Restoring peace, homes are goals


May 16, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Brenda Sullivan took her two granddaughters on a wal through their West Baltimore neighborhood yesterday. But this was no spring stroll. They were on a mission, a mission to get their neighborhood back: "We want it back today . . . not tomorrow."

"Just move out these drugs, and that will take care of the violence and we can live in peace," said Ms. Sullivan, a Sandtown resident for all of her 45 years.

She and her granddaughters, Candis Johnson and Ashley Curry, were among several hundred residents and friends participating Hands Across Sandtown-Winchester -- the poverty and crime-plagued neighborhood that is the focus of a comprehensive rebuilding program that focuses on social woes as well as housing.

Yesterday's "Hands" demonstration was the kick-off of an anti-crime movement in the beleaguered neighborhood bounded by North Avenue on the north, Monroe Street on the west, Lafayette Avenue on the south and Pennsylvania and Fremont avenues on the east.

Carrying signs that read "Down with Drugs, Up with Christ" and "Now is the Time to Stop the Drugs and Violence," the group stretched for about two blocks along Fulton Avenue south of North Avenue. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke threaded a red ribbon through the crowd, which later would wend its way to the Pauline Fauntleroy Playfield in the 1300 block of Stricker St.

"The red is a symbol of the lives that have been lost to violence," said Father Damien Nalepa, the pastor of St. Gregory the Great Church on Gilmor Street and one of the march's organizers. "We are all joining hands as our commitment to stopping violence."

The Sandtown residents were joined by members of area churches, many of whom do not live in the community. Also among the walkers was developer James W. Rouse, whose nonprofit Enterprise Foundation chose Sandtown as one of three neighborhoods in which to begin its project to provide decent housing for poor people.

"You are about to be the miracle of America," Mr. Rouse told those gathered in the playfield adjacent to Sharon Baptist Church. "I can't tell you how lucky I am to be a part of this."

Mayor Schmoke assured the crowd that his administration was working hard to eliminate vacant houses in the neighborhood and "by March 1994, we are going to be able to get people into these houses," he said.

Watching the walkers from his front door, longtime Sandtown resident Thomas Banks called the effort "lovely."

"This was a good neighborhood. We got to do something," he said.

St. Gregory's is sponsoring a gun turn-in day in the neighbor hood Saturday. Anyone who turns in a functioning gun will be paid $15 to $25, Father Nalepa said.

Volunteers from the area went to work in three other city neighborhoods yesterday through the People's Homesteading Group's annual work-a-thon. Workers from a variety of organizations were cleaning up, repairing and painting houses in the 1100 block of McDonogh St., the 1400 block of Myrtle Ave. and the 300 block of S. Parrish Ave.

In addition to the "sweat equity," the workers were raising money by getting pledges for each hour they worked.

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