Homesharing Spotlight: Ed and Ousmane

May 4, 2016 by

Ed and Ousmane are Home sharers in the Mayfield neighborhood, a cozy community of detached homes nestled between Lake Montebello, Herring Run and Clifton Parks. Ed, who’s been sharing his home through St. Ambrose since 2011, is a longtime advocate of shared housing.  For Ed, it’s a healthy stimulator to live in community with others, and some of what it takes to be a good roommate is a mindset of compatibility and a willingness to communicate openly.

Ousmane, who joined our community of Home sharers in February 2016 is blind, and was referred to St. Ambrose through a job readiness training program. When he graduated from his job training program, he was able to swiftly transition to Homesharing, perfectly matching with Ed.

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“One Step at a Time”

From his new home, Ousmane waits at the corner to catch the bus to his work south of downtown Baltimore. On his return trip, he takes the bus to one block north of his home in order to cross at the controlled cross walk. When he reaches the cross walk, he listens for the cycle of traffic to stop to know when to cross the street. He knows the timing of the lights by memory, and always waits for a complete cycle to pass through before he ventures across the street, white walking stick leading the way.

Sometimes a neighbor will offer him guidance to walk across the way, and Ousmane always graciously accepts, “it’s part of their spirituality” to offer assistance, but each day for Ousmane, crossing the street is another opportunity to practice and learn. Another walk across the street is another step towards the independent lifestyle he enjoyed before he lost his sight four years ago.

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Ousmane, who is originally from Senegal, moved to the US in 1996. When he went blind in 2012, he had a lot to learn on his path to living independently again. For Ousmane, Homesharing is an experience in the “School of Life” and a way to live self-sufficiently, while in community with others. “It’s a daily self-assignment and a challenge to make sure I’m acting correctly and on the same page with others… I can always improve myself and my communication.” Ousmane wakes up around 5 am each morning to get ready for work. He moves silently about the house, taking great care with every step. Ed describes Ousmane’s movement as “ninja-like,” but for Ousmane, a heightened sense of hearing makes him very mindful of moving quietly at an early hour.

Adaptations- making the house a home for Ousmane

When Ousmane first moved in he carried around raised bump locator stickers and received assistance to mark buttons and switches around the house for guidance. There’s a dot to identify the start button on the laundry machine and three dots on the microwave to identify the number 3, the start, and the clear button. Another practical adaptation is a paper bag to place his mail. Ousmane has an app on his phone that he uses to scan and read text when he shops for food, reads mail, or checks paper money.

It didn’t take much to make Ousmane feel comfortable in his new home. One final adaptation that’s in the works-“Well, we’ll need to expand the garden,” Ed mentions. Ousmane is a vegetarian and the backyard garden is certainly a point of community pride and unity at the shared Mayfield home.

What is the best part about Homesharing?

For Ousmane, he finds that he is at peace in his new home,”living in sync with good people inspires me to be my best self.”

For Ed, Homesharing stretches his comparability and comfort zone, and “it’s a way to act locally and build bridges in the community.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Interested in Homesharing? Call 410-366-6180.

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A front porch garden that appeals to all the senses

Karen Heyward-West named one of Maryland’s Top 100 women

April 20, 2016 by

Karen Heyward-West, Director of Homesharing, was recently recognized by the Daily Record as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women for 2016. The highly accomplished list of honorees includes leaders across sectors and communities. St. Ambrose gives a warm congratulations to all of this year’s nominees. Below is an interview with our own award recipient, Karen Heyward-West.

 

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Karen at the Awards Reception, April 18, 2016, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall

One of the categories for an honoree is being recognized for mentorship. What is your advice to young women who are interested in being leaders in the the non-profit or human services field? 

 The first thing I always say is you have to check in with yourself often to make sure it’s still your passion. Whether you’re advocating for the environment, for young people, or for families, you always have to ask yourself: Are you passionate about what you’re doing?

As one of Maryland’s top 100 women, you’re in good company! On the list of fellow nominees, who is someone you really respect and why? 

There are so many! On the present list, I’d have to say my sorority sister Sharonne Bonardi, Deputy Comptroller of the state of Maryland. Shes’ the first African American to hold the position and her story about how she moved up the ranks in the Department is really inspiring. Working in such a male dominated field and being the first African American in her position, she faced so many challenges, but she really committed to her job, not for herself, but for the women who came after her. As a public servant it’s not about you, and I really admire her commitment to being a leader for women in her field.

Of previous nominees, I would say Margaret Williams, of The Maryland Family Network. She’s been out there for more than 30 years fighting the fight to support young families, and she’s grown the network from just a few centers to many.
In your opinion, what makes Homesharing such a great program for the community?
I think because it’s unique and obtainable. There are not several hoops to jump through or waiting lists to get on- there’s a beginning, middle, and end all in the near future. We’ve placed people in a week, we’ve place people in 3 days. It’s an obtainable solution to the lack of affordable housing. It’s real.
What is the best part about being the Director of Homesharing?
The best part of this position is being a part of change. This position allows me to effect change in people’s lives and spread the good news about the outcomes of the program. Homesharing really is the best kept secret, but I get to help share what Homesharing can do for an individual and for a community.

Financial Coaching Workshops come to North Barclay Green

April 18, 2016 by

North Barclay Green Community Center at 2001 N Barclay is a community space provided through Neighborhood Partners and Telesis and is open daily to connect neighbors to resources, provide programming for all ages and interests, and work to make Barclay a great neighborhood to call home.

St. Ambrose offered a one day financial education workshop in February at the center and was invited to host a four week financial coaching workshop series this spring. We sat down with the center’s community organizer Tarahn Harris to catch up on what’s going on at the North Barclay Green Center and to get his perspective on financial education in the neighborhood. Tarahn works with Ms. Lottie Snead to bring programming and resources to Barclay residents.

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So, how do financial coaching services contribute to the overall vision for moving the community forward?

Neighborhood Partners has 7 core values to support the neighborhood, one of those values is financial empowerment.

The workshops provide information that’s accessible that can help residents see new options for themselves and envision a different future. Neighborhood residents can see that even if they don’t have the job they want right now, they can still set goals- and that’s the impact and the importance of financial education for the neighborhood.

What was the response from neighborhood residents about the financial workshop?

There’s been a lot of good feedback, and I think community members are just grateful to be exposed to the information. The workshop is presented in a way that is super engaging, which makes it easier for the residents to embrace the information. What’s really great is that St. Ambrose is accessible to the community so that physical barrier is gone. It’s important to connect people to resources that they can walk to.

What impressed you about the Financial Education workshop this winter?

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Denitra Braham, St. Ambrose Financial Coach, answers a participant’s question at the February workshop

It’s refreshing to have the information presented in a way that is fun! There was such a wealth of information and the way it’s presented is accessible and engaging.The question and answer section was really helpful and participants at the workshop were made very comfortable, even with a subject that’s usually sensitive.

What other services are offered at the center and through its partners?

Community round tables about nutrition and diabetes, community gardening, help for returning citizens, job readiness support, youth programs like a bike club, Monday night cooking classes with a local chef… and more!

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With a background in social work, community organizing, and family counseling, Tarahn serves Barclay with a  breadth of knowledge on how to have a positive impact on other people. He’s hitting the pavement to make sure Barclay residents are connected to the resources they need- no matter how big or small. As Tarahn wisely noted, “Communities thrive through partnerships,” and we’re happy to have Tarahn and the crew at North Barclay Green to be out there connecting neighbors to resources and providing a great community space for the Barclay neighborhood.

St. Ambrose begins Historical Preservation of homes in Winters Lane, Catonsville

February 22, 2016 by

With support from Baltimore County and the State’s Community Legacy program, St. Ambrose is beginning the preservation and renovation of 10 duplex rental homes in the historic black community of Winters Lane in Catonsville, MD. Though St. Ambrose has a long history of doing quality renovation and rehabs to Baltimore area homes, the historical significance and value of these particular houses has had a great impact on our approach to completing the renovations. In the Winters Lane Community, it’s not just about improving the quality of the home, doing energy efficient upgrades, installing new appliances, and making an investment in the community at large. Preserving these homes for their historical value is critical to the project’s success. The extensive renovations slated to begin this spring will maintain the historical character of the 100+ year old homes as a celebration of the heritage and historical significance of Winters Lane .

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Winters Lane is one of 40 historical black communities in Baltimore County. Source: Baltimore County Department of Planning

Winters Lane is a historically African American community founded by freed slaves following The Civil War. Officially added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 2007, the history of Winters Lane is well documented thanks to the research of Louis S. Diggs, author of the 1995 book entitled, “It all Started on Winters Lane.” In his book, Diggs primarily takes a genealogist’s perspective to the history of the black community in Catonsville. Diggs’ book draws on oral histories, historic newspapers, census and civic documents to describe in the fullest detail the life and times of the community as it grew and flourished in the years and decades following The Civil War. As we move ahead by making a necessary investment in the future of the community, it is critical to look backward to honor the amazing accomplishments and resilience of Winters Lane.

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In the August 19th, 1961 edition of the Baltimore Afro American newspaper, journalist Elizabeth Oliver introduces the community in this way:

In the Catonsville Development, just two miles from Baltimore’s Western City limits, sprawls the near perfect example of suburban living, homeownership, and community spirit. There is no undertaker here and but one physician, since citizens are interested in living. The welcome mat is always out to summer visitors who find the community a nice place to visit.

The article goes on to describe the community’s picturesque residential gardens and winding lanes, high rate of registered voters (4,000 in total), its ample opportunities for civic and social engagement, and the resolute commitment of the community’s leaders and business owners. This glowing depiction of a harmonious and thriving community is reinforced throughout the pages of Diggs’ book, most conclusively in the oral histories provided by residents who grew up in the community in the first half of the 20th century. In the face of rampant institutionalized racism during the Jim Crow era, the tight knit community of Winters Lane burgeoned and prospered.

The settlement was founded in 1867, one year after the civil war ended. Some of the original founders came into deeded property upon being released from slavery, while others migrated to the settlement from other parts of Maryland and purchased property along Winters Lane in the late 1800’s. Due to segregation and the distance from Baltimore, Winters Lane became a largely self-sufficient community.

In 1868, J.W. Gould donated a tract of land and old school house on the corner of Winters Lane and Edmondson Avenue. The building became the community’s first church, known today as Grace A.M.E ., as well as the first school for black children, School #23. Grace A.M.E. is still an active community church today, though it moved to its present location in 1890. At least 5 churches were founded within the next few decades and the school expanded and moved to accommodate a growing community.

William Washington and Charles Woodland were two of the prominent business owners and home owners in the community’s early days. The Washington family owned one of the first community grocery stores, also on the corner of Winters Lane and Edmondson, which served as an additional community meeting space. According to the oral history of Eva Adele Page Brooks in Diggs’ book, the top floor of the grocery store also housed the classrooms of the 5th and 6th grades in the 1920’s.

 

Left: The Washington Grocery Store built in the 1800’s has been demolished. Right: The Charles C. Woodland House, built in 1874, was  purchased in 1914. The house is registered with the Maryland Historical Trust. 

Washington and Woodland were two of the founding members of The Catonsville Cooperative Corporation. The Co-op was founded in 1890 as a way for local residents to pool their resources to support new businesses. One venture of the Co-op was the Greenwood Electric Park which was a wildly successful amusement park that attracted African Americans from all over the Baltimore metro region. At the time of the Co-ops disengagement in the 1960’s, there were 523 shareholders.

The Weekly Clarion was a local newspaper that first circulated in 1919 as a newsletter for the Grace A.M.E. church.  It soon became a community wide voice with a small editorial staff and control board.

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Advertisement in the Baltimore Afro-American July 16, 1910

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June 2, 1934 edition of The Weekly Clarion. Source: “It All Started on Winters Lane”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Civic and social organizations thrived throughout the 1900’s including a football club and baseball club, homeowner’s organization, and various men’s and women’s social clubs that organized community service activities and hosted dances and social gatherings.

Left: A present day picture of Landmark Lodge #40. The Masonic Temple was established in 1904 as a lodge for the Freemasons. The chapter is still active today. Right: 1930’s photograph of members of the Emma Williams Temple. The temple was founded in 1925 and is still active today.

The tradition of strong community organization in the early years of the community paved the way for one of the most active organizations still involved in community affairs today. The Concerned Citizens of Catonsville was founded in the 1980’s to encourage an open dialogue about the increasing crime rates in the Winters Lane District. Today, the group advocates for community revitalization projects, coordinates crime watch patrols, and gives voice to current neighborhood concerns. A legacy of strong leadership continues with the Concerned Citizens of Catonsville who have forged robust community partnerships to fight for for redevelopment and new investment in Winters Lane.

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The rehab and preservation of the historic homes on Shipley and Roberts avenues is just a first step to preserving the resilient community for the future. The homes will be updated to meet current building codes, the living spaces will be expanded and modernized and the exteriors restored. The goal is to maintain the historic character and architecture of the homes, meeting the requirements of the Maryland Historic Trust, while making an investment in the quality of the homes and ultimately the community as whole. Renovations will begin this spring, but the preservation and investment in the Winters Lane community is an enduring project that will ultimately include the preservation of additional homes and new development of affordable homes.

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Sources/ For more information

Diggs, Louis S. “It All Started in Winters Lane.”1995. website

Catonsville Patch: “Winters Lane on a Winters Day”

Maryland Historical Trust: Woodland House

The Afro American July 16, 1910

Baltimore Sun “Winters Lane Masonic Temple”

Baltimore Sun “Winters Lane National Night Out”

Baltimore Sun “Revitalizing Winters Lane to be discussed”

Baltimore Sun “County considers Historic Preservation”

Baltimore County Government “Historic Winters Lane Home to be Restored”

St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center Legal Program helps Homeowners in Foreclosure

February 11, 2016 by

By Joe Surkiewicz

Feb. 3, 2016

A version of this article appeared in the Daily Record

Low-income people struggling with the loss of their homes to foreclosure are not only scared and confused. They are also vulnerable to predators.

“It’s because foreclosure proceedings are in the public record,” said Christina Ochoa, a staff attorney in the Legal Services Program at the St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center. “They often are scammed.”

One client for example paid $1,500 to attorneys in Florida to help her with a loan modification procedure in Maryland—and had nothing to show for it.

“They were actual, real attorneys!” Ochoa said. “It was very scary. After we filed a complaint with the Florida bar, we managed to recover the money. The client believed anyone who said they could help her. That’s just one example of the kinds of predatory people out there soliciting desperate, scared homeowners.”

St. Ambrose’ Legal Services Program provides housing-related legal services geared toward the preservation of housing, mostly with issues such as foreclosure, landlord/tenant disputes, title issues, and  tax sales.

“We see ourselves as an open door for people at risk of losing their homes,” said program director Owen Jarvis. “We’re here to serve low-income people who can’t afford an attorney.”

With its small staff—currently, two full-time lawyers (and soon a third) and a paralegal—the program helps over 800 people a year.

Legal services include brief advice, negotiating and even litigation. “And it’s all free or very low cost,” said Jarvis, who recently took over management of the program. “Our staff is small, but despite our limited resources we still manage to help a lot of people.”

Not surprisingly, foreclosure is still the number one legal problem.

“But it’s rarely an isolated issue,” Jarvis noted. “A common call that we get is a request for help in getting answers from the bank and asking us how long they can stay in their homes. It can be very unclear what the real threat is.”

The lawyers explain to frightened callers where they stand in the long foreclosure process, and provide peace of mind that foreclosure proceedings are a long process, and that it’s unlikely that anyone will coming to change the locks on the doors in the immediate future.

“A conversation on the phone with us can be very valuable in explaining the options,” Jarvis said. “The information available online or in mailings can be difficult for a homeowner to relate to his or her specific matter.”

The legal program works closely with St. Ambrose’ team of housing counselors, who assist clients with preparing documents for loan modifications and coaching them on budgets to achieve a sustainable modification. If legal questions arise, they are passed to the lawyers.

In addition, the program employs a community liaison (currently part-time, but soon to become full-time). The liaison attends community meetings to make people aware that legal help is available.

“He lets us know what people want, so that we can tailor our services to their needs,” Jarvis added. “We’re building on the work of our previous managing attorney, Jeanette Cole, and the great work she did during her three years here. We hope to see the number of cases grow.”

While foreclosure is the biggest issue now, eventually that will shift.

“Other prevalent housing-related legal problems  include tax sales, landlord/tenant disputes, and issues faced by seniors such as  reverse mortgage defaults,” Jarvis said. “Baltimore City is our focus, although we also take calls from the surrounding counties.”

Take tax sales, where low-income homeowners often lose their homes over unpaid water bills. One client, herself a criminal defense lawyer, had her home mistakenly sold in a tax sale.

“But the city had miscalculated,” said Ochoa, the staff attorney. “Although she was a lawyer herself, she didn’t know the process. We got her the information she needed with a couple of phone calls. She was so confused, and we really helped her.”

Most of the program’s funding  has been  from the Maryland Legal Services Corp., the City of Baltimore, and the Department of Housing and Community Development.

“For clients, it’s a lot of small victories,” Jarvis said. “Often, they just can’t get answer from a bank. They make the phone calls, but they’re not answered or returned. We’re able to get them answers and help them.”

Jarvis foresees 2016 as a year of growth for the program. “We’re very dedicated to community outreach,” he said. “We  want local residents facing house-related legal issues who cannot afford an attorney to know that we are here and we can help.”

To contact the legal program, call (410) 366-8550 and ask for extension 249.

 

“The Most Rewarding Part of My Job”

December 11, 2015 by

By: Denitra Braham, Housing Counselor

The most rewarding part of my job is when I assist a person who comes in seemingly hopeless and I help them create a new outlook on their circumstances.
I had the pleasure of assisting an elderly homeowner, Grace*transition from her home and into a senior living facility. When Grace first came in she was insistent about keeping her home, but I knew she couldn’t afford it and she had negative equity, so would not qualify for a reverse mortgage.
I explained to her that it was impossible for her to keep the home, but that she was in no way a failure for no longer being able to make the payments. I told her that she had worked hard her whole life and created a home for her children and herself and now it was time for her to relax and enjoy life stress free. I could tell that she was disappointed, but I encouraged her to take some time to think about our conversation and that I would proceed any way she decided to go.
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Grace called me a few days later and said she mulled over what we discussed and was able to recognize that transitioning to senior housing would be the best move for her. I connected her with several contacts and resources for senior living and helped her complete the paperwork for a deed in lieu.
At first finding senior accommodations seemed bleak, but the deed in lieu was in progress and time was limited. After 5 months of diligent searching, it did not look like Grace would be able to find an apartment in a retirement home in time. I made some calls to her mortgage company and Grace was persistent in her search as well. Then after another month, everything fell into place.
Grace was able to secure an apartment in the senior retirement home she had originally chosen with a rent of $187.She received her deed in lieu with $10,000 for her transition through the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program (HAFA), and was given an additional 6 months in her home to pack up and move.
She called me and thanked me for sticking in there with her and encouraging her to make the best decision for her situation. This was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.
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My Sister From Another Mother

December 7, 2015 by

By: Annette Leahy-Maggitti, Homesharing Housing Counselor

Torrie came to the St. Ambrose Homesharing program in 1989 when her daughter was four years old.  We were not able to find her a perfect match at the time, but Torrie found a home to rent in northeast Baltimore. A few years later she came back to Homesharing looking for someone to share her home and help her maintain her household. She needed someone available to be home for her daughter after school. Her daughter was then 11 years old.

Mildred, who had hit on hard times, reluctantly came to St. Ambrose. She had a heart attack and had to leave her factory job.  Her unemployment benefits were running out and she did not want her 18 and 20 year-old sons to have to take care of her.  When I interviewed her, it was clear that she was skeptical that such an arrangement could be successful. “I was a nervous wreck thinking about sharing a home with a stranger, but Torrie’s openness made me relax a bit!”

Smiles Mildred and Torrie

Both Mildred and Torrie agreed that the ‘match meeting,’ when a homesharing counselor works out an agreement with both parties, was most helpful and created the necessary boundaries to make a successful arrangement. No money was exchanged.  It was strictly a barter situation.

Mildred was able to complete a state run program that retrained her for employment and helped her get back on her feet, and she also became a surrogate grandmother to Torrie’s daughter and a close companion. Torrie said, “It was truly life changing for me. Mildred has become my best friend, my confidant. I needed someone I could trust to give me peace of mind when I had to leave my child.  Mildred was the ‘gap childcare’ I needed to be able to work full time.  I don’t know how a mom works regular hours without help.  We respected each other’s time and space. I just love her!”

Now Mildred has her own apartment but Torrie and Mildred continue to share many holidays and birthdays with eachother’s families.  “Mildred is my sister from another mother,” said Torrie, hugging her.

Forgotten planters in transformation in Belair-Edison

October 14, 2015 by

Seventeen forgotten planters line Belair road through the community of Belair-Edison. These non-descript planters blend into the sidewalk and many of them haven’t housed a thriving plant for the last few seasons. As part of a greater movement of public art, community engagement, and beautification in Belair-Edison, the neighborhood is reclaiming these long forgotten planters through the craft of mosaic art.

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Maman Rikin, mosaic art teacher

Monday night mosaic art workshops held at the local public charter school, AFYA, are attended by community members of all ages and led by Maman Rikin, a professor of fine arts at Baltimore County Community College. To begin a series that showcases some of the exciting developments in Belair-Edison, we talked to a few new-found mosaic artists who have been participating in the workshops.

Joyce and Pat are members of a senior group called the Silver Angels that meets twice a month at the library. Joyce has been a resident of Belair-Edison since 1997 and her favorite thing about her neighborhood are the parks and the trees. She likes that the community is small enough that people recognize each other and look out for each other, even if they don’t know everyone’s names. If she could change one thing about Belair-Edison, it would be to encourage local landlords to be more accountable for their properties to help keep the neighborhood clean. This is her first time doing mosaic art, and she’s enjoying trying something new!

Pat and Joyce

Pat and Joyce

Pat has been a resident of Belair-Edison since 1994 and she still remembers the first person to stop by her home and welcome her to the neighborhood.  Pat is a former Belair Road business owner and she is full of neighborhood stories. In her stories of Belair-Edison, neighbors work together to advocate on behalf of the youth,  collaborate to create a culture of cleaning up the block, or come together like a family to support each other. Mosaic art is a new interest for her, but for Pat, it seems that anything for the betterment of the neighborhood is something she’s happy to be a part of.

Noel and Abby

Noel and Abby

Abby has been a math teacher at AFYA for 7 years and she is the school’s host for the workshops. She coordinated with Belair-Edison Neighborhoods, Inc. to get her students involved in a community clean-up on September 11th this year and has plans to get her students involved in decorating more planters with mosaic art this spring. What Abby likes best about Belair-Edison is that AFYA is right in the middle of the community, and it’s important to Abby that her students are involved in service activities that are central to the community. This is her first time doing art in a public way and she’s enjoying the mosaic process because of its inexact nature. As a math teacher she’s so often focused on accuracy, so it’s been a good outlet to create something that is never exact.

Abby runs a student club with the art teacher Noel, a fellow mosaic art workshop participant, and they will be leading the next wave of mosaic art planters as a project for their students. The goal is that by creating their own mosaic planter designs and contributing something special to the community the middle school aged students will feel a sense of ownership for their community and pride for their contribution. She loves the potential a community art project like this could have for her students to learn about community development, urban renewal, and art!

Each community artist shared their unique vision for what a better Belair-Edison could look like, but one thing that Joyce, Pat, and Abby all shared, was that Belair-Edison is a community that cares, and this is certainly something that is evident at the mosaic art workshops. Each mosaic artist shares a sense of responsibility for the task at hand, and is committed to working towards something rejuvenated and beautiful to share with the neighborhood.

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10+ workshops and many hours later…..

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Throwback Thursday: Christophe Valcourt

September 24, 2015 by

“Learning about how the city got to the point it’s at today helped me better appreciate the kinds of challenges faced by the clients that St. Ambrose serves, especially in its foreclosure department.”

Read our final posting about how Christophe’s time spent at St. Ambrose made him more socially aware!Christophe1 Christophe2

NeighborWorks Training Institute: Philadelphia

September 23, 2015 by
If you happened to be at Penn Station on Sunday August 19th, you would have been surrounded by neighborhood advocates eagerly awaiting the Amtrak train to the NeighborWorks Training Institute (NTI) in Philadelphia. An NTI is an opportunity for anyone interested in community development to take courses, learn from organizations and community leaders from around the country, and network. This training opportunity is a pillar of NeighborWorks America, which is a national organization that works to strengthen communities by supporting local community organizations through training, technical assistance, and grant making. From classes on community engagement and neighborhood revitalization to housing counseling certifications and grant writing courses, NTI is a place for anyone working for a better community to learn and grow.

We talked to five NTI attendants from organizations around Baltimore about their experiences at the institute and the impact of those experiences on their everyday work in supporting strong communities in Baltimore. Funders in Baltimore and beyond made this opportunity possible for our community leaders by providing scholarships to cover conference costs for participants. The five NTI participants interviewed received support from Wells Fargo, Goldseker Foundation, The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, and NeighborWorks. Here’s what they have to say about their experience in Philly:

Christina Delgado,Community Engagement Specialist, Belair-Edison Neighborhoods
At Christina’s first NeighborWorks Training Institute her experiences helped to validate many of her thoughts and impressions about the field of community development. “I think what stood out for me most was that developing youth and organizing them to help within the community can really help to solve a lot of the other issues/problems within the community. Another thing was to keep programs going throughout the year to organize members; the worst thing you can do is stop during the cold months…it ruins the momentum that you’ve created during the spring, summer, and fall.”
Christina also found inspiration in the city of Philadelphia itself. Below are her pictures from a vacant lot development project in Philadelphia by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
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Drawing from lessons in effective asset community building and real world examples of vacant lot development and developing youth as community leaders in the city of Philadelphia, has empowered her in the conversations that she has with residents and community partners in Belair-Edison.
 
Jacqueline CaldwellPresident 
Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council
One of Jackie’s most influential courses was The Asset Building Community Development workshop. This course focused on communicating your message through emphasizing a community’s assets, rather than the community’s deficits. Developing the dialogue in this way has impacted the way that Jackie communicates with the media as well as potential partners and funders.

Jackie’s main takeaway? “It was great to be around people who truly have a heart- we are committed to making a positive change in our community…I learned that I am not alone when it comes to the need for operating support and positive collaborations.”

 
Judy RiceRental Services Administrative AssistantSt. Ambrose
“I gained more awareness of the various functions of my department and appreciation for others. When I came back to the office I told Bill [Director of Rental Services] how much I appreciated all of the responsibility he held as the Director… and the maintenance staff too, their job is so important to what we do.”
 

Judy exchanged numbers with some of her collegues that she made strong connections with from around the country and enjoyed learning alongside others with similar goals from places as far away as California and Alaska. She commented that she was able to learn a lot about the affordable housing industry by listening to and comparing the everyday practices of rental agencies from around the country.

Dr. Frank Lance,Treasurer,
“Two of the three courses I took changed what I do daily.  The first, Engaging Universities within your Community was most helpful as I have both Coppin and BCCC in Greater Mondawmin. The course materials have helped me to open doors and see possibilities I did not approach well before.The second course, Getting the Press on Your Side, has helped me to understand what is press worthy from the media’s perspective and to then write press releases that will get their attention.”
For Frank, his week in Philadelphia was “definitely time well spent because of the material learned and the connections made.” Frank was able to form a strong connection with his course instructors who have made themselves available if their support is ever needed in the future. Spending time with others facing the same challenges and working towards the same goals was also a source of inspiration for Frank, “I am not alone in my struggles with my issues. And, someone else has been there before and can offer help and advice.”
 
Tiffany Welch, MSW, Healthy Food Access and Food Justice Organizer,
Tiffany’s course on effective communication has influenced her day to day work as an advocate for her community. Informing and engaging members of her community as well as recruiting supporters and funders all takes the ability to succinctly communicate your message in a way that grabs the attention of others. Developing this skill is important and meaningful for Tiffany to be an effective Food Justice Advocate.
Tiffany was able to make a connection with colleagues from organizations in Boston, MA and Camden, NJ who work in similar urban environments to her target neighborhoods in Central West Baltimore. The group’s meaningful discussions led them to “share funding resources and engagement strategies. The common thread between our organizations was the need to engage and empower residents, immediately and long term.”
 Tiffany
“There are so many agencies around the country that are trying to strengthen communities and increase resident involvement, whether in whole communities or housing districts. The main take away for me was to have an effective communication platform. No Boundaries is not a service delivery organization like many of the participants at NTI; we are an advocacy group. It is crucial for our organization to clearly disseminate our messages and work, not only to sustain ourselves but also to grow.”
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Taking the time to refocus on our organizations’ missions and realign our unique roles in furthering that mission, enables us to more effectively work towards the collective vision of creating a stronger, healthier #onebaltimore.

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