Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

Acting out history at Dallas Nicholas

On February 28, actor Aaron Androh of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture visited students in GHCC’s Barclay Youth Safe Haven Program (BYSH) at Dallas Nicholas Elementary School.  In honor of Black History Month, Mr. Androh arrived in the persona of Earl White, an important figure in Chesapeake history.

“We’ve been doing a unit called History and Heroes,” says Shekita Wilkins, who is the Director of BYSH. “I wanted to introduce the children to a significant historical figure with roots in Baltimore so that they are able to make a more personal connection between their hometown and history.”

Once called “The Black Pearl of the Chesapeake,” Mr. White was an oysterman who, in 1998, was named an Honorary Admiral of the Chesapeake – a title that few African Americans have ever held. After a long life, Mr. White died in 2004. Most watermen still consider him a legend.

BYSH provides 50 students at Dallas F. Nicholas Elementary School with mentoring and enrichment activities such as this one. We are currently in great need of academic mentors to serve our students for two hours a week after school. If you are interested, please contact Shekita Wilkins at 410-916-2540 or

Barclay Redevelopment sees some new demolition

The Barclay Redevelopment Project, run by the Telesis Corporation, becomes more visible by the week. On March 22nd, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) demolished six empty houses on the East 300 block of 20th Street, effecting house numbers 324-334. These houses make way for a park on the North-West corner of Barclay and 20th Street, something that was included in the original community-reviewed redevelopment plan.

Keeping up with that plan, Alistair Smith from HABC confirmed that several houses on the East 400 block of 20th street will be torn down in the next couple of weeks. This time, the space will be used for affordable housing units. Both of these demolitions will be paid for using Community Development Block Grant funds, which stipulates that the money be used for public use.

The Redevelopment Plan encompassed a holistic vision toward neighborhood revitalization. While Telesis continues the physical redevelopment of the neighborhood, it has contracted GHCC to provide community services to residents, such as the Workforce program or the Barclay Youth Safe Haven afterschool program at Dallas Nicholas.

The recent demolition is part of Phase 2 of Revelopment Plan, which focuses on the Calvert Street and the western half of Barclay Square. You can find out more about the Plan using this link.

VISTA Spotlight: Ashley Wallace

Know someone interested in making positive changes in the world? GHCC is seeking qualified candidates for our nationally-renowned AmeriCorps*VISTA program.  Sign on for a year of service with us and receive health benefits, a modest living allowance, and an end-of-service education award.  We have 10 positions available to start in August 2010 in the areas of improving public schools, strengthening neighborhoods, and adult literacy.

We’ll be featuring several VISTA stories in the coming weeks to raise awareness of national service.

Want to know more? Visit our website!

Submitted by Ashley Wallace

I want to share my experience this year as an AmeriCorps*VISTA because I believe stories like mine help support and promote national service programs as central to the professional development of young Americans.

In May 2009, in what is now being called the worst economic climate since the Great Depression, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning. I wanted to diversify my professional planning experience and leave my humble Midwestern roots behind for a more progressive and challenging urban environment. I focused my job search on the Mid-Atlantic region — having lived in Wisconsin for seven years, I was ready for milder winters.  A few professors encouraged me to consider Baltimore for its extraordinary revitalization efforts.

My job opportunities soon began to seem very limited. The job openings I did find required more qualifications and years of experience than I had. I was competing with thousands of applicants who had resorted to applying to jobs they were overqualified for. My connections on the East Coast were few, so I began to broaden my search. I knew I wanted to work at the local level, and I already had a strong background in volunteering and a passion for community service, so I started to consider AmeriCorps*VISTA. It seemed like a great way to reach my goal of relocating to the Mid-Atlantic and working with a grassroots organization.

Keeping that goal in mind, I limited my search to VISTA positions with a connection to urban or neighborhood planning and revitalization.  I came across a position with the Central Baltimore Partnership (CBP) that focused on neighborhood and economic revitalization in four neighborhoods adjacent to the Penn Station. My educational and professional background in planning and community service drew me in, and when I was offered the position in the second round of phone interviews I accepted it on the spot.

I had concerns that although CBP focused on locally based revitalization, my skill set as a planner wouldn’t necessarily be utilized. Ultimately, however, I knew I would gain valuable exposure. Even if I would not gain urban planning experience in Baltimore, I knew it could open doors for me in the future.

I was right. The Executive Director of CBP, Joe McNeely, is a nationally recognized community organizer and he encouraged me to utilize my planning skills by reorganizing and redefining my role to fit my skill set and interests. I took on the responsibilities of community planning: integrating land-use and transportation planning with community-based engagement to improve the built, economic and social environments of communities. I have filled a gap that the CBP needed filled and I have learned a lot about Baltimore and its potential.  I have also fallen in love with its historic architecture.

About 8 months into my VISTA year I expressed interest in staying on with CBP at the end of my service. Soon after, conversations began about a salaried position for a community planner at CBP. I was officially offered a position a month later, securing my chance to stay in Baltimore and establish myself here professionally.

My VISTA year has been more than just a year of service. It was an opportunity of a lifetime to relocate to a major city, certain of my job security for the upcoming year, and experience a new and different place. I have learned about urban poverty, the challenges of community organizing, and the importance of community-based planning and economic revitalization.

VISTA has given me an opportunity to gain hands-on experience working with a progressive local nonprofit that is leading in the field of neighborhood revitalization. My experience as a national service volunteer has solidified my professional commitment to both public service and work in the nonprofit sector. What more could I have asked of my country during this year of service?

Making Connections: Success Academy and Charles Village

By John Bernet, GHCC Community Connections Coordinator/AmeriCorps VISTA

On Saturday, March 22nd, students from Success Academy in Baltimore City came out for a volunteer clean-up day at St. John’s United Methodist Church on the corner of 26th and St. Paul Street. Over the course of two very productive hours, they cleaned out the garden and trimmed back the ivy along the front of the building and raked the side yards, making it look beautiful just in time for Spring to begin! They were joined by Pam and Christian Wilson from the Peabody Heights Resident Homeowners Alliance and Mrs. Carol Berman from the St. John’s congregation, all of whom helped to coordinate the effort with Success Academy Principal Kevin Brooks. Following their time working outside, the students got a tour of the building and a run-down of all the wonderful services and programs the church provides. This was the first day of a two-part project, the second to occur around the week of Earth Day. Thanks to all the great students from Success Academy who participated, and the Wilsons and Mrs. Berman for providing lunch and an opportunity to see and learn about a very active local church! This volunteer effort also marks the beginning of an active partnership between Success Academy and the surrounding communities that will see lots of volunteer and enrichment opportunities for the students. Success Academy, an alternative school for city students on long-term suspension and expulsion, is located on the ground floor of Baltimore City Schools headquarters at 200 E. North Avenue.

Sofi’s To Celebrate!

by Ann Costlow, Owner, Sofi’s Crepes

Five years ago, Sofi’s Crepes opened our doors in a 150 square foot location next to the Charles Theater. Since then we have expanded that location, opened a second location further down on Charles Street in the Woman’s Industrial Exchange downstairs, and are now opening our first franchise in downtown Annapolis!

May people wonder …Who is Sofi???…Well, Sofi was my wonderful 12 year old bearded collie who had suffered spinal injuries and ended up in a cart for the last 2 years of her life…She never lost her enthusiasm, joyfulness and playfulness even when confined to her cart. This was going on while I was planning to open the Crepe shop, so I decided to name the shop after her since she was such an example of determination and acceptance.


To celebrate our 5-year anniversary, we want to thank all of our supporters with a party, and donate all profits to a wonderful organization who helps handicapped animals. It is Pet Rescue of Maryland, run by a group of volunteers.

We will have live music by “Occasionally Brilliant,” and crepes will be offered at $5 for savory crepes, and $5 for a sweet crepe and drink.

The date is Wednesday, April 1st from 5-9pm at our 1723 N.Charles Street location.