Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

Community Wealth Building In Action

Florist committed to local sourcing branches out by joining Foodify

Gertrude Stein declared that “a rose is a rose is a rose.” Ellen Frost might have something to say about that.

The owner of Local Color Flowers will tell you that when it comes to roses – or peonies, zinnias, and lilies – one flower is not necessarily like another. What makes all the difference is where they’re grown. And in most cases, those pretty blooms you bought to please your sweetie or decorate your office came from a long way away. Think Colombia or Kenya.

“The majority of flowers sold in the U.S. – about eighty percent – come from outside the U.S.,” says Frost, a North Baltimore resident who runs Local Color Flowers out of a converted auto shop on Brentwood Avenue in the Abell neighborhood.

Frost and her then-partners started the business in 2008 with a different idea: to only use flowers that were grown within 100 miles of Baltimore, and the closer to home, the better. That means she sells what’s in season. When you order from Local Color for your wedding, you get what Frost’s growers have on hand, which depends on the month and sometimes even the week.

For example, on a recent spring day, Frost’s floral design shop was full of peonies, but in a few short weeks they would be gone, replaced by a profusion of dahlias and hydrangeas. Frost’s customers know that with her, they get a different experience than with most florists. They can’t have tulips year-round, but they know the flowers they get will support local or regional farmers and are delivered with a gentler environmental touch.

“A lot of florists are disconnected from where their flowers come from,” Frost says. “Buying locally is a much different process. It means going to farms, talking to farmers, using what’s seasonal.”

Frost says she is the only florist in Baltimore, and one of very few on the East Coast, to choose exclusively local sourcing. She does not use the popular wire services favored by most florists, and she does not operate a retail store with regular business hours (although she does take orders for single arrangements, with delivery or pick-up by appointment). She says that despite her unusual business model, the approach works because she and her husband and co-owner Eric Moller are willing to spend the time cultivating relationships with farmers and customers who share their values and concerns.

That commitment means supporting new growers in various ways: by offering to buy everything they grow for their first year in business, helping them with crop planning, even offering advice on working with other florists. Frost currently does business with 30 to 35 farms. The closest is 1.8 miles from her store, but many are in the surrounding counties, with some in Pennsylvania and Virginia or on the Eastern Shore. Her most significant Baltimore-based partner is Hillen Homestead near Clifton Park. Frost is hoping to nurture more growers in Baltimore City.

“The goal is always to have the environmental footprint be as small as possible – buying as close to home as we can, and using farming techniques that are low impact to the earth,” she says.

In addition to developing more local growers, Frost is hoping to add more corporate clients to balance her current base of wedding and event-related work – and her business has just moved in an exciting new direction that may well help her get there.

Thanks to Strong City Baltimore’s new Community Wealth Building initiative, this week Local Color Flowers became the first non-food business to join Foodify, a web-based ordering service that allows smaller local businesses to compete with large catering firms for corporate and institutional clients. With over 2,000 registered users, Foodify encourages local purchasing by connecting Baltimore businesses looking for services with more than 100 local restaurants and caterers – and now a flower shop.

“The same people that order food in corporations for meetings, events, etc., are also ordering flowers,” says Eric Bonardi, director of business development in Maryland for Foodify (which also has operations in Virginia, D.C., and Houston). “It’s a natural fit, which is why Ellen and I are going to give this a try. We’re going to get her name out there so businesses in Baltimore are able to buy locally grown flowers from a local florist.”

In different ways, the business models of Local Color Flowers and Foodify both keep money circulating locally and prevent it from leaking out of the community – a major component of Community Wealth Building. Stephanie Geller, Strong City’s Community Wealth Building strategist, encouraged the partnership between Local Color and Foodify.

“Foodify is a good fit for us,” Frost says. “It gives us entrance into places we wouldn’t otherwise have access to.”

For more information about Strong City’s Community Wealth Building initiative, contact Stephanie Geller at sgeller@strongcitybaltimore.org or 410-240-3373.


The ALC’s Catherine Mahan awarded Volunteer of the Year by M.A.A.C.C.E.

The GHCC Blog Team recently caught up with the Adult Learning Center’s Catherine Mahan, who was recently awarded the 2015 Volunteer Award from the Maryland Association of Adult Community and Continuing Education.

Catherine Mahan

Catherine Mahan

Congratulations on receiving this award!  How did you first come to be a volunteer at the Adult Learning Center?
Well, for most of my working career I ran my own design firm.  It was work I enjoyed, but it did involve long hours and some travel away from home.  I also raised two children, and I was active in my professional society.  So I had very little time for service work.  It was my plan to be able to do something to “give back to the Baltimore Community” where I had made my career once I retired.  I had actually planned to retire by 2008 but the economy was so bad, it wasn’t a good time for me to leave my firm (I was president!). So I decided to go ahead and do some of the things that I hoped to do in retirement while I continued working. I came to the Adult Learning Center in 2008 and took the training to be a tutor.  I taught ESOL classes right out of college, and have always been interested in Adult Literacy, so this was a natural fit for me.

Wow, we are so glad you did not wait to retire to become a volunteer with us!  What do you do as an ALC volunteer?
It keeps growing and changing!  Initially I tutored one-on-one with a woman who was from Korea.  We met once a week, which was all either of us could manage as she worked full time also. We met for several years until my schedule no longer permitted it.  I later became involved with a program the ALC developed called “Get That Job”.  I developed a training piece on job interviewing which I gave a couple of times a year when the ALC was running the program.  Then in 2010 I joined the Advisory Board, and I have worked on the Board ever since.  I was co-chair of the Scrabble Fundraiser in 2013.  I also continually work wherever I am out and about to shine the light on the ALC and to solicit donations for the terrific work that goes on there.

Your enthusiasm really shines through!  Can you tell us what you like best about volunteering at the ALC?
I have always liked working with other people towards a common goal, be it developing a good design solution for an office project or working on people’s language and communication skills.  But probably the best thing for me personally, is that I find that Greater Homewood and the Adult Learning Center are places where I have learned a lot and grown a lot myself.  Not only do the people here have a good heart, but they run a smart organization, and I am continually learning from them.

What do you think are the greatest challenges facing the growth of Adult Education in Baltimore?
There are a lot of barriers to accessing continuing education, and the ALC tries to address them when they can (getting bus tokens, providing notebooks or classroom materials, etc.)  As transportation is often an issue, bringing the classes into the community has been an important step, and the Center now has several “off site” classes.  The Adult Learning Center changed its name several years ago from the “Adult Literacy Center” when it became apparent that there were negative connotations to “literacy” and some learners didn’t want their employers to know that they were taking ‘literacy” classes.  The change to “learning” is a positive change.

What do you like to do in your time away from volunteering at the ALC?
I also volunteer at Cylburn Arboretum!  As I am a landscape architect, I greatly enjoy helping out with their projects and maintaining the two hundred acres of gardens and open space.  I also enjoy water color painting and printmaking.

Thank you, Catherine, for volunteering your time and energy to the Adult Learning Center.  And congratulations again on receiving the 2015 Volunteer Award!


GHCC Staff Spotlight: Teddy Edouard

The GHCC Blog Team recently caught up with Gusman “Teddy” Edouard , Assistant Director of GHCC’s Adult Learning Center. Teddy was recently awarded a COABE Scholarship Award from the Maryland Association of Adult Community and Continuing Education.

Teddy Gusman (left) with GHCC's Deputy Directory, Todd Elliott (right).

Teddy Edouard (left) with GHCC’s Deputy Director, Todd Elliott (right).

Congratulations on your scholarship award!  Can you tell us about your position and your primary responsibilities at the Adult Learning Center?

As the Assistant Director of the Adult Learning Center, in a nutshell, I teach English and Civics class twice a week, coordinate the English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, assist with scheduling the ALC classes, and act as a resource person for the ALC instructors. I also plan, develop, and organize professional development for the teaching team, in collaboration with the Adult Basic Education Instructional Specialist. Furthermore, I lead the learner outreach process and help with class registration and preparation. Lastly, I contribute to the program evaluation and improvement.

What did you do before coming to the ALC?

Before joining the ALC I worked as an ESOL instructor and trainer in a variety of contexts, but my immediate previous position was a Cross-Border Program Coordinator at Plan International, where I used local US Embassies’ grant money to create the first Bi-National English Camp for teachers and high school students from Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

What a great background. Can you tell us what you like best about your job at the Adult Learning Center?

The best thing about what I do on daily basis is putting my passion into action. I really enjoy the fact that at the ALC we work together like a navy seal team; we train together, have each other’s backs, and we share one mission — providing quality learner-centered instruction to promote literacy and help foreign-born residents improve their English language skills. In other words, we put the learners at the center of our day-to-day practices and decisions. I really enjoy being part of an effective and efficient team that puts people first. On top of that, my job is very satisfying. It has allowed me to contribute to making Baltimore a Strong City by serving both natives of Baltimore and immigrants from all over the world. And seeing learners’ progress and achievements always makes my day.

What do you find most challenging about your job at the ALC?

I believe education is the silver bullet that can transforms Baltimore city; however, life’s challenges and distractions make it difficult for lots of folks to take advantage of our free classes and achieve their educational goals. That being said, students’ retention has been one of the biggest challenges I face in my line of work. That is, keeping learners engaged and motivated is what the ALC teachers work to do day-by-day. And part of my job is to help alleviate the impact of learners’ attrition on the performance of our program as a whole through the betterment of our professional development sessions and the quality of classroom instruction, using technologies to create real and authentic learning opportunities.

What do you plan to do with the scholarship award you are receiving?

My scholarship award will go toward covering expenses related to courses I take at Purdue University, such as Instructional Design and Technology. In addition, the fund will cover my subscription to a scientific journal in Instructional Design.

That’s terrific!  What do you think are the greatest challenges facing the growth of Adult Education in Baltimore City?

The top challenge is funding. Adult education providers in Baltimore do not have the necessary funding to effectively meet the needs of the adult learners, nor can they afford to hire full-time teachers and purchase the appropriate 21st century technologies that can facilitate students’ access to the indispensable skills necessary for quality jobs. This is unfortunate because whether we like it or not, parents’ education level has a big impact on their children’s educational achievement. That is to say, investing in adult education is the right thing to do if we want to also strengthen the K-12 system, which in turn will lead to improved high school graduation rates.

You give so much passion and energy to your job. What do you like to do in your time away from work?

I like spending time with my family, hanging out with my friends, and reading about the new trends in ESOL and Instructional Design. I take pleasure in working on small projects around my house. Lastly, I enjoy riding my bike around Lake Montebello and at Druid Hill Park.

Thank you, Teddy, for sharing your work and vision for adult learning with us. And congratulations on your award!


Neighborhood Institute Workshop Preview: “Making the Most of Your Higher Eds” – A Panel Discussion

If your community is looking to ensure successful partnerships with local higher education anchor institutions, “Making the Most of Your Higher Eds”, a panel discussion led by representatives from Loyola University; Goucher College; and University of Maryland, Baltimore is for you. To participate in this workshop, and many others, register here.

A thank-you card from Margaret Brent students, sent to GHCC for our role in leveraging funding from anchor institution, Johns Hopkins University, for renovations to the school.

On the right, a card from Barclay School students, thanking GHCC for our role in securing funding from local Higher Ed, Johns Hopkins University, for renovations made to Barclay and Margaret Brent. On the left, the Margaret Brent’s renovated facade.

Universities can be a tremendous asset for surrounding neighborhoods. Their resources and economic leverage can support a diverse range of improvements, including after-school programming, workforce development, neighborhood planning, physical development, and more. Local communities can benefit from partnering with colleges for student interns, class field placements, and capital investments. However, university bureaucracies can also be notoriously difficult to navigate; it can be unclear who to contact for which resource and how to promote active collaboration.

In Baltimore, we are lucky to have several world-class colleges and universities within the City limits. In this workshop, panelists from Loyola University, Goucher College, and University of Maryland, Baltimore will share the innovative ways their universities are supporting surrounding neighborhoods. Come to this presentation to learn how you can connect with ongoing programming and navigate the university bureaucracy.

GHCC’s annual Neighborhood Institute will be held on Saturday, April 18th, 2015 at the Baltimore Design School (1500 Barclay Street). To register for the event, follow this link. This year, the Institute will feature 36 workshops on a variety of topics relevant to community issues and City-wide opportunities. Check back here regularly for a preview of some of the workshops and presenters you can expect to see at this year’s Institute.

 


Hands-On STEM Education at the 29th Street Community Center

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Over the past several months, a group of dedicated students at the 29th Street Community Center have been participating in Maryland Science Olympiad (MSO). MSO is an after-school STEM enrichment program which encourages students to tackle a variety of STEM-focused challenges in a fun, but competitive, environment.

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In the fall, students selected MSO competition events they found interesting. They met twice a week after-school to practice these events and prepare for the Baltimore City tournament. These hands-on activities range from tests, for which students have to study specific STEM subjects, to construction challenges that require students to design and build structures, vehicles, or rockets. With help from a Johns Hopkins University student mentor group, the Charm City Science League, our students excelled in their chosen activities.

This past month, our students’ and their mentors’ hard work paid off at the city-wide tournament, where they placed 4th overall and qualified to compete in the state championship, scheduled to take place next month! Our students placed top five in several individual events at the Baltimore City tournament, including: 1st: Bridge Building, Fossils; 2nd: Wheeled Vehicle; 3rd: Anatomy, Dynamic Planet; 4th: Water Bottle Rockets, Crime Busters; and 5th: Can’t Judge a Powder, Write It Do It.

We are very proud of our students’ accomplishments and we are excited to share their success with everyone!

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Register for Summer Camp! The 29th Street Community Center provides exciting summer camp opportunities for kids of different ages and interests. Click here for page 1 and here for page 2 of the summer camp flyer. Make sure to register soon because space is limited! If you have any questions, please contact Center Director, Hannah Gardi.