About a year ago, my daughter and I joined Volunteer Maryland Coordinator Abby Becker and several other volunteers to help with fall cleaning at The St. Francis Neighborhood Center (SFNC) in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood in Baltimore. Though we were there for only a few hours, there was no doubt in my mind that this was an extraordinary place.
Founded in 1963 by a group of priests, seminarians and community members, SFNC is, according to its mission statement, “committed to breaking the cycles of poverty through education, inspiring self-esteem, self-improvement, and strengthening connections to the community. SFNC strives to give people hope for a better tomorrow by providing them with the tools they need for a better today.”
Three years ago, SFNC began partnering with Volunteer Maryland, welcoming their first Volunteer Maryland Coordinator, Corrine Handy. At that time, the SFNC staff had virtually no staff, and the Power Project hadn’t even started yet. Today, SFNC has a staff of four, including Corrine and two subsequent VMCs, Sara Sullivan and Abby Becker. That’s right — SFNC built its stellar staff and strong programming in large part by partnering with Volunteer Maryland three years in a row.
VM doesn’t deserve all the credit, of course. SFNC staff have an amazing aptitude for building partnerships and leveraging community resources. Reflecting on her year as a VMC, Abby Becker writes, ” I am proud to have cultivated wonderful volunteers who are reliable and dedicated to our programs in the long-term, particularly to working with The Power Project. Each day, we now have at least one person who is truly tied to our mission and deeply connected to the young people.”
Now that Abby (pictured above with the rest of the SFNC staff at the Reservoir Hill Festival) is a permanent staff member, she continues to be enthusiastic about the many opportunities SFNC has to offer. “We have many fall community programs, including Free Job Readiness Workshops, Free Personal Finance Workshops, and the continued Free Community Yoga classes, all of which are open to the public.
In the Power Project, students have loved our fall enrichment activities: printing press workshops, African Drumming and Dancing with Zebra Kids, and a special arts series in partnership with the Walters Art Museum, focusing on Black Renaissance Art. The students’ artwork will be featured in an exhibition this weekend at the Walters Free Renaissance Family Festival. And don’t forget: the Reservoir Hill Festival was September 15th – our most successful yet! It featured 10 live bands, a community resource fair, and The Gathering – Baltimore’s premier food trucks.”
Suffice it to say, SFNC is a happening place, and one of the most beautiful examples of what a long, fruitful partnership with Volunteer Maryland can yield.