Through the Door, the inner city and the suburbs meet, reconcile

August 05, 1991|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,Evening Sun Staff

Steven Scott and Jenny Rosenblum spent part of their summer vacation learning about people unlike themselves.

Scott and Rosenblum were interns this summer at a camp for underprivileged children operated by The Door, a privately funded interdenominational Christian ministry founded in 1986 by former Baltimore Colt Joe Ehrmann.

The Door, located in a church building at 217 N. Chester St., aims at combating drug abuse and juvenile delinquency by offering summer activities for children in East Baltimore. The camp also teaches cultural awareness and helps campers with their schoolwork.

"I grew up in an all-white environment," Scott, 17, a high school student from Bel Air, said last week. "When I was growing up, Baltimore City was just the Inner Harbor and the stadium to me. Now, I know that there are real people living here in rather unfortunate circumstances."

"I've always lived in an ethnically mixed neighborhood, but this is my first real one-to-one contact with inner-city kids," said Rosenblum, 19, a student at Swarthmore University in Pennsylvania. "These kids are glad to have us here. I feel their respect for us building."

Rosenblum and Scott were members of a staff that included 13 interns and volunteers, most of them suburban whites, who worked with 50 black children at the camp, now in its second year.

Rosenblum said the three-week camp, which closed last week, afforded her an opportunity to gain experience teaching children.

The director of the camp is Bob Kirk. When he walked into a room decorated with posters drawn by the children, four of them greeted him excitedly with smiles, hugs and hearty "Hi, Bobs."

Kirk returned the greetings just as affectionately, a wide smile for a 7-year-old girl and playful wrestling for the three boys.

The camp is designed to bring about "racial, social and economic reconciliation within the younger generations," said Kirk, 26.

"There is a two-fold learning process going on here," he said. "People living in the suburbs are usually totally unaware of what city life is like. They are burdened by prejudices against people of color and the city as a whole."

Kirk said the average child who attends the camp is from a single-parent household headed by a woman who receives public assistance and who has a high school education or less. The child usually reads below his school grade-level.

So the camp offers them more than just recreation for six hours a day.

"We offer an education," Kirk said. "We use a religious theme to help them achieve their God-given potential spiritually, emotionally, socially, physically and intellectually."

The staff uses games, small-group discussions, role-playing and educational videos to teach the children and to help them deal with life.

"We have fun," said 8-year-old Eric Gilyard. "We went swimming at the beach, we visited Washington, D.C., and the Baltimore Zoo."

"We also had Bible studies and reading time," added 7-year-old Cynthia Boyd.

Joyce McMichael, 28, lives across the street from The Door and is the mother of a 7-year-old boy who attended the summer program.

"The Door is offering him so much," McMichael said. "Barry used to have trouble in school. Now he is one of the top five students in his class."

"There are too many drugs and too many shootings in these streets," McMichael said. "I'm doing my best raising my son and I refuse to let him become familiar with it all."

She said The Door is an alternative to the streets and its temptations and dangers.

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