Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

Neighborhood Institute Workshop Preview: “Writing for Community Advocacy” by Claudia Diamond

If you are a local resident or nonprofit professional looking to improve the quality of your persuasive emails and letters, “Effective Writing for Community Leaders” by Claudia Diamond would be a great presentation for you. You can register for the Neighborhood Institute here.

Community leaders often find themselves needing to write letters and emails to promote change for their neighborhood. These documents can range from letters of support for community projects, to grant applications, to zoning appeals, and more. Oftentimes, these letters are directed at elected officials, bureaucrats, or large institutions, and attempt to influence policy decisions within a neighborhood. A poorly written or ineffective appeal might harm a neighborhood’s chances to improve its quality of life.

Claudia Diamond outside the Lyric (photo courtesy of University of Baltimore).

Claudia Diamond with law students outside of the Lyric. (photo courtesy of University of Baltimore)

Claudia is the Director of Academic Support at the University of Baltimore School of Law and is a veteran legal writing professor. In her workshop, Claudia will share skills taught in law school to help you write powerfully and convincingly. Tips and tricks will include common writing and grammar mistakes and ways to organize your writing to make the best possible case. After exploring these strategies, workshop participants will engage in a collaborative drafting exercise to work on specific appeals they might need to make.

GHCC’s annual Neighborhood Institute is on Saturday, April 18, 2015 at the Baltimore Design School (1500 Barclay Street). Register for the event by following 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.


Neighborhood Institute Workshop Preview: “Combating Blight in Your Neighborhood” by Peter Duvall

If your neighborhood is looking to address problem and vacant properties, this workshop will help you understand your options. Register for the Neighborhood Institute and help improve the safety and beauty of your block!

GHCC's Revitalization Manager, Peter Duvall, in Harwood.

GHCC’s Neighborhood Revitalization Manager, Peter Duvall.

One of the first impressions of a neighborhood comes from the quality of its housing stock. A block filled with properly maintained, occupied homes is safer and more attractive to potential residents. Neighborhoods throughout Baltimore City deal with a variety of problem properties, including vacant homes, nuisance and criminal properties, houses that are not kept up to expected housing code standards.

Navigating the code enforcement system in Baltimore City can be complex and confusing. For nearly a decade, GHCC’s Neighborhood Revitalization Manager Peter Duvall has supported neighborhood leaders looking to combat blight in their communities. Peter works with residents to identify problem properties and work with City officials to ensure timely code enforcement. In the “Combating Blight in Your Neighborhood” workshop, Peter will focus on how community residents can support enforcing the City’s housing, zoning, building, and related codes to maintain the appearance and value of Baltimore’s neighborhoods.

GHCC’s annual Neighborhood Institute will be held on Saturday, April 18th, 2015 at the Baltimore Design School (1500 Barclay Street). You can register for the event by following 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.

Sponsor Spotlight: Joe’s Bike Shop

JoesBikeShopOur blog team caught up with Joe Traill, owner of Joe’s Bike Shop, to hear a bit about what he loves about North Baltimore, and cycling in the city.

Tell us a bit about Joe’s Bike shop and the products and services your offer?

We are a typical neighborhood bike shop, with bicycles for the whole family and a full repair shop.

Why did you choose to sponsor Greater Homewood this spring?

I am very drawn to the Greater Homewood area. I go through this area when I ride between the Mt. Washington and Fells Point Shops, our two locations. When you see a neighborhood from a bicycle seat you get a superb feel for what is going on. This area has such tremendous potential, but may need a little help in certain areas. I would like to be a part of that.

What’s your favorite bike trail in North-Central Baltimore?

The Jones Falls Trail is my favorite. I think it does a fantastic job of connecting the city.

What do you like most about being located in North Baltimore?

There are so many positive aspects about our locations, but I would have to answer; the support we get from the city. There is a special sense of loyalty in Baltimore for local shops and businesses. You can really feel that people care about your continued success and welfare.

What do you like most about the cycling community?

Their dedication. It is truly inspiring to see the work the community does to make cycling better for everyone. To me, this makes the city just that much for livable for all of its residents.

Location, hours of operation, specializations 

Locations in Mt. Washington and Fells Point. Open Monday through Friday 10AM-8PM, Saturday 10AM-6PM, Sunday, 12PM-5PM.

Neighborhood Institute Sponsor Spotlight: Healthy Neighborhoods

HNBarbara Aylesworth is the Senior Programs Officer at Healthy Neighborhoods 

Tell us a bit about Healthy Neighborhoods, how long has the program been around and when did it come to Baltimore?

Healthy Neighborhoods has been operating in Baltimore since around 2000, although the original idea was established in Battle Creek, Michigan. The program started as a small initiative, and is now supporting 14 community based organizations working in over 40 Baltimore neighborhoods. We work in what we would describe as strong, but undervalued neighborhoods – places with solid assets where resident engagement and modest investment yield big results. We provide grants for neighborhood organizing and marketing and operate a 60 million loan fund for purchase and renovation of homes and home improvements.

What are “target blocks” and what communities in Greater Homewood is Healthy Neighborhoods working in?

We cover a lot of territory in Greater Homewood.  Waverly, Better-Waverly, Ednor Gardens-Lakeside, Oakenshawe, Abell, Harwood, Old Goucher, Remington, Barclay, and Charles Village. We target blocks based upon a building from strength strategy. We work first on the blocks with the best home values and active residents to create those marketable “postcard blocks” and build out from there. A list of the target blocks can be found on our website

How does Healthy Neighborhoods work in collaboration with GHCC?

GHCC is an excellent partner for the delivery of Healthy Neighborhood resources. IMG_0763GHCC has generated millions of dollars of Healthy Neighborhoods loans and matching grants.  Among their numerous  neighborhood projects are painted ladies and mosaic number plaques in Harwood, and improvements to the playground at Margaret Brent Elementary School.  Their marketing of neighborhoods and schools has really made a difference, too.

Why do you think it is important to support the Neighborhood Institute?

The Neighborhood Institute provides great information sharing and networking among community members looking for positive change. It brings in good speakers on big picture topics and also provides positive peer learning experiences.

What is the biggest piece of advice you would offer to someone looking to become a first time home owner?

Two pieces of advice: first, meet with a housing counselor to find out if you are ready to buy.  Second, choose a home based on your needs and desires, not just based on how many incentives you can patch together.

How can we get more information, and who should someone reach out to if they are interested in taking advantage of they are interested in participating in the program?

Visit the Healthy Neighborhoods website at ( Also, Andre Stone from GHCC is a great resource if you are located in the Greater Homewood area.

Sponsor Spotlight: Miss Shirley’s Cafe

miss shirley'sNoted for beautiful presentation, exceptional service, and award-winning dishes, Miss Shirley’s Café has grown into a Baltimore landmark sought out by both locals and visitors alike. 

Tell us about your company and the restaurants you operate?

Our company, Miss Shirley’s Management Company, owns and operates three Miss Shirley’s Café locations: in Roland Park, Inner Harbor and Annapolis. Miss Shirley’s Cafe offers our guests a unique award winning culinary experience for breakfast, brunch and lunch.  Our specialties are rooted in Southern fundamentals and the abundance of fresh ingredients from the Chesapeake Bay region.  We pride ourselves in beautifully presented plates, prompt and professional service, as well as clean, comfortable and well-maintained premises for our guests.

Established in 2005 by restaurateur and Baltimore native Eddie Dopkin, Miss Shirley’s Café was created as a tribute to an inspirational employee and personal friend, Miss Shirley McDowell. McDowell, a food professional at The Classic Catering People, was known for her sassy charm and sheer joy of preparing dishes for those she loved. Corporate Executive Chef Brigitte Bledsoe has crafted a bold menu that reflects both McDowell’s southern flare and Bledsoe’s love of fresh Maryland ingredients.

We will be celebrating our 10-year anniversary in May of 2015, and we couldn’t be more excited to share this occasion with our loyal guests, friends and colleagues.

You have been a Roland Park landmark for a long time, what do you love about being in that neighborhood?

We love the small town community feel that the Roland Park neighborhood exudes, while still being in Baltimore city. It is a warm welcoming, family friendly neighborhood, and that is exactly what Miss Shirley’s is all about. The Dopkin family has lived in or close by, and built businesses in the area for years.

We take pride in helping to beautify the neighborhood, by regularly planting flowers and hanging baskets along Cold Spring Lane, picking up trash off of the street and sidewalk, decorating the block for the holidays with pumpkins & hay stacks in the Fall, and holiday wreaths & decorations in the winter, as well as maintaining not only our premises but helping others to do the same.

What inspired you to sponsor this year’s neighborhood institute?

We are inspired to sponsor this year’s neighborhood institute, because we love our city and we value the importance of the GHCC’s mission to improve and strengthen Baltimore City neighborhoods. It is essential that we support each other in this effort; if our urban communities thrive so do the business districts.

As a business owner, how do you stay involved in the community?

Miss Shirley’s Café stays involved with the community in many ways!  We support dozens of local charities and foundations, including The Roland Park Community Foundation, Roland Park Baseball, Roland Park Library, Roland Park Fire Station, Church fundraisers, Gilman Bull Roast, Baltimore Child Abuse Center, FARE Allergy Walk & Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, Loyola University, Maryland SPCA, American Cancer Society, American Heart Society, Maryland Library Association, Centerstage, Keswick Foundation, as well as many more!

In addition, we organized a clean up of Stony Run Park with our staff, we have five Sponsor A Highway signs in the area, and we plant the flowers along Cold Spring Lane year round.

What is your favorite thing to order for brunch?

That’s a hard question, since my favorite meal is brunch!  However my absolute favorite brunch item on Miss Shirley’s menu is the Crab Cake & Fried Green Tomato Eggs Benedict!  Two perfectly poached eggs, mini jumbo lump crab cakes on fried green tomatoes, roasted corn & grape tomato relish with asparagus & Old Bay hollandaise – It doesn’t get any better than that for a true Southern style Maryland brunch!

Miss Shirley

Monday – Friday 7 a.m. – 3 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.