Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

Sponsor Spotlight: Seawall Development Company

The GHCC Blog Team recently checked in with Thibault Manekin of Seawall Development Company to talk about the importance of community-driven development and how Seawall is making Baltimore a Strong City. 

Tell us a bit about Seawall Development… Seawall uses the built environment to make neighborhoods better places. We do that by breathing a new life back in to abandoned old historic and industrial buildings. We then take the finished product and fill it with the people who in their everyday lives are out there making our cities better places.

Seawall has been instrumental in the redevelopment of Remington, and GHCC has been proud to be your partner in this work, can you explain your approach to community-minded development? It’s all about listening. None of these projects are our idea. We pride ourselves on developing projects from the inside out, where the end user is actually dreaming up their own space.

Miller's Court was one of Sewall's first Remington projects and now houses low-cost living options for teachers, Charmington's Cafe,  and a variety of nonprofits including Wide Angle Youth Media.

Miller’s Court was one of Sewall’s first Remington projects and now houses low-cost living options for teachers, Charmington’s Cafe, and a variety of nonprofits including Wide Angle Youth Media.

Tell us about some of your upcoming or current projects. We are really busy in Remington with our Remington Row project. We are also really excited about some charter schools we are helping to build and the Parkway Theatre project in Station North.

Why did Seawall choose to sponsor the 2015 Neighborhood Institute? We love GHCC and the great work they do in this part of Baltimore and are honored to be a partner in anything they are doing.

As you may know, GHCC is changing our name to ‘Strong City Baltimore’… tell us what you think makes Baltimore a Strong City. Baltimore is strong because of the passionate people that make up this great city and their never give up attitude.

Many, many thanks to Thibault and the whole Seawall team for sponsoring the 2015 Neighborhood Institute at the Baltimore Design School back in April. If you would like to sponsor a Strong City Baltimore event, please contact Emma Simpson at or 410-261-3507.

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!

Sponsor Spotlight: Pessin Katz Law

The GHCC blog team recently checked in with Pessin Katz Law (PK Law) about giving back to the community and the 29th Street Community Center. 

Can you please tell us a bit about PK Law?

Pessin Katz Law, P.A. (PK Law) is the tenth largest law firm in the Baltimore area and has been serving clients for over twenty-five years.  The firm has offices in Towson, Columbia, and Bel Air and is comprised of over 60 lawyers, paralegals and law clerks, whose practices span the legal field. Practice areas include corporate and business law, real estate, education law, estate planning, elder law, labor and employment, litigation, insurance law and medical malpractice defense.

Why did you choose to sponsor the 1st Annual Oktoberfest Fundraiser for the 29th Street Community Center?

Adam Konstas was the driving force behind PK Law’s decision to sponsor. Adam is an associate at the firm and got involved with the 29th Street Community Center through his involvement in Baltimore Volunteer Maryland’s GIVE Program.

PK Law's Adam Konstas (right) and another BVM GIVE team member.

PK Law’s Adam Konstas (right) and Exelon’s Brian Bauder (left) both participated in the 2014 BVM GIVE Program to support GHCC’s 29th St Community Center.

PK Law is proud of its community involvement.  As a firm, PK Law participates in quarterly community involvement activities. PK Law attorneys are encouraged to serve on boards and committees, and volunteer their knowledge to help nonprofit organizations, religious groups, recreational teams and civic groups.

Even though your firm is located in the county, why is supporting efforts in Baltimore City important to PK Law?

The firm certainly considers Baltimore City part of its local community and is happy to give back there.  Many of the firm’s clients are in the city, a lot of the firm’s legal work is done in the city, many of the organizations the firm supports help those in the city and many of its attorneys live in the city.

Many thanks to PK Law and BVM’s GIVE Program for their support of GHCC’s 29th Street Community Center! 

If you or your business would like to sponsor a GHCC  signature event, please contact Emma Simpson at or 410-261-3507. 

Sponsor Spotlight: Urban Teacher Center

Our blog team caught up with Kathleen Richardson, Executive Director of Urban Teacher Center, Baltimore (UTC) to discuss the role of quality teachers and quality schools in successful neighborhood and city development.

Tell us a bit about the Urban Teacher Center (UTC), how did the organization emerge, and what do you do?

UTC is a four year teacher training program, with a 14-month “residency” in the classroom’s of one of our 36 partner schools in Baltimore City. Our trainees leave with a Masters in Special Education and either Elementary Education or Secondary Math. UTC was formed in 2010, with founding programs in both Baltimore and Washington, D.C. but our national headquarters is here in Baltimore. Our first cohort of Baltimore residents just finished their 4th and final year of the program, and we are thrilled because everyone in the cohort is staying in the teaching profession. This is an exciting time for us!

Why does UTC focus on Baltimore City Schools?

Our founders and staff members all have strong connections with Baltimore. Baltimore City principals value UTC teachers because our teachers begin their professional careers with a year of experience under their belt working directly with Baltimore students. UTC teachers are trained rigorously in either elementary education or secondary math content in addition to special education, which is a great value. They come in to the classroom with a deep understanding of Baltimore City’s schools, communities, and students.

What inspired you to participate in Greater Homewood’s Neighborhood Institute?

GHCC’s programming is embedded in schools. Work like theirs, and ours, creates value in the community. Our teachers are not only trained in instructional content, but also how to work in the communities where they are placed. The Neighborhood Institute was a good networking and training opportunity for the community as a whole. Every workshop topic was not just talked about, but was acted on.

What role do you think education and healthy schools play in building strong neighborhoods?

I believe education and healthy schools play the most important role in building strong neighborhoods. We train our teachers to integrate their work into the community. They cannot “shut their doors” at the end of the school day. Our teachers spend a great deal of their time participating in their communities.

What do you love about Baltimore?

The success of Baltimore’s schools is so important for the continued success of the city. Personally, Baltimore is my home, it’s where I work, it’s where I send my son to school – I am invested in Baltimore.

Photo Credit: Chris Wade,  Pinterest

UTC’s 2013 Cohort. Photo Credit: Chris Wade, Pinterest


Many thanks to Kathleen and Urban Teacher Center for supporting GHCC’s 2014 Neighborhood Institute – the 2015 Neighborhood Institute will be on April 18, 2015 at the Baltimore Design School – registration will open soon, so keep your eyes peeled! 

Thank You, Troop 1880!

Just today, we received a lovely letter from Girl Scout Troop 1880, informing us that they have raised $25.87 in donations to support the Greater Homewood Adult Learning Center!


Troop 1880 attended GHCC’s Annual Scrabble Fundraiser for Literacy earlier this year, and helped our staff set up the event and distribute prizes to guests. We were fortunate to connect with them through Associate Director of UB’s Jacob France Institute, Seema Iyer, who is a member of GHCC’s Neighborhood Programs Board Committee. We are so grateful for their commitment to us!