Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

Planting Trees in Barclay

It may feel chilly (or downright cold!) outside today, and you may find it hard to imagine yourself enjoying the outdoors, but only a month ago the sun was shining on a group of volunteers who were just delighted to be out planting new trees in the Barclay neighborhood. Telesis Corporation, along with a multitude of community partners, led a tree planting in Calvert Street Park on November 13. Annie Jamieson, a project manager with Telesis, was kind enough to send us some thoughts on her experience planting trees in Barclay.

What is your position with Telesis? Can you briefly describe Telesis’ relationship with the Barclay neighborhood?
I’ve been a project manager at Telesis Corporation for the past year. In addition to Baltimore, I’m working on affordable housing projects in Pittsburgh, PA and Newark, NJ.
In January 2006, Telesis was selected by Baltimore Housing and members of the community to lead the revitalization effort for the Barclay/Old Goucher neighborhood. Since then, Telesis has participated in an extensive planning process with community residents, neighborhood organizations, local developers, social service providers, city officials, local foundations, and potential funding partners. Telesis’ vision for Barclay is a stable, healthy, safe, equitable, and livable neighborhood with quality open spaces, community facilities, and employment opportunities.
In June 2010, we began construction on the first phase of the redevelopment plan. This phase includes 72 rental units, eight of which overlook Calvert Street Park; and 30-35 homeownership units, the first 20 of which are directly adjacent to or just to the north of the park.

Why was this tree planting important to Telesis?

Beginning in 2006, the Neighborhood Design Center (NDC) and Landscape Architect Liling Tien of Pela Design worked with community residents and groups to create a landscape design for Calvert Street Park. The park is a focal point in the neighborhood and offers an exceptional opportunity to realize many of our redevelopment goals while creating a beautiful environment for residents.
While Telesis is, at its core, a housing developer, we believe a successful and stable community includes not only housing, but beautiful streetscapes and places for residents to enjoy the outdoors. Utilizing the NDC design to plant trees in the park and nearby street tree pits was a simple way to make a great impact in the neighborhood.
Planting new trees not only increases the neighborhood’s tree canopy, but aids in storm-water management, creates a healthier living environment, provides opportunities for local residents to get involved, and answers the community’s desire to improve the park.

How many trees did you plant, and where? Who participated?
We planted a total of 39 native trees in Calvert Street Park and empty street pits in the blocks surrounding the park.
In addition to planting new trees, neighborhood children planted 60 bulbs in the park with the help of our landscape architect, Sharon Bradley. Our contractor, Southway Builders, Inc. also donated their time and removed three invasive shrubs in the park.
15 Cub Scouts from Pack 725 and their parents, community residents, TreeBaltimore, Neighborhood Design Center, GHCC, and Telesis all came out to volunteer.
Photo montage assembled by Lowell Larson

Besides just planting trees, what do you think you accomplished this weekend?
While it’s clear that the new trees make Barclay more beautiful, what is most important is that the community was involved. While Telesis and our partners continue to revitalize this neighborhood, small accomplishments along the way, like planting trees, signify progress and growth and let the community see firsthand how their neighborhood is transforming.
In an urban environment, where most children do not have regular access to back yards and playing fields, it was wonderful to see children outside using shovels and wheelbarrows on a beautiful fall day. Neighborhood children learned the difference between soil and mulch, how to plant daffodil bulbs, and helped to dig holes for trees they can watch grow over the years.
Street trees were planted and quickly watered by eager residents who filled up buckets from their kitchens. Residents promised to water and look after the new trees on their blocks. One store owner came out of his café, extremely happy that new trees would soon grace his sidewalk, and thanked us and agreed to water the trees.
The simple “thank yous” and promises to care for the trees brought the neighborhood together and fostered a sense of community pride.

What did you feel best about at the end of the day?
At the end of the day, I felt best about the fact that the children from this urban community got to experience planting a tree. Standing on top of the mulch pile, shovel in hand, one child said, “My mom is going to be so proud of me. I’ve never planted a tree and I’ve never done community service before.” The children finished the day with dirty hands and jeans and learned all about trees—why their roots need room to grow, why we needed to add compost and why mulch should not touch the tree trunk. It was great to know that we had exposed the children to something new that they could return to and take pride in after many years.

How much time had you spent in Barclay before the tree planting? Did you learn anything new about the neighborhood while you were planting trees this weekend?
My time in the Barclay neighborhood was pretty limited before the tree planting. I worked for Telesis from 2006-2007 and took part in the first community design meeting. That was a powerful event because the community really had the chance to think about how they could have a voice in the neighborhood transformation. Now that I’m back at Telesis, I’ve been to the neighborhood to photograph our properties and attend our groundbreaking ceremony this past June.
It’s always good to be in the neighborhood—it’s a very welcoming place!

Any other thoughts you’d like to share?
I’d like to thank many of the people and organizations who helped make this event successful: Hieu Truong from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Kristen Humphrey from the Neighborhood Design Center, Liling Tien from P.E.L.A Design, Inc., Greater Homewood Community Corporation, Anne Draddy and Charlie Murphy from TreeBaltimore, Sharon Bradley from Bradley Site Design, Inc., Peter Merles from Midtown Community Benefits District, Southway Builders, Inc., Tree-Mendous Maryland, Hollins Organic Products, Inc., Charles Village Community Benefits District, Cub Scout Pack 725 and their families, and all the community members!
A special thank you is also in order for Peter Duvall of GHCC who put an incredible amount of time and effort into this community event!

Volunteers are Our Foundation

Today the Baltimore Sun ran a great op-ed piece on how GHCC, among others, utilizes national service and other volunteers in Baltimore City. Though the piece focuses on our Experience Corps program, whose members logged over 144,000 hours of volunteer service just last year, this is a great opportunity reflect on the volunteers of all kinds who have shared their experience on Greater Homewood Voices.

Baltimore Sun July Op-Ed
Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Sun

Thank you, volunteers!  We couldn’t do it without you.

If you’d like to volunteer with GHCC, visit our volunteer page for current opportunities.

A Look Inside Remington Homework Club

GHCC believes in strong faith-based partnerships, meaningful opportunities for youth, and neighborhood residents committed to making a difference.  This is why we’re happy to share with you a little bit about the Remington Homework Club, a tutoring program that meets at Church of the Guardian Angel in Remington.

Submitted  by Rebekah Lin

The Remington Homework Club (HWC) was founded several years ago by the Church of the Guardian Angel on 27th and Huntingdon in Remington. The idea was to provide children and youth in the neighborhood with a place to go for homework help. We are funded by a grant from the Episcopal diocese, and over the years we’ve built up a base of volunteers and others who participate in a variety of ways. Currently, HWC meets from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. every Monday at the church. On any given week, we have about 20 students and 15 tutors.

I have been involved with HWC since September 2007. I started as a tutor – I found a posting online calling for tutors, and the time and location worked well with my work schedule at the time. I had just graduated from JHU was working at a publishing company, but had a feeling I was more interested in working with kids/youth than I was in proofreading and correcting grammar. I have since switched jobs to a nonprofit that works with after-school programs. I don’t know if I have tangible reasons for staying so committed to HWC, but I know it gives me a chance to put into practice much of what I talk about at work, and a chance to see firsthand how volunteers from the community can truly have a positive impact on Baltimore’s youth (as corny as that may sound).

In January 2008, I became the Director, and have been ever since. My main responsibilities are to recruit tutors and to take care of the logistics of our Monday night meetings. Most of the tutors are young professionals who have heard about us in a variety of ways (mainly online or by word of mouth), but we also have a relationship with two student groups at Hopkins, which provides an additional five tutors. The logistics for our meetings include soliciting volunteers to donate dinner, setting up the space, purchasing needed supplies, setting the calendar, etc.

Most of the students at HWC come from within a few blocks of the church. The handful that don’t live within four or five blocks either used to, or have family that does. Our current grade range is second through tenth, so most of the students attend Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle. The older students attend high schools across the city, including Western, Digital Harbor, and Mergenthaler.

Remington Homework Club

Two HWC high school students with award certificates.  HWC holds an awards ceremony every December and May.

Since I started with HWC, our attendance has doubled. Beyond this growth, my biggest goal has been to stress the importance of coming every week – to both students and tutors. As we’ve been able to have more and more consistent tutor/student pairs, nearly everything – from attendance to behavior to my stress levels – has improved. The pairs that have been together since the beginning of this school year, if not last school year, are absolutely the most successful. The importance of these relationships is the root of HWC’s biggest successes and biggest challenges. It is incredible to see students get excited every week to see their tutors. It is rewarding to see the relationships develop. And it is trying to see students disappointed when their tutor doesn’t come, or tutors struggling to form a relationship with a different student every week, because the students don’t come back.

Remington Homework Club

Tutors and students help cook a snack at HWC.

Every week, at least one student tells me that HWC needs to meet every day, or at least more than once a week. This reminds me that the work we do matters and is appreciated, and also reminds me of the limits of our resources. Every week, I see more and more students becoming comfortable with their tutors as well as with me, more and more students getting older and more mature, and more and more tutors becoming invested in what HWC does.

HWC is always looking for additional volunteers as well as people willing to donate a dinner (we have a full dinner every week, from 6:00-6:30) or other needed supplies. To learn more, contact Rebekah at

Remington Homework Club

Experience Corps Opens Doors for Young and Old Alike

In 1998, GHCC founded the Experience Corps program in a small handful of Greater Homewood elementary schools.  Since then, the program has expanded to 19 schools citywide and almost 400 older adult volunteers.

Experience Corps places adults over 55 in K-3 classrooms  as mentors, a model that has increased test scores and improved school climate in Baltimore City schools where the program operates.  Here we hear from Experience Corps member Richard Przybyszewski, who volunteers at Highlandtown Elementary/Middle School #215 and was recently awarded an internship to teach in Poland this summer.

Submitted by Richard Przybyszewski

I spent over 20 years at Forbush High School at Sheppard Pratt Hospital, a Level 5 Special Education school.  I never thought I would be setting foot in another classroom — let alone an elementary school classroom — until Experience Corps came along. It has been nearly four years now since I joined Experience Corps.


In making a decision to apply for the grant to study in Poland, it was my experience in Experience Corps that gave me the confidence to apply and realize I could offer students in Poland what I was experiencing in the classroom in Baltimore. Nothing can ever duplicate the experience of the cultural diversity at 215, along with the different levels of the students and their learning skills. Students with special needs along with students above their grade level. Then toss into the mix the learning curve I have experienced by sharing and observing with the wonderful teachers.

It is my understanding that over 700 people applied for the internship program with just about 60 applicants including myself accepted.  My experience with Experience Corps became a large part of my final application.

My summer internship program is administered by the Koscziuszko Foundation, a Polish American philanthropic organization primarily for the advancement of Polish Americans and Polish culture. They have several exchange programs that last anywhere from several weeks a couple of years. Their programs range from medicine to the arts, politics, and education. I will be receiving college credit through a cooperative effort with Towson State University. My program lasts for a little over six weeks, starting in mid-July. 

I start out with four weeks in Warsaw, the Polish capital, where I will be teaching elementary school students. My final weeks will be spent in Krakow, the cultural capital of Poland, where I will be teaching English as a second language to Polish high school students. 

My trip to Poland will also enable me to visit relatives and do some sight seeing. The Foundation gives me a stipend along with living expenses supplied by the Polish government during my stay. I have been to Poland several times in the past, but all while it was under Communist rule. This will be my first time back to Poland as a Democracy.