Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

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 Launches Half Million Dollar Revitalization Effort in Harwood

Half a million dollars has been designated for housing renovations that will revitalize the neighborhood of Harwood in north central Baltimore City. Comprised of 14 blocks between 25th and 29th Street, Guilford Avenue and Matthews Street, Harwood was once home to Oriole Park and the historic Baltimore Belt Line. But like many city neighborhoods, Harwood has suffered from disinvestment and crime over the past 50 years.

NCI Press Conference-001

Recently, however, thanks in large part to Harwood’s strong core of active and committed residents and the work of Greater Homewood Community Corporation (GHCC), the neighborhood has seen increasing potential for renewal and sustaining home ownership. GHCC was awarded the funding through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) Neighborhood Conservation Initiative (NCI).

NCI awards were announced today by Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and DHCD at a press conference in the Barclay neighborhood. The money comes from the National Mortgage Settlement and a separate national settlement. Seventeen community organizations and government agencies across the state were awarded a total of $16.9 million to be spent on homeowner assistance programs and rehabilitation projects.

Over the next 24 months, GHCC and local developers will use NCI funds to transform 15 vacant properties into beautiful homes that are suitable for first time home owners. GHCC will achieve its revitalization goals in a particularly cost-effective manner, producing fully gutted rehabs while using only $33,600 of NCI funds per unit.

“I am personally excited – and know my neighbors are as well – that after so many years of blighted housing, these blocks will be rebuilt and we will be able to bring in new families to Harwood,” says Ryan Parnell, President of the Harwood Community Association. “Our neighborhood is great because we have housing that is affordable as well as good school options and that market is perfect for young families!”

In order to sell properties to homeowners in an expedited time period, all of the properties will receive an upgraded level of finish and energy efficiency. Offering prices will also need to be slightly below market, probably between $120,000 and $140,000. Additional houses will undergo renovation as the initial inventory is sold off. Having four or more properties available for sale at all times will show prospective buyers that the remaining vacant properties are being promptly addressed and allow for the kind of sustained marketing effort that will benefit not just the targeted properties, but the entire Harwood neighborhood.

“We believe that this project and code enforcement will substantially eliminate the vacancy problem in Harwood, and go a long way towards addressing the entire neighborhood’s vacancy problem,” says Peter Duvall, GHCC’s Neighborhood Revitalization Coordinator.

GHCC’s Strategic Code Enforcement program along with Baltimore Housing’s Code Enforcement Legal Section target dilapidated properties. For the past ten years, GHCC has been working with residents and community leaders in Harwood to identify and abate such properties and in that time, overall vacancy in Harwood has declined by 60%.

GHCC partners with Healthy Neighborhoods and Telesis Corporation who also received NCI funds to renovate vacant houses a few blocks south, in the Barclay neighborhood.

Celebrating a Successful Barclay Youth Safe Haven Launch

On Monday, GHCC staff joined Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Congressman Elijah Cummings, and representatives from Telesis Corporation and the Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation to kick off the Barclay Youth Safe Haven program. The Safe Haven provides 50 students at Dallas F. Nicholas Elementary School in Barclay with a safe place to go after dismissal, complete with mentoring and enrichment activities. The kick-off got some great press coverage this week, and we’re delighted to spread the word about this great program! Check out the news stories »

GHCC in the news.

It’s time to wrap up a very busy week here at GHCC and prepare for the holiday weekend. We enjoyed some great press coverage this week and would like to share!

First, Director of Neighborhood Programs Karen DeCamp appeared as a guest on WYPR’s Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast. Karen joined Baltimore City Public Schools’ Michael Sarbanes to discuss a program aimed at boosting parent involvement in city schools. Karen’s interview can be heard in two pieces — to listen, click here and here.

Also, the September 3 edition of the Baltimore Messenger includes a full-page article about Olga Maltseva, Assistant Director of Community Economic Development, and her work planning community events. That article can be found here.

Have a great Labor Day Weekend!