Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

Volunteering at GHCC

Meet Neal Gary.  He’s been volunteering with GHCC for a few years now, and recently we caught up with him to ask him about his varied experiences, which have included everything from helping prepare for events to handing out GHCC literature at summer festivals.  Thanks for your support, Neal!

If you’re interested in volunteering with GHCC, please call us at 410-261-3500 to find out about upcoming volunteer opportunities.

What do you like about volunteering at Greater
When I’ve volunteered at Greater Homewood, I’ve always been greeted by friendly faces.  It seems like everyone who works for or with GHCC (employees, VISTAS, volunteers, etc.) holds a positive outlook on life and a large amount of enthusiasm for Baltimore’s diverse neighborhoods.  When I show up to volunteer, I know that it’s going to be an uplifting experience.

What was your favorite volunteer experience?
Most recently, I volunteered at GHCC’s 40th Birthday Party.  One of the tasks I enjoyed most was putting together packets of door prizes for everyone who attended.  It was fun to sit around the table with a few of my Greater Homewood friends and chat and listen to music as we prepared for the event.

Each year I also enjoy the summer weather, helping GHCC spread word about its various programs by volunteering a couple of my hours at GHCC’s table at the Charles Village Festival.  This gives me an opportunity to familiarize myself with the progress that Greater Homewood has made
over the past year.

Do you hope to volunteer for GHCC again soon?  Why?
Whenever I’m helping out at GHCC, I know that my time is well spent.  I’m not a Baltimore native, but over the last three years, I’ve come to realize that for all its problems (and what city doesn’t have a few of those?), Baltimore is truly a charming city with a unique personality.  GHCC is doing all it can to help Baltimore overcome its problems and reach its potential.  It’s exhilarating to be a part of that work, and I look forward to each opportunity.

Above: Neal (far left) and GHCC staff members celebrate after a long evening of assembling programs and party favors in preparation for GHCC’s 40th Birthday Party in October 2009.

Volunteering With GHCC’s Adult Literacy & ESOL Program

Submitted by Mary Kay Shock

I became involved with the Greater Homewood Literacy program 10 years ago when I retired. Greater Homewood Community Corporation seemed like a good local place to volunteer. Since I have a degree in literature, tutoring adults is a great fit for my skill-set. The regularly scheduled sessions give structure and a sense of purpose to my daily life after my retirement. The staff of the literacy program partnered me with learners whose schedules matched mine. The program also provided training, teaching materials, consultation and support from Greater Homewood Community Corporation’s friendly, expert staff.

The students I have worked with, since I began volunteering with Greater Homewood Community Corporation ten years ago, have become my friends. Every learner I have worked with is different and unique. One of my students could neither read nor write. We worked together for five years and by the end of our partnership he had become an American citizen with a full time job. The Greater Homewood Community Corporation Literacy program taught him how to read, write, and use a computer. These tools helped make him a successful American citizen.

A female student I worked with improved both her reading and writing skills. She even wrote two books of poems with her newly acquired knowledge! The man I am currently working with has improved in reading, spelling and math. He has achieved his goal of learning cursive writing.
Greater Homewood is a safe, convenient neighborhood with easy access to public transportation, stores, churches, libraries, cultural events, and volunteer opportunities. It truly is a great place to live.

GHCC’s Adult Literacy & ESOL Program is seeking volunteers!  If you would like to tutor an adult basic education or ESOL learner, contact Jannette Seman at 410-261-0023.

Competing for a Good Cause: More Trees!

Submitted by Olga Maltseva

A little competition can do a lot of good when Baltimore City College High School and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute get involved!

On October 24, 2009, Poly and City will compete in a tree plant-off organized by GHCC’s 40 Trees in 40 Neighborhoods Initiative. Each school will vie to outdo the other and plant the most trees on their campus. Joined by volunteers from the surrounding community, students from each school will spend the morning digging holes, planting trees, watering, mulching, and removing invasive plants.

The students know how much good they’re doing – more trees in the ground means less contaminated run-off, better air and water quality, and an overall better quality of life for everyone on the campus. Of course there can only be one “winner,” but no matter who puts the most trees in the ground, the real winners on October 24 will be the Jones Falls, the Herring Run, the Chesapeake Bay, and the citizens of Baltimore.

Want to join us on the 24th and be a part of this historic event? Email Audrey Stevens at and stay in the loop by joining the event on Facebook.

Part of GHCC’s 40th anniversary celebrations, this plant-off is made possible by TreeBaltimore, the Jones Falls Watershed Association, the Herring Run Watershed Association, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and the students, parents, alumni, and administrations at both schools.

GHCC VISTAs Will Race for the Cure on October 18!

Submitted by Laura Schmitz

On October 18, 2009, you may see some familiar faces running the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. The race, which has become the largest series of 5K runs/fitness walks in the world, raises money and awareness to fight breast cancer while celebrating survivors and honoring victims.

Sun, exercise, good people, and breast cancer awareness: is there a better way to spend a Sunday? I think not. The opportunity to get involved was brought to the attention of a few GHCC VISTA members, and we jumped on it. In the spirit of collaboration, we decided to form a team. So far, participants range from fresh to seasoned VISTAs, with some GHCC staff enlisting for the cause. Want to get involved? Click here to visit our team page!

The team is open, and runners/ walkers/joggers of all ages and abilities are invited to enlist. Think the 5K may not be your thing? You can still participate — consider making a donation to our team. We’d love for you to join us on the 18th, even if it is just to watch!

Experience Corps Begins a New Year!

Today, Experience Corps Team Leaders returned to Baltimore City Public Schools to meet with teachers and assess needs for the upcoming school year. And you thought it was still summer, didn’t you? Team Leaders are Experience Corps members who have been promoted to coordinate the volunteer team in their school. In addition to providing general support for the volunteers, Team Leaders interface with the staff and administration to maintain a positive relationship between the Program and the school.

Above all, Team Leaders help to ensure a win-win relationship between the school staff, students, and volunteers. Thanks in no small part to their hard work, volunteers like Sandra Davis at Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle School have many success stories to tell about their experience. Here, Davis reflects on her first year as an Experience Corps member and looks forward to returning this year:

When I first walked into Ms. Jirsa’s kindergarten class back in January 2009, I saw 16 pairs of eyes looking up at me. I thought, “oh my! What have I gotten myself into?” But as the days and weeks passed, it was very rewarding. This is how it went:

You see, coming to a school three days a week and working side by side with a pleasant and wonderful teacher helped a lot. It opened my eyes early on to how important it is to bond with your teacher and students. It creates a most fulfilling atmosphere for teaching and learning. It also stabilizes good behavior and enhances the student’s learning abilities in the classroom. What makes it exciting and rewarding is to see those little eyes gleaming with joy when you tell them, “job well done.”

The best feeling I get out of this program is knowing most students will move on to the next grade well instructed and knowledgeable. And I, as a volunteer, will still have constructive knowledge to give the next group of students in the fall.

If the above situation does not exist in the classroom, the the program is not effective. Our presence and expertise is definitely needed in our schools.

Thank you Experience Corps and Margaret Brent administrators for filling in the void after retirement!