Transforming Baltimore

Behind the scenes, every day Associated agencies and volunteers are working to transform the city of Baltimore.

From taking a leadership role in revitalizing and stabilizing city neighborhoods to working with local schools and other nonprofit partners to foster educational success, The Associated is committed to ensuring that Baltimore thrives.

Neighborhoods

Beginning in 2015, The Jewish Museum of Maryland (JMM) took a leadership role in the Jonestown Vision Plan initiative to redevelop this southeastern neighborhood of Baltimore City, north of Little Italy. The JMM is one of the anchor institutions in this community.

Since the launch of the initiative, Jonestown has seen the beginnings NGOs of significant redevelopment along Baltimore Street with the Ronald McDonald House and the National Aquarium starting construction on facilities there. The Commercial Development grounded recently announced plans to turn the huge former manufacturing plant of Hendler's Creamery into apartments and retail space.

“The Jewish community has deep roots on the east side of Baltimore,” says Marvin Pinkert, executive director of the JMM. “We are thrilled to be working with other neighborhood and institutional partners to be part of the redevelopment of this historic community.”

CHAI, meanwhile, has always been at the forefront of strengthening and stabilizing communities in neighborhoods with substantial Jewish populations. In the more than 30 years since the agency’s establishment, CHAI has strengthened five neighborhoods in northwest Baltimore City through promotion of home ownership.

The agency provided hundreds of loans over the years to help residents buy or renovate their homes. They even offer energy-efficient grants and loans to assist low and moderate income homeowners with weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades and improvements to increase energy savings.

In addition, senior home repair programs help seniors who are aging in the community with maintenance, repairs and accommodations so they can live in their homes as long as possible.

Education

Yet for a city to thrive it needs more than economic development. It needs an educated workforce which can seize employment opportunities.

Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC) is committed to working with city schools and other youth-serving programs, providing 129 volunteers who tutored, mentored, and engaged with students during the school year as well as summer.

Recently, JVC placed 248 volunteers in enrichment programs and camps serving Baltimore city school students to help prevent summer slide. This summer, JVC is on track to provide a similar number of volunteers, as many people have responded to JVC’s recent call to serve as camp workshop facilitators.

Recognizing that many of the children living in economically depressed areas of the city have few career role models, Sarah David, a JVC volunteer created a VolunTeam through JVC. The goal – to expose the youngsters in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of Baltimore City to many career possibilities.

JVC connected her to the Kids Safe Zone, an afterschool and summer program located in this neighborhood. She began the project by bringing together a group of attorneys who worked with the middle and high school students on a mock trial project.

Since then Sarah brought in other professionals to talk to the teens and plans on taking small groups on field trips to explore various careers and work environments.

“Our partners at Kids Safe Zone and in other youth-serving programs want the kids to dream big,” says Ashley Pressman, executive director of JVC. “And they’ve asked us to help the kids see the possibilities.”

CHAI, meanwhile, works closely with the schools in its neighborhoods to promote educational success.

One of those schools is Fallstaff Elementary and Middle School. According to Mitch Posner, executive director of CHAI, more than 80 percent of the students at Fallstaff receive free and reduced lunches.

Understanding that many students go hungry after school hours, CHAI has partnered with the Family League of Baltimore City (FLBC) to participate in their "End Hunger by 2015” campaign which features the Supper Program. The Supper Program provides nutritious full course dinner, five days a week to all students who stayed after school for activities, tutoring or enrichment.

CHAI has also partnered with the Baltimore Hunger Project to provide more than 60 students from Fallstaff with backpacks filled with non-perishable food for students to take home for the weekends.

More than a third of students at Fallstaff Middle Elementary are Latino and come from non-English speaking households. CHAI reached out to Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) to provide English classes for parents and families members at no cost.

The goal of CHAI’s partnership efforts, says Roxanne Allen, director of CHAI’s school and community programs, is to provide schools and students with much needed supports to enhance their ability to achieve academic success.

In one of the more innovative school partnerships, Pearlstone Center received a grant to work with at-risk youth from Baltimore City Public Schools through the Promise Heights Initiative in West Baltimore.

The Promise Heights initiative was established by the University of Maryland School of Social Work to improve educational outcomes for youth and ensure families are healthy and successful in the West Baltimore communities of Upton/Druid Heights.

Students visit Pearlstone three times a year for hands-on workshops where they are exposed to healthy eating and respect for animals, nature and humankind. Students plant, cook, milk and feed the goats and improve their self-esteem. The program culminates in a fifth grade overnight retreat.

The results to date have been impressive. To participate, students need to improve school attendance. Since they’ve been part of the Pearlstone project, attendance has increased by 10 percent.

“Much as Baltimore City School students look forward to coming out to Pearlstone, we always look forward to welcoming them as well,” says Jakir Manela, executive director of Pearlstone Center. “These partnerships embody our Jewish values! Motivated by our commitment to tzedek-justice, we facilitate unforgettable experiences for these underserved youth in our beautiful natural setting: connecting with animals, enjoying delicious organic fruits and vegetables, exploring pristine forest, fields and streams, and learning through team building activities.”

“We’ve been thrilled to see a boost in attendance associated with participation in our programs, and we are deeply inspired by these partnerships and their tremendous impact and potential.”

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