HOW IT ALL BEGAN
David Baskin grew up an only child in the US. He ended up on the wrong side of the law a few times and despite coming from a warm and supportive home, he was extremely lost. Until at age 16 he met Ross Freeland.
Ross was the assistant baseball coach and a math teacher at David’s high school. He had trouble making eye contact, he was awkward, but he landed up changing David’s life forever. For years, Ross would meet David at 6am every morning to throw balls at batting practice. David explains how he cherished those moments of quiet concentration, working with Ross towards a goal of being better. Those moments changed David. Every morning, Ross would quietly tell David that he could become a better version of himself.
As David grew older, Ross continued to be his major support, always there for him, whether at the end of the phone or in person. After college, David moved to Israel to join the Israeli Defence Forces and Ross wrote his recommendation letter.
After several years in the army, David learned that Ross had cancer. He sobbed when he heard the news.
When Ross died, David returned to the US for the memorial service. The auditorium overflowed with thousands of people, paying their respects to a man who threw balls at batting practice.
In April 2016, a month after Ross died, David founded ‘Ani Shlishi’, Hebrew for “I am Third”.
In a country Ross Freeland never visited, an organisation he never saw, opens every day inspired by his life and his words. This is David’s way of showing up for batting practice.
Ani Shlishi collects second-hand clothes for resale at its thrift stores. The stores are manned by youth-at-risk who earn a salary, learn invaluable skills to help with future employment and life in general. The young people live in youth villages for at-risk teenagers and work at Ani Shlishi for 6 months in preparation for enrolment in the army or in the workforce.
Through the programme, employees gain retail, customer service, leadership, communication, and problem-solving experience and skills training. They also learn how to handle finance and attend seminars on various topics including resume writing and interview etiquette.
There is a community of ‘Ani Shlishi graduates’ who meet with current youth in the programme and share their stories.Of the 100 Ani Shlishi graduates, over 90% are currently integrated into normative frameworks and are either working, in school, or in the army.
Ani Shlishi continue to work on and expand their alumni programme so that they can keep in touch and follow each graduate’s progress.
There are already approximately 100 graduates of Ani Shlishi’s programme.
At age 16, Tal arrived at Ani Shlishi as a very quiet, self-deprecating young woman. Tal was abused as a child and was finally removed from her dysfunctional family home and placed in a shelter for youth-at-risk. Tal knew she needed to be saved from herself or risk living a life with no hope so she got in touch with David as soon as she heard about the programme at Ani Shlishi.
During her 6 months at the store, Tal grew into a strong, responsible woman. She was promoted to a role with increased responsibility and has become an inspiration for the next group of workers. Tal will embark on her next journey when she enlists in the army knowing she is full of potential and promise.