“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.
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.
*name changed

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.

photo 2

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.

photo 3



10+ workshops and many hours later…..





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.
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.”
“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.”

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.


Throwback Thursday: Will Flagle

September 17, 2015 by

“One thing that has stuck with me to this day, and certainly does not pertain only to Baltimore, is the relationship between housing policy, white privilege, and wealth inequality.”

Read more about the impact St. Ambrose had on Will below!Will1 Will2

Throwback Thursday: Cameron Beck

September 10, 2015 by

“It seemed like a lively team and a great fit!”

Find out how great of a fit Cameron was for St. Ambrose by reading below!Cameron1 Cameron2

Throwback Thursday: John O’Hagan

September 3, 2015 by

“Each morning without fail he would descend the stairway to our basement office singing a song.”

Read on to find out who John was talking about and for more information on his time spent at St. Ambrose!

John1 John2

Throwback Thursday: Krista Webb

August 27, 2015 by

“I learned a lot while working at St. Ambrose.”

Scroll down to read about the kinds of things Krista learned while working with us!


Throwback Thursday: Kallie Rollenhagen

August 20, 2015 by

“St. Ambrose reinforced the importance of housing as a basic human right, and instilled in me the importance being proactive in ensuring all of our community members have a place to call home.”

Read more of what Kallie has to say about her time spent at St. Ambrose below!

Kallie1 Kallie2


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