fashion shows.
Three times a year - during the Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day weekends - Woodland ropes off the neighborhood and holds his version of the Junior Olympics with events for any child who wants to enter.
Woodland, who says he plans to run for the D.C. City Council, is a big believer in trophies and every winner in his Olympics (a lot of the losses too), and all the members of of his football teams receive something to show their efforts. "They're not a big thing. They're the biggest thing," he said. "The kids go wild over trophies. The kids go to school. They get scholarships. They come back and tell me they wouldn't have made it if it weren't for a trophy."
Woodland became involved in his cause because of the presence of gang violence and a rampant drug problem among youths ranging in age from as young as 8 to 13 years old. "At one time, you couldn't survive there. There were so many drugs," Woodland said of the streets. "I only had a football team then. I felt I wasn't doing enough."
Woodland now works as a community counselor for Kramer Junior High School, which keeps conveniently in touch with young teen-age children. The ages of his football players this season (they change from year to year) were between 7 and 13 years old, though children of any age from any neighborhood are invited to participate in Woodlands activities. His job also fits closely with his never-ending battle to keep young people in school.
Perhaps his own experience intensified his desire to demonstrate to children the value of academic success. Woodland had a superlative boxing career, mostly as a featherweight, but never was asked to fight the big names for big purses. Despite an 81-2 record as an amateur, including national and international titles, and a 31-2 professional mark, which included 29 knockouts and victories over former champions Willie Pep (featherweight) and Carlos Ortez (lightweight), Woodland was never given a shot at the featherweight title.
Even though Woodland had to support himself during his fighting career by delivering mail for the Postal Service, he still considers himself lucky for having experienced "many of the better things of life.
"We work to the schools, through the schools and to the streets," he said. "We're trying to get them back to school . . . try to explain to them that no matter how good they are at some things (such as athletics), they need academic skills if they are to make it in life."