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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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:
Find out more on the St. Francis Neighborhood Center website.