“Facing Change”: MICA Exhibit Examines Development’s Effects on East Baltimore

MICA and AlternateROOTS, an arts activism organization based in Atlanta, present “Facing Change: Portraits and Narratives of the Shifting Cultural Landscape in East Baltimore,” a special pop-up exhibition by MFA Community Arts student Ben Hamburger.

Sponsored by the college’s Office of Community Engagement and Day at the Market, a community outreach program based at the Johns Hopkins East Baltimore campus, the exhibition will be on view at the historic Northeast Market, 2101 E. Monument St., on Saturday, April 1 and Wednesday, April 5 from 10 am–2:30 pm, as well as at “Grad Show III” at MICA’s Decker Gallery, 1303 W. Mt. Royal Ave., on Friday, April 21, 5–8 pm.

The exhibition is a socially engaged art project that brings together different perspectives on the contentious issue of community development in East Baltimore, and aims to confront the difficult realities of rapid urban development and raise awareness about a range of impacts on diverse stakeholders.

Hamburger’s portraits use salvaged formstone debris and audio narratives to honor residents of the community and share their stories about the area’s past, present and future. Their stories provoke viewers to think critically about the sense of place, home and the meaning of development.

Listen online to stories from community members featured in the exhibition.

A painter, socially engaged artist and educator from Silver Spring, Ben Hamburger is currently completing his M.F.A. in Community Arts at MICA. This project is a component of his thesis work.

St. Francis Neighborhood Center Embarks on Major Capital Campaign

By Morganne Ruhnke, Development and Event Coordinator at St. Francis Neighborhood Center

Did you know that more than 1,200 children in the Reservoir Hill area live in poverty? St. Francis Neighborhood Center (SFNC) is responding to this need with educational and enrichment programs to uplift children and their families—making more than 40,000 individual contacts with Reservoir Hill residents every year.

Reservoir Hill kids on honor roll
Smiles of Success


SFNC is a community-based, non-profit organization committed to ending generational poverty through education, inspiring self-esteem, self-improvement, and strengthening connections to the community. It was founded in 1963 as an outreach center for two local churches, and is the oldest enrichment center of its kind in Baltimore City. SFNC founder Father Tom Composto was a Jesuit priest who moved into the facility in the 1960s. He stayed there for the remainder of his life, devoting himself to the poor.  

Father Tom, also known as the Pope of Whitelock Street, would stand at the corner of Whitelock and Linden and challenge drug dealers to do something better with their lives. After he passed away in 2010, SFNC Board and staff have carried on his passion and vision, with programs and projects that serve the community that Father Tom so dearly loved.

The Center offers a computer lab and a community library that is free of charge to the neighborhood. They offer adult literacy and job readiness programs. They hold community yoga sessions on Wednesday evenings, and Narcotics Anonymous meets there three evenings a week. Every Monday, friends from Corpus Christi Church distribute free groceries to anyone who lives in the 21217 area. Many other partner groups use the Center for their meetings and also provide services that benefit the community.

SFNC’s award-winning flagship programs for youth have received national recognition. The Power Project is a free after-school program, with fifty “prodigies”—youth—currently enrolled. The Summer of Service Excursion (SOSE) is held for eight weeks from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm during the summer months and is the longest running summer program in the City. SOSE participants focus on topics including education, art, STEM, and character building.

Ethan's poem
Poem describing the “St. Francis Way.”

Every summer, the Center coordinates with its many longstanding partners to host the day-long Reservoir Hill Resource Fair & Festival at the corner of Whitelock and Linden. The festival brings together this vibrant, diverse community and features a grocery and bookbag giveaway, food trucks, local art, and live music. Save the date for Saturday, August 5, 2017—and if you are interested in getting involved as a vendor, volunteer, or supporter, contact Morganne Ruhnke at mruhnke@stfranciscenter.org.

St. Francis Neighborhood Center
Consider donating so that even more children can join the fun

The Center is currently embarking on a major capital campaign, “Count on Me.” This community-driven campaign addresses the pressing need to serve more children. More than 30 kids are already on the waiting list for the youth programs, and with the merger of Westside Elementary and John Eager Howard School, the number of children in need will soon triple. We want them all to have a positive place to attend educational and enrichment activities after school and are excited about our plans for growth. To learn more, contact Angela Wheeler at awheeler@stfranciscenter.org.

SFNC occupies a historic, four-story townhouse, and while we love our location, we are limited in our ability to serve more children and to provide programming to fulfill ever-evolving community needs. Our total goal is to raise $4 million in two years to add classrooms, an art studio, a kitchen/cafe, greening projects, multipurpose space, and expand our media lab and library. Once complete, we expect to serve more than 200 children in our education programs, an 100% increase in capacity.

We invite you to be a part of this transformational change. Can we count on you to join us in achieving this milestone for Reservoir Hill and West Baltimore?

How you can you help:

  • Donations of all sizes are greatly appreciated and help us get one step closer to serve more of the community.  To donate and learn more about the center check out our website at www.stfranciscenter.org.
  • We are always looking for people to host fundraisers, serve as mentors and tutors, and help us with special events and daily operations.  To get involved, please contact us at volunteer@stfranciscenter.org.

Find out more on the St. Francis Neighborhood Center website.

Tri-Church Education Series Asks You to Listen in Lent

Listening with the heartAs in years past, three neighborhood churches – Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, Memorial Episcopal Church and Corpus Christi Catholic Church – will jointly sponsor the Bolton Hill Tri-Church Education Series.

During the Lenten season, the series features topics of interest to the church congregations and the broader community.

This year’s series, “Listening in Lent,” is especially timely. Speakers from some of the Baltimore communities most affected by recent political changes will be invited to address the group. They will consider this question: “In light of the current political environment, what response would you like to see from the Christian community?” Each session will have time for questions and group discussion.

Guest speakers will include members of the predominantly African-American Community of West Baltimore, represented by the No Boundaries Coalition (3/8), the immigrant and refugee community (3/22), the Jewish community (3/29), and the Islamic community (4/5).

By forming connections and learning from these groups, our community can better provide the appropriate and needed responses demanded by our current situation. The series is open to anyone interested in making Baltimore a more dynamic and inclusive place.

The Series will be held on four Wednesdays, March 8, March 22, March 29, and April 5. Each session will begin with a light supper at 6:30 pm, followed by the education portion at 7 pm. The series takes place in the Education Building at Brown Memorial.

Black History Party with a Purpose

Join MRIA’s Social Action Task Force for an afternoon of conversation and profundity related to Black History topics at 2017’s first Party with a Purpose, Sunday, February 26, 2–5 pm at 1308 Bolton Street.

In celebration of this year’s theme for Black History Month, The Crisis in Black Education, the Party’s donations will go to two neighborhood youth groups, St. Francis Neighborhood Center and the Kids Safe Zone.

Everyone is asked to please bring 1) wine or other beverage to share, 2) a donation ($10 suggested) that will go to the featured organizations, and 3) a reading, poem, or quote from a black author. There will be tastings of green Creole gumbo with rice and cornbread, as well as other food, and you are welcome to bring your own tasty contribution to the table.

Cultural historian, music critic and neighbor Don Palmer will kick off the event with a short talk. Then, attendees will read their selection and ask listeners to guess who the author is. Reading selections will be available for those who don’t bring one, but still want to participate.

To set the tone for the party, Don will curate a music playlist, and the featured organizations will be on hand to make short presentations.

Thanks to the SATF Planning Team for organizing this event, Kendra Parlock, Michael Booth and Don Palmer.

Honor Black History Month by Feeding Your Brain

By Peter Van Buren

With its origins dating back over a hundred years, February has been officially declared Black History Month by every U.S. president since President Ford in 1976.

The theme of Black History Month changes yearly. This year’s theme is The Crisis in Black Education. We need not look any further than Baltimore’s own schools to witness this crisis. But, where do we start in solving it?

Why not start by educating yourself? Here are a few ideas to consider for your education program. 

  • Volunteer at one of our neighborhood schools. Consult the Youth/Schools section of Bolton Hill’s Community Asset List to see where you might be needed. The children love having visitors, even if you just go once. You might find that once is not enough.
  • Attend this month’s Party with a Purpose organized by the Social Action Task Force, where guests will be asked to read a passage from a black author of their choosing. Donations raised at the party will support local youth organizations. The Party with a Purpose takes place Sunday, Feb. 26 from 2-5 pm at 1308 Bolton Street; more details here.
  • Lillie Carroll Jackson

    Learn about Lillie CarrolJackson, renowned civil rights activist who lived at 1320 Eutaw Place. To honor her legacy, Morgan State University completed a major renovation of her beautiful home in 2012, transforming it into the state-of-the-art the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum. Unfortunately, due to the lack of funds to support its administration, the museum remains closed except by appointment (email LCJmuseum@morgan.edu or call 443-885-3895 if you’d like to visit).

    You can help make this valuable educational resource available to regular visitors by writing a check payable to the Morgan State University Foundation (note “Lillie Carroll Jackson Museum” in the memo line), and send to Mr. Gabriel Tenabe, James E. Lewis Museum, 1700 E. Cold Spring Lane, Baltimore, MD 21251.

  • Be inspired by the courageous and groundbreaking legacy of the many other famous black residents of the 21217 neighborhood by walking the Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage Trail, whose 2 mile path winds from the State Center to the Upton Metro. Brochures for the Trail (and delicious baked goods) are available at The Avenue Bakery, 2229 Pennsylvania Avenue. You can also take an audiovisual tour of Pennsylvania Avenue using the izi.Travel app or on your computer.
  • Expand your musical knowledge by listening to a black artist that’s new to you. Amazing black musicians are too numerous to count, but one I recommend is Gil Scott Heron. Try his hard-hitting The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, or the beautiful, but painfully sad Winter in America. Or if you want to go farther back, check out izi.Travel’s Eubie Blake’s Ragtime Riffs musical tour. 
  • Celebrate the rich contributions of black poets to American poetry by contemplating Twelve Poems at the Academy of American Poets website. Twelve contemporary black poets from across the country chose one poem each that should be read this month and then explain why.
  • Start down the path to social justice by learning about the critically important concept of white privilege. I’m learning a lot from Waking up White, by Debby Irving, while next up on my reading list is the National Book Award winner Between the World and Me, by West Baltimore native Ta-Nehisi Coates. 
  • Learn about the separate but unequal legacy of Plessy vs. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education by reading Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools.

Knowledge is power and it’s also cathartic. We welcome your suggestions about other ways to learn about black history or the crisis in black education. Leave a reply or comment below, or email us at bhbeditor@gmail.com.

SATF Potluck with a Purpose and Plans for 2017

On Sunday, December 11, MRIA’s Social Action Task Force (SATF) organized a Potluck Party with a Purpose. In the aftermath of this year’s divisive elections, the SATF thought more neighbors might want to get involved in their community-building efforts.

Over 30 attended the meeting with dishes in hand. SATF reviewed the group’s accomplishments and looked forward to projects planned for 2017.

SATF Potluck, December 2016
People attending the SATF Potluck in December review the group’s accomplishments in 2016.

SATF members explained the group’s establishment by MRIA in the wake of the unrest in spring 2015. Following those events, neighbors wanted to find ways that residents could make a positive impact in the 21217 community.

At that time, they developed the following mission statement: “To encourage, facilitate, and initiate personal engagement between the Bolton Hill neighborhood and the surrounding 21217 community. By highlighting the many great organizations serving our community, we hope that our collective efforts will create a more healthy, vibrant, just, and safe community for everyone.”

The group decided to focus their efforts on supporting existing organizations in the neighborhood, rather than setting their own agenda. They chose three methods for supporting these organizations:

  1. Organizing Parties with a Purpose
  2. Creating and promoting a Community Asset List to facilitate and encourage more neighborhood involvement
  3. Organizing neighborhood efforts to actively support organizations  

Thus far, the SATF has organized five Parties with a Purpose, as well as a book drive for Reading Partners and a Stoop Party group walk to the No Boundaries Block Party last June. They also published the Community Asset List on the Bolton Hill Bulletin website and published a Holiday Volunteer Guide to encourage neighbors to volunteer for local organizations during the holidays.

SATF events have collected approximately $2,000 in donations and have funneled volunteers and other support to twelve non-profit organizations serving the 21217 area. This Powerpoint slideshow provides an overview of the SATF’s impact thus far.

Potluck attendees went on to discuss plans for 2017, coming up with many creative suggestions. The SATF collected these Potluck Wall Responses to a series of questions that were posted around the meeting room.

The SATF encourages everyone to get involved by attending one of their monthly meetings or their next Party with a Purpose. If you’d rather donate money or have volunteer time, review the Community Asset List and Holiday Volunteer Guide for ideas.

The next SATF meeting is scheduled for Sunday, January 8, 5 pm at 1309 Bolton St. (Kellie’s & Rob’s house.) On the agenda: planning the next Party with a Purpose, slated for sometime this winter.

SATF Potluck with a Purpose

Decorating Pumpkins at October's Halloween fest
Decorating Pumpkins at October’s Halloween fest

Got the post election blues? Want to join your neighbors in accomplishing projects that will help our community?

Then join the party at the next Social Action Task Force event – a Potluck with a Purpose on Sunday, December 11 from 6 to 8 pm in the Upper Parish Hall of Memorial Episcopal Church (enter on the Lafayette St. side).

Please bring something to share, both food and wine or other beverages.

The group will first review their mission with MRIA and the work that’s been completed in 2016 as preparation for the main focus of the meeting – discussing the SATF’s goals and plans for 2017.

Potluck with a Purpose on Dec. 11

The monthly meetings of MRIA’s Social Action Task Force are always open to everyone, but in the aftermath of this year’s divisive elections, the SATF is encouraging all interested neighbors to attend their December meeting on Sunday, December 11, 6 to 8 pm.

It’s a Potluck Party with a Purpose, so please bring something to share—something to eat and wine or another beverage.

SATF cleanup of vacant lot last summer
SATF cleans up a vacant lot last summer.


Andrew Parlock painting a building across from the lot
Andrew Parlock paints a building across from the lot.

The potluck will be in Upper Parish Hall at Memorial Episcopal (enter from the Lafayette Street side). SATF will recap this year’s accomplishments, review its mission, and discuss goals and projects for 2017.

Many nonprofit organizations serving the 21217 neighborhood will be on hand to provide their input on how Bolton Hill’s efforts can best complement their work.

Get involved in your community. Together we can make a difference.

Read about the success of SATF’s fall event, the Halloween Pumpkin Fest.

New Life for Historic Marble Hill Community

Booker T. Washington School
Booker T. Washington School in Marble Hill.

by Marti Pitrelli

Under the direction of new president Atiba Nkurmah, the Marble Hill Community Association’s goals are to increase homeownership, attract investment, stabilize historic structures, decrease criminal activity and student truancy, and generally support neighborhood residents.

Several public middle and high schools are located in Marble Hill, which lies just west of Bolton Hill, on the west side of Eutaw Place. Decreasing student truancy will no doubt have a positive effect on decreasing adolescent crimes in both Marble Hill and Bolton Hill.

The Marble HIll Historic District was once the home of the African American elite of Baltimore. Unlike large areas of Bolton Hill that were demolished, Marble Hill survived the urban renewal of the1970s largely intact. Many beautiful buildings remain, including schools, churches, and continuous rows of grand houses.

One of Marble Hill’s architectural gems, the impressive Richardson Romanesque-style Booker T. Washington School, on the National Register of Historic Places, just received 200 new, custom-made Marvin windows. Come by and take a look at this enormous brick and marble structure and its beautiful new windows!

To name just a few of the neighborhood’s illustrious residents, prominent figures in the Civil Rights Movement such as Thurgood Marshall and Clarence and Juanita Jackson Mitchell, John Murphy (founder of the Afro-American newspaper), Harry S. Cummings (first African American Baltimore City Councilman and one of the first two African Americans to graduate from the University of Maryland Law School), Henry Hall (founder of the National Aquarium in Baltimore) Cab Calloway, and Billie Holiday all resided in Marble Hill.

Douglas Memorial Community Church, built in 1857 suffers neglect
Built in 1857, Douglas Memorial Community Church is one of Marble Hill’s many architectural gems.

Unfortunately, disinvestment in recent decades has caused many of the buildings to fall into a state of vacancy and disrepair.

Marble Hill is working closely with the City of Baltimore and Baltimore Heritage to identify historic rowhouses to save them from demolition and to stabilize them where necessary. The properties are then put into the hands of responsible owners who will restore them to their former glory. This enormous task requires close coordination between the city legal department, code enforcement, financing departments, tax lien departments and stabilization crews.

Marble Hill Community Association has appointed a new Architectural Review Committee (ARC) chairperson who will oversee these preservation efforts. After many years of service, the former ARC Chair Marion Blackwell has stepped down, and Marti Pitrelli will serve as the new chair of the ARC.

The ARC will continue working to expand the current Marble Hill Historic District to include all streets of Marble Hill, an effort projected to take 1-2 years.

They will also continue efforts to attain landmark designation for the A.M.E. Bishops’ Headquarters/King-Briscoe House located at 1232 Druid Hill Avenue. This structure was the first building in the city of Baltimore to utilize CHAP’s new Potential Landmark Provision, which temporarily protects a building until it can be properly researched and designated as a “historic landmark.”

This new provision was used to protect the building from demolition, following the widely publicized demise of its “sister house,” the Lillie Carroll Jackson Freedom House at 1234 Druid Hill Avenue. The Freedom House was demolished against Lillie Carroll Jackson’s wishes, without community input or CHAP review, in October 2015.

A series of hearings this year resulted in CHAP’s unanimous support of preservation of 1232 Druid Hill Avenue, and they ordered owners to stabilize the crumbling structure. Our District 11 Councilman, Eric Costello, will ask the Baltimore City Council to finalize the landmarking on December 8 at City Hall.

Fire damaged Thurgood Marshall Elementary School
Thurgood Marshall School was damaged by fire this summer.

The National Park Service has plans to resurrect the Thurgood Marshall School (PS 103) on Division Street, after it suffered a devastating fire earlier this year. And the grand and historic Home of the Friendless, at 1313 Druid Hill Avenue, has been sold by the City to a developer who plans to create artist housing and studios. This building was also used as Baltimore City’s first African American Public Health Center in more recent times. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, and we are very grateful to the City for selling it to a local developer for adaptive reuse as The House of ART.

Landscaping has transformed the newly restored Henry Highland Garnet Park at Druid Hill and W. Lafayette. The beautiful design includes planting beds, winding pathways and new park benches, and three large 20th-century iron urns which have been returned to the park. Since its renovation, the park has become a favorite gathering place for community events.

Over 200 new trees and tree wells have been planted in Marble Hill and Madison Park with the help of Parks and People, the Baltimore Tree Trust, and many community volunteers.

Baltimore Heritage tour group in front of demolished Freedom House
Baltimore Heritage tour group in front of demolished Freedom House.

Marble Hill, as well as parts of Eutaw Place, are included in the National Park Service’s new Civil Rights Heritage District as well as the Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage Trail. Sold-out historic tours of Marble Hill were conducted by Eli Pousson of Baltimore Heritage this year, and starting in spring 2017, Baltimore Heritage and Marti Pitrelli plan to continue tours of the neighborhood. Tour dates and other events will be announced in the Bulletin.

Please walk over and see the progress being made in Marble Hill, and all the wonderful buildings and parks it contains. Witness for yourself the resurrection of Bolton Hill’s neighbor to the west.

Ugly Pumpkin Party a Smashing Success


It’s true. Bolton Hill does know how to throw a party.

MRIA’s Social Action Task Force (SATF) proved this again with a laughter-filled afternoon of Halloween fun on the warm, sunny Saturday of October 29. Check out the evidence in the slideshow below.

Due to the generosity of sponsor Kappa Alpha Psi, the Ugly Pumpkin Halloween Fest took place in the vacant lot next to the fraternity’s Youth and Community Center at 1207 Eutaw Place. Halloween-themed rock and roll pumped up the volume, as over 120 candy-fueled kids (plus quite a few adults) decorated pumpkins and experimented with a huge array of donated costumes.

Youths from Kappa's Guide Right Program
Youths from Kappa’s Guide Right Program

Young men from the Kappa League’s Guide Right mentor program, MICA art students and many other SATF volunteers made light work of the setup, running and take down of the party. Former mayor Shelia Dixon even stopped by on her way to another campaign event.

In the end, all of the pumpkins and most of the costumes found their way home with happy partygoers. Best of all, everything was free, thanks to donations from many neighbors.

The afternoon kids’ party was the first half of SATF’s fall Party with a Purpose program. In the evening, adults attended Memorial Episcopal’s Gala 2016 (see details here), which was indeed a most hideous event, and included a highly successful live auction.

Proceeds from the SATF’s Parties with a Purpose benefit non-profit groups that serve the 21217 area. The success of Memorial’s Gala, and the church’s generosity, allowed $315 to be donated to each of the four selected youth organizations that were part of the Halloween Fest, Jubilee Arts, Wide Angle Youth Media, Child First, and the Kappa League Guide Right Program.

Thanks to everyone who made this fun event a big success – so much so that discussions have already started for the second annual Pumpkin Party in 2017.

Help the Samaritans Support People Like Erika

Erika and her children
Erika and her children

Erika is a hard worker who needed help to get herself and her three young sons into an apartment, and on the right track. Just a few months ago, she had a low-paying job and, along with her children, had to sleep on sofas of different friends. So when Erika heard about Samaritan Community, she came to them as a last hope.

Through their new Housing Stability Pilot Program, they helped Erika pay for a security deposit for a safe, clean apartment for her family, which is near her two older sons’ school and right next door to her youngest son’s daycare. Samaritan also helped Erika by providing fresh groceries and a bus pass that enables her to get to a new, better-paying job.

“I was able to land this much better job because of the stability 
of having an apartment for my family. It’s almost impossible to keep a job when you don’t have a car and you are moving constantly,” Erika says. “In no time, Sharon became like a second mother to me. She saw the best in me and my boys, and wanted us to succeed as much as we did. That meant everything to us!”

Erika’s story, and so many others, are made possible by generosity of Samaritan’s supporters.

For our neighbors living in crisis, The Samaritan Community provides basic necessities and much more. They work continuously to expand the depth and breadth of their services to make the biggest possible impact on their members’ lives. During the past year, they

  • Helped members facing multiple, complex challenges through the Farnham-Krieger Endowment Fund.
  • Established a Housing Stability Pilot Program, helping more families keep a roof over their heads.
  • Created a computer workroom, enabling members to do job searches, school work, and more.
  • Distributed over 7,000 bags of healthy groceries, provided 1,200 hours in individual and group support, and gave more than $25,000 in emergency financial assistance.

Please consider donating to The Samaritan Community this season. A gift of $500 will keep the heat on this winter for a family of five, while a gift of $100 will feed a parent and child for a month.

Support for Our Neighborhood Farm

Canning workshop at WhiteLock Community Farm
Canning workshop at Whitelock Community Farm.

As the growing season ends, Whitelock Community Farm in Reservoir Hill finishes off another busy year. Their 2016 accomplishments include:

  • Growing 5,000 pounds of organic produce that was sold to neighbors through 60 Saturday farm stands and mobile markets.
  • Diverting 2,400 gallons of food scraps from the landfill through their community composting program, while producing nutrient-rich organic “fertilizer” to replenish the farm’s soil.
  • Providing job training for six local youths through their summer internship program.
  • Engaging the local community in farming and healthy outdoor work through 30 volunteer days.
  • Organizing and hosting four community workshops, five neighborhood potlucks, three movie nights and their annual Harvest Festival.

These numbers only tell part of the story. The farm helps make the 21217 neighborhood stronger and more vibrant by building bridges across racial and socio-economic barriers through the simple joys of good, healthy food and positive community activity.


Learning about composting
Learning about composting at Whitelock Farm.

In this season of giving, we encourage you to help their efforts. Please consider donating to their annual fundraising campaign—even $5 goes a long way. And spread the word to others who might be interested in supporting our neighborhood farm.

Read more about Whitelock Community Farm in this Bulletin article from May 2016.

New Guide Promotes Holiday Volunteering

givingAs we round the corner and head into the last months of the year, our thoughts often turn to giving – giving thanks, and giving to others.

To help neighbors with their philanthropic efforts, MRIA’s Social Action Task Force (SATF) has produced a Holiday Volunteer Guide that features over a dozen organizations that serve the 21217 zip code. Many of these organizations have been featured at one of the SATF’s Parties with a Purpose.

The mission of Bolton Hill’s Social Action Task Force is to encourage, facilitate, and initiate personal engagement between the Bolton Hill neighborhood and the larger 21217 community. By highlighting the many great organizations serving our area, they hope to strengthen and increase our collective efforts, creating a more healthy, vibrant, just, and safe neighborhood for all.

The guide contains information about charitable events and volunteer opportunities with local non-profits during the holiday season. In this year’s season of giving, the SATF encourages you to consider supporting organizations that work within the 21217 community, and spread cheer to neighbors in need.

View and download the 2017 Holiday Volunteer Guide.

Brown Memorial Tutoring Program Supports Baltimore’s Children

brown-tutor-2By Martha Socolar

For over 50 years, the Brown Memorial Tutoring Program has helped Baltimore children learn to read. Each year 80-some students from three Baltimore City Public schools come to Brown Memorial to receive 75 minutes of one-on-one reading instruction each week with their very own volunteer tutor.

The tutoring program staff works closely with principals and teachers to identify students in grades one through five who would benefit most from individualized reading instruction. Most of these children are struggling in school and are well below grade level in reading. At Brown Memorial, we celebrate each child’s successes, whether small or large. Students make significant progress and experience the confidence and pride that comes with achievement.

Tutors come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are Brown church members, but most are not. Some have teaching experience; many have none at all.

Photos courtesy of Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian.




Each September, tutors are schooled in reading instruction based on Orton-Gillingham methodology, and workshops are also offered throughout the year. Program directors guide and support tutors, who also have access to an extensive library of teaching resources.

Brown Memorial generously supports the program. Even so, 80% of our annual budget relies on generous donations from individuals and foundations committed to advancing literacy and helping Baltimore City children succeed. Come visit us to experience the joy and magic that occurs daily at the tutoring program.

We need you! Contact director Martha Socolar (martha.socolar [at] comcast.net, 410-523-1542 x17) or browntutoring.org to become a volunteer tutor, make a donation or discover other ways to support the program.

It’s Hideous: Memorial Episcopal Gala 2016

GalaPoster20160902Since this year’s 82nd annual fundraiser for Memorial Episcopal Church falls on Halloween weekend, the organizing committee, chaired by Monty Howard, decided they just had to go to the dark side. (Cue screams and howls.)

Come in your most macabre, ghostliest garb to the Halloween Gala, to be held Saturday, Oct. 29, from 6-9 pm in Memorial Episcopal’s old Farnham Hall.

To make their descent to the dark side complete, the church has created unique pricing for the gala: church members will pay $65 per person, while neighbors & friends pay only $35/person. They call this policy “radical hospitality.

The church wants to reciprocate the hospitality the whole neighborhood has shown their new rector, the Rev. Grey Maggiano and his family, who are comfortably settling in after their move from Miami,

The church is collaborating with the MRIA’s Social Action Task Force to make the Gala a Party with a Purpose. Actually, it’s the second half of the day’s Parties with a Purpose, following the Ugly Pumpikn Halloween Fest in the afternoon. A portion of the proceeds from both events will be shared with four local non-profits, Jubilee Arts, Wide Angle Youth Media, Child First and Kappa League’s Guide Right mentors program.

While dining on fabulous fare from Michael & Steve of Culinary Creations, guests will enjoy Memorial Players’ own Greg Satorie-Robinson tinkling the ivories and singing lovely, or perhaps ghoulish, tunes. Representatives from neighborhood non-profits, including Rebecca Nagle and Ray Kelly of the No Boundaries Coalition, will be on hand to discuss their work in the neighborhood.

As always, silent and live auctions will feature fantastic treasures, getaways, and meals at lovely local homes. But event sponsors are expanding this year’s catalog to include paintings and prints by the talented youth from Jubilee Arts, as well as other refreshing new finds.

Please come in your most elegant funereal vestments. With luck—and prayers—you’ll pass through to the other side unscathed. But the event organizers warn you to BEWARE!

It’s a pity that old Farnham Hall only fits 120 people, because this is the social event of the season. Be sure to get your tickets NOW by purchasing online here – while they last.

For more information, call 410-243-2902.

Ugly Pumpkin Halloween Fest Oct. 29

On Saturday October 29 from 1-3 pm, everyone—especially kids from 1 to 92—is invited to the Ugly Pumpkin Halloween Fest, organized by MRIA’s Social Task Force (SATF), in collaboration with several area organizations. Service fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi has generously offered to host the event at their Youth and Community Center, 1207 Eutaw Place.

There will be face painting & tattoos, a costume swap & parade, music, CANDY, and of course, pumpkin decorating. Best of all, everything is free, including the pumpkins!

Why an Ugly Pumpkin party? Because local pumpkin farms are donating the ones that they weren’t able to sell elsewhere to the party for beautification.

Give a little love to an ugly pumpkin.

This afternoon “kids'” party is the first half of SATF’s fall Party with a Purpose program. In the evening, adults are invited to attend Memorial Episcopal’s Gala 2016 (see details here), which is sure to be the most hideous event of the fall season.

And, as these are Parties with a Purpose, the SATF selected several non-profit youth groups that serve the 21217 area as beneficiaries for the day. All four organizations will receive a portion of the proceeds from these Halloween festivities as a donation. Everybody wins.

For these events, the SATF selected Jubilee Arts, Wide Angle Youth Media, Child First, and the Kappa League Guide Right Program. Representatives from these groups will be on hand to talk with you about their programs. The party provides a great way to find out about their work and how you can support it.

Donations are needed to make the events successful. If you’d like to help out, bring your supplies to the SATF booth at the Festival on the Hill. They’ll be approximately in front of 1331 Bolton St., next to the MRIA booth.

Donations can also be dropped off in the vestibule of 1309 Bolton Street, both before and after the Festival. Of course you are also welcome to bring donations to the event itself, especially money to share with our non-profit partners.

They can use all of the following:

  • gently-used Halloween costumes
  • old sheets or clothes that can be used to make costumes
  • pumpkin-decorating supplies, such as stickers, markers, pipe cleaners, and glue (no knives or cutting will be involved)
  • decorations
  • and money for all the things that aren’t donated.

If you are interested in volunteering for the event, please email the SATF at SATF@boltonhill.org.

Halloween Party with a Purpose

pumpkins with stickers

MRIA’s Social Action Task Force (SATF) encourages you to save the date of Saturday, October 29 for some big Halloween fun.

First, in the afternoon from 1 to 3 pm, they plan to host an Ugly Pumpkin Decorating Party, with costume making, face painting, a parade, candy, and of course, pumpkin beautification.

That evening, for the over 21 crowd, the SATF is partnering with Memorial Episcopal on a Halloween Bash in the Parish Hall at 1407 Bolton Street.

Both events will feature non-profit organizations that work in the 21217 zip code, allowing party goers to find out more about what they do and how we as neighbors can help. Details will be published in next month’s Bulletin.

The Halloween events continue a busy year for the SATF. Their inaugural Party with a Purpose in January was a big success, followed by the springtime Stoop Party in April.

Then came Boltonstock on June 25, a crowd-pleasing evening of music, food, dancing and support for some great neighborhood organizations, who distributed information and sold crafts and other goods. Jubilee Arts said they sold more T-shirts at Boltonstock than they had anywhere else to date.

Ugly pumpkin
Ugly pumpkin

So, put October 29 on your calendar! Why an Ugly Pumpkin party? Because the SATF hopes that pumpkin farms will donate the ones that they weren’t able to sell elsewhere for the party to decorate.

If you’d like to help out, the SATF will be accepting donations throughout October (locations and contacts will be announced in the next issue). They can use any or all of the following:

  • gently used Halloween costumes
  • old sheets or clothes with which to make costumes
  • pumpkin-decorating supplies, such as stickers, markers, pipe cleaners, and glue (no knives or cutting will be involved)
  • decorations
  • and money for all the things that aren’t donated.

If you are interested in helping organize the event, please email the SATF at boltonhillsocialjusticeleague@gmail.com.

Dine Out for Life Sept. 15

moveable_Feast_logoPlease join Moveable Feast this September 15 for National Dining Out for Life 2016!

Dining Out for Life is an event that happens across the globe, where restaurants, bars, food trucks, etc., donate some of their proceeds to a worthy cause.

Use this Thursday evening as a great excuse to get out, enjoy dinner and help out an organization doing great things for our community. Here in Baltimore, all Dining Out for Life proceeds go to support Movable Feast.

On this one special day a year, partnering restaurants donate a minimum of 25% (some even donate 100%!) of your bill to support Moveable Feast’s mission to provide nutritious meals and other services for people living with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses.

Lots of restaurants support Dining Out For Life, and all deserve your business. However, right here in Bolton Hill, b Bistro is serving as a host restaurant.

Neighbor Andrew Parlock will be serving as the Movable Feast Ambassador at b Bistro for the evening. He will be available to answer any questions you may have, hand out some great prizes and, of course, tell you how you can help Movable Feast.

Please call or go online and make your reservations now! Andrew plans to pack b Bistro to the limit, so don’t delay.

Find other participating restaurants at the Moveable Feast website and make a reservation through Open Table.

Become a Reading Partner: Easy and Effective

Reading PartnersBy Marcia Hart

Last March after attending the Social Innovation conference at Light City, inspiration overcame inertia and I googled Reading Partners. On their website I clicked “Volunteer Here” and completed the form. Within an hour I received an email message from Alexis Acciani connecting me with Arnetra Burnett, the coordinator for Matthew Henson Elementary School in Sandtown. My first session was set for the following Monday morning. In the interim I went to Baltimore City Public Schools admin building on North Avenue to be fingerprinted for a background check, which I passed.

At my first session I met Arnetra in the Reading Center, a classroom set up with pairs of school desks and low library shelving. Arnetra assigned me to work with a 4th-grade student named Destiny. After picking up Destiny from her classroom, we met in the Reading Center for about 45 minutes every Monday morning until the end of the school year. Destiny was a good reader but, like me, tended to rush a bit and benefited from extra focus on comprehension. After a few weeks of getting to know each other we settled into a good routine.

Reading Partners uses a packaged curriculum that includes instructor guides and reading materials for each level. Each session starts with reading aloud by both volunteer and student, from a book selected by the student. Then the curriculum lesson begins. At Destiny’s level we learned how to recognize the writer’s message and make inferences from clues in the story and pictures.

I’ll be paired with a different student this year, since 4th graders age out of the Reading Partners program in Baltimore. I am excited about helping a new young friend master basic skills that I enjoy so much in my own life, and never take for granted.

Volunteering with Reading Partners is easy and worthwhile. To sign up, just go to their website. If you prefer to work with adults, try Strong City Baltimore’s Adult Learning Center, available online here.

Building Trust, Working Together for Change

Samaritan Community counselor Bill Johnston helps people cope and overcome challenges.
Samaritan Community counselor Bill Johnston helps people cope with and overcome challenges.

By Emily Reichart for The Samaritan Community

Tina came to the Samaritan Community for food and clothing. She was homeless, having lost everything in a fire.  At the same time, her grown daughter became very ill and needed round-the-clock care, adding financial burden and stress of caring for her daughter as well as her six-year-old granddaughter.

The Samaritan Community provided food and financial assistance to help her move to a a new apartment. Perhaps even more important was the emotional support and encouragement she found here. Tina began attending the Breakfast Club support group and ultimately, the Women Together support group.

“In addition to the food and financial help after the fire, Sharon and my family at Samaritan Community gave me the love and support that enabled me to put my life together and get back to work!”

It is the sense of community that The Samaritan Community offers that allows people to blossom and succeed. Compassion, love, and acceptance meet all who enter our doors and forge trust between staff and clients. This trust then enables people to do the hard work that needs to be done in order to make positive changes in their lives.

For more information, visit The Samaritan Community online.