A Thanksgiving Story

We hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

This Thanksgiving we were so excited to give out food baskets to families in our rental homes!  A donation from the Baltimore Department of Transportation gave 13 families a meal for the holidays! We are so grateful for their donation!

The GIVE story

Friday marked the end of St. Ambrose’s GIVE Group term. GIVE is a nine month fellowship offered through Business Volunteers Maryland, a nonprofit organization that strengthens the community by making strategic connections between people, businesses and nonprofits.  It prepares rising leaders in Baltimore for civic engagement and community leadership.  The 2017 St. Ambrose GIVE Team Consists of:

  • Ian Todd – Brown Advisory
  • Greg Santoro – Black and Decker
  • Danielle Dunlap – Maryland Land Institute
  • Jessica Antonen – John’s Hopkins Carey School of Business

“We were quick to learn that St. Ambrose had a lasting legacy and we needed to help to celebrate a legacy of 50 years of non-profit housing services to the Baltimore community,” said Ian Todd.  “Under the guidance of Gerard J. Joab, the executive director, we see the organization evolving over time but staying true to their mission and their community.”

In order to learn more about the organization, the GIVE team participated in key organizational meetings. They came to better understand the depth and the complexity of the organization, along with the number of different aspects of affordable housing.

We have a lot to thank the GIVE team for! In their time working with St. Ambrose, they helped St. Ambrose promote their cause and raise awareness of our 50th anniversary, in addition to aiding in fundraising efforts. They launched this website for us to share our stories. The team also created opportunities to partner with the Fells Point Taverns and Brown Advisory in downtown Baltimore.

While talking about the partnership Ian Todd added, “While our project does have an end date, the relationship we have built as individuals with St. Ambrose will last a lifetime.” We certainly hope that is true. We could not have asked for a better group to work for! Thank you to the GIVE group for all your tremendous work and support. 

 

Restoring, Renovating and Revitalizing: A story of Belair-Edison

Shanice and her son
Jaquan, on their front porch.

Shanice had been a renter for over 10 years.  She was hesitant to take the leap into homeownership, but her desire to provide a stable environment for her teenage son was much stronger than any fears she may have had.  Even though the journey was long, Shanice was diligent, and found a home in Belair-Edison. She admires all the beautiful renovations to her new home, and loves that her block is filled with homeowners who care

 

 

Belair-Edison was once a community plagued by high foreclosure rates and a stagnant real estate market.  In the 80s and 90s especially, the area experienced a high rate of resident turnover. The instability in the housing market opened the door for many predatory practices and speculative investors.  Belair-Edison Neighborhoods, Inc. (BENI) is a nonprofit, community-based organization that has been working to help strengthen the area. In 2000 they adopted the Healthy Neighborhoods approach, which focused on middle neighborhoods that could be losing their value. BENI set out to raise property values by implementing high standards for physical conditions. They wanted to get residents personally invested in the community and each other.  With these initiatives BENI found they were able to boost community morale, confidence, and resident involvement.

St. Ambrose serves as BENI’s development partner by acquiring foreclosed and distressed houses for beautiful renovation and sale to new homeowners. For more than 20 years, St. Ambrose has been dedicated to restoring and strengthening the Belair-Edison community, and in that time have renovated and sold 192 houses. Currently we are renovating 5 more houses in the community with another 3 awaiting a construction start date. The renovated homes complement BENI’s work to help establish and maintain high standards in the neighborhood.  This in turn encourages neighborhood homeowners to make necessary repairs to their homes in an effort to maintain the integrity and value of the community.

St. Ambrose has a long tradition of partnering with other organizations.  We know we can achieve much more when we collaborate with others, who supplement  our own skills or bring additional expertise that can broaden the scope of our projects. We are grateful to work with Belair-Edison Neighboorhoods, Inc., so that together we can offer a more comprehensive approach to community development.

Back to School with CohnReznick

Last week St. Ambrose received a donation of 25 book bags filled with school supplies from CohnReznick.  Everything from notebooks, binders, scissors, and colored pencils were stuffed inside ready to be put to use by the students living in St. Ambrose’s rental properties, so they can start the new school year fresh.  The students who received the donations range from kindergarten to seniors in high school.

CohnReznick has been partnering with St. Ambrose since 2010.   As a business located in downtown Baltimore, CohnReznick is always looking for a way to give back to the community that they call home.   “What better way to serve the community than by ensuring that its future generation begins the school year with the materials they need to succeed,” says Lani Warsaw, a CohnReznick team member. As a company who often works with the affordable housing industry, St. Ambrose felt like a natural partner for their charitable outreach.  Along with book bag donations, they also contribute to St. Ambrose’s Adopt a-family” campaign.

Trevon and his sister Akaya have been living in a St. Ambrose rental home almost their whole lives. When they come to pick up book bags, they warmly greet the familiar faces at St. Ambrose. Trevon will be a senior this year. He is excited about finishing his high school education as well as looking forward to a great final year with his football team.
Tabatha comes in with her daughters to pick up a book bag for her oldest child, who will be entering 6th grade. They have been with St. Ambrose for 6 years. Tabatha tells her second oldest daughter that she will get a book bag next year when she starts Preschool.
Tamierra is pictured here with our own Mary Ann. She picked up book bags for her 3 children, two in Kindergarten and one in first grade.

A Volunteer’s Perspective

The group of Lutheran Volunteer Corps members located in Baltimore ready to lend a helping hand.

For over 30 years St. Ambrose has partnered with different institutions to connect young adults with volunteer opportunities.  I am a member of one of their partners, the Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC). As a LVC volunteer, we are sent out all over the country to pair with different non-profits for a year of service with very intentional goals. Our training strongly encourages us to become immersed in a community. They told us to get to know the neighborhood, and more importantly our neighbors, with the underlying goal of what LVC refers to as “building inclusive community.”  We are encouraged to facilitate strong networks of diverse and unique people.

I find it remarkable and so exciting to have a placement that is taking physical and concrete steps to meet this seemingly abstract goal.  In my few short weeks working with St. Ambrose I have seen the commitment to building up neighborhoods—not just by providing houses, but by building communities.  I have seen the strong desire to connect community members with each other by creating quality and stable homes where people feel comfortable and excited about building a life integrated with their neighbors.  From Homesharing, to renovation, to counseling and more, I am eager to work with St. Ambrose as they engage the community to make it stronger.

Before coming to Baltimore, I knew little about the city. Through St. Ambrose, I am starting to feel a little more connected by learning important history and discovering some specific needs of the community. I am looking forward to this year, and to making this place my home.

“A Story of Support”

Brendan Fitzpatrick with Executive Director Gerard Joab

Brendan Fitzpatrick tells the story of how became a St. Ambrose supporter, first as a friend of a staff attorney and then as a member of the Legal Advisory Committee.

“Even though my association with St. Ambrose pales in comparison to the good work that the [staff does], it’s something that I’m proud to be associated with, even at an arm’s length away.”

 

Lakia and Sa’Nyia’s Story

Lakia and Sa’Nyia first became St. Ambrose supporters and advocates in 2014 when Lakia called the office to see if we would accept donations of school supplies. She had already reached out to several organizations around the city without any luck when a friend had mentioned she look into a place “on 25th Street.” Her friend couldn’t remember the name, but Lakia did a little digging and found St. Ambrose.

Lakia started the school supplies drive because she knew that so often school supplies drives happening in the city don’t end up reaching the kids who need it the most, either because they can’t get there or they don’t have the resources or network to even know about it. Her own experiences growing up in Baltimore were one of her biggest motivators to start organizing the drive.“I wanted to target children who get overlooked.”

Lakia is a hair stylist and recently opened up her own salon. Being an entrepreneur means Lakia always stays busy, so her daughter Sa’Nyia helps put it all together by collecting schools supplies lists from different schools and assembling over 40 book bags with the supplies needed for each grade. “Every year our house looks like Wal-Mart” Sa’Nyia said of the process. The pair receives donations and support from friends and family from as far away as Los Angeles and even Johannesburg.

Lakia and Sa’Nyia help distribute the supplies to the children and youth living in our rental homes and in Homesharing matches each year on Sa’Nyia’s birthday.  “I want her to be well-rounded.” Lakia says of raising her daughter with experiences like this. “I want her to try things and find her own way,” and also, to know the value of giving back!

Weinberg’s Gift to St. Ambrose

In 1995, St. Ambrose received a challenge grant from the Weinberg Foundation to create an endowment for the agency. More than 250 individuals, families, and foundations rose to Weinberg’s challenge and contributed what they could to the campaign. The widespread community support helped St. Ambrose reach our goal and demonstrated a far reaching commitment to support the agency’s future in the city. Twenty-two years later, this gift is still making an impact in Baltimore.