The Celebration

The 40/50 Story

St. Ambrose is proud to have been a part of the NeighborWorks network for 13 years. NeighborWorks America has provided significant funding to support our programs as well as facilitated training sessions and networking opportunities for our organization.

We are especially grateful for their help with our 40th anniversary. In the video below you can see some of the fun from our last big celebration featuring former NeighborWorks CEO  Ken Wade.  We are so glad to have them be a partner again for our 50th anniversary and help them commemorate their own 40th anniversary this year. It’s a 40/50 celebration!

 

   

Preserving Affordable Rental Housing

Through their Priority Markets Program, the Wells Fargo Foundation has awarded $80,000 to St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center for the preservation of affordable rental apartments in the Hampden community of North Baltimore. The award provides funding needed for St. Ambrose to begin a comprehensive renovation of their Union Ave. Apartments.  This garden style apartment complex is home to 54 families.

Beyond the replacement of heating and hot water systems throughout the Union Ave. complex within the last five years, only routine maintenance has occurred since the initial renovation in 1996.  However, the property needs a substantial renovation to the interior and exterior to assure that it meets the competitive standards of today’s market in a neighborhood that has been trending upward for several years. The planned upgrades include the addition of central air conditioning and removal and replacement of window units.   The agency is holding units vacant to enable an in-place rehab.  Residents from an entire building will relocate to renovated vacant units allowing for the total renovation of one building at a time. 

With a severe lack of affordable housing rentals in Baltimore, the funding from Wells Fargo represents a significant investment in the Hampden community and helps improve the quality of life for the residents of the Union Ave. apartment complex. Union Ave. provides affordable homes for families, which are close to public transportation and schools, in a neighborhood bustling with newer developments.  The anticipated start date for the renovation is the summer of 2018 and St. Ambrose is committed to creating a property that demonstrates affordable rental housing can blend into a desired urban aesthetic and be an asset within the community.

On Jan. 29, in the brightly colored auditorium of the Roosevelt Recreation Center, St. Ambrose program directors Bill Rubin and David Sann, presented the renovation plans to a group of 30 Hampden community members and the Hampden Community Council. The directors answered questions, assuring the community that no residents would be displaced and that the renovation plans were designed to keep the construction period short. Overall, there was appreciation for the planned building renovations to improve living conditions for the Union Ave. apartment complex residents. “I’m glad those people are getting nicer homes,” said one participant in the meeting. “And for the rest of us going by it will look good. With a unanimous vote, the council agreed to write a letter of support for the project.

St. Ambrose thanks Wells Fargo and the Hampden Community for their support in creating better housing opportunities in Baltimore.

 

Women Religious, Investments for Good

Organizations like St. Ambrose can do little without the support of individuals and other partnering organizations. With their help we are able to build a stronger network of services and resources for our communities.  Religious organizations are one group of supporters who helped St. Ambrose during our early years, and still do today through impact investing.

Early in the 1970s congregations of Catholic Nuns, more commonly known today as Women Religious, began a trend of investing in communities using loans to create a more direct and significant effect on social justice causes. It was a whole new way of operating for many congregations. As described in a Shelterforce article by Dee Walsh, “The money they invested was what they would rely on to care for their sustenance and retirement. It was a big, risky step, but they embraced the challenge and have done amazingly well, with no regrets, few losses, and a tremendous amount of positive change along the way.”

These religious loans showed a tremendous amount of trust and commitment to the causes they were supporting, and they had an incredible impact. In addition to the substantial amount of loans and direct investments they have given to organizations, Women Religious strongly influenced the growth of the Community Development Financial Institutions. In fact many of the CDFIs today got their start from congregations of Women Religious.

One of the earliest examples of this investing came from the Adrian Dominican Sisters. They had become increasingly aware of redlining practices and in 1978 established an alternative investment loan fund.  The loans allowed the Sisters to develop stronger relationships with the organizations as opposed to giving grants.  St. Ambrose is just one of the recipients of the over 500 loans distributed by the Adrian Dominican Sisters.

Other religious lenders who have supported St. Ambrose include Sisters of Notre Dame, Sisters of St. Francis, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and several others. Their funds have made a significant impact on our ability to work in Baltimore.

For more on Women Religious and their innovative funding methods, check out the Shelterforce article!

Nun Funds: The Original Impact Investors

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.