Community organizer is moving on

FRUITFUL STAY ENDS

October 08, 1993|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Staff Writer

Terry Dean, a community organizer, drives along Palmer Avenue in Northwest Baltimore, passing the drug dealers to get to Jean Yarborough's house at the end of the 4800 block.

There he finds Ms. Yarborough, one of his favorite neighborhood leaders, dressed impeccably in a knit suit and high heels, sweeping trash from the street in front of her home with an old broom.

He offers to help, but she refuses. "It's in front of my house," she says, "I'll clean it up."

Mr. Dean likes her attitude.

He's spent the last four years helping people like her solve neighborhood problems. And he'll miss them when he leaves his job with the Northwest Baltimore Corp. next week.

While Mr. Dean looks forward to his new job, working on commercial revitalization projects in Prince George's County, he's sad about leaving behind the projects he has worked on for the Baltimore community organization.

"I leave with tremendous mixed emotions," he said this week. "When you've done something for as long as I have and made the relationships I have, it hurts to leave the fight."

In Northwest Baltimore, Mr. Dean has helped organize four new neighborhood groups, bringing the total under the corporation's umbrella to 59. He's administered a scholarship program for the Maryland Jockey Club, helped neighborhoods fight zoning battles, and worked to upgrade the Park Heights commercial district.

He'll especially miss the Park Heights Community Farmer's Market, which he helped organize in April. The market -- with 20 farmers selling produce -- operates Wednesday afternoons on a Pimlico Race Course parking lot at Park Heights and Belvedere avenues. The market's customers reflect Northwest Baltimore's ethnic diversity.

"This community is so diverse," Mr. Dean said. "The farmers market has been a catalyst to bring people together in a festive, non-threatening environment. It brings Caribbeans, Trinidadians, Jewish-Russians, Koreans, Muslims."

A graduate of Northwestern High School, Mr. Dean, 38, has lived in Baltimore most of his life. He attended several colleges and worked as a substitute teacher and property manager before he became a community organizer.

On Wednesday, during his last week on the job, Mr. Dean began the day conducting a meeting of the farmers market's board.

"This is a pet project of mine. It's my baby," he told board members -- Ms. Yarborough, Gloria Luster, Charles Ward and Polly Warren. "I want to make sure you know where the files are to make sure the market continues," he said, his voice breaking.

Ms. Luster consoles him, saying, "Life is nothing but changes. The important thing of any organization is that it can continue whether you're there or not. It shows how well you organized it. As far as I'm concerned, it has been a beautiful experience in cooperation to get the job done."

That afternoon, Mr. Dean arrives at the farmers market just before the 1 p.m. opening time. Vendors are setting out apples, melons, giant zucchini, fresh fish, cheese and habanero peppers.

At 1 p.m., Mr. Dean gives the signal to begin business. As customers arrive, he mingles with the farmers, saying goodbye to many who thank him for his work in setting up the market. Earlier in the day, Mr. Dean conducted a tour of several neighborhoods where good works are being done in spite of crime and drug problems.

Across the street from Ms. Yarborough's home, he meets with the new owners of the Palmer Court Apartments. Since owners George Minor and Jim Reeves purchased the 115-unit complex in April, they have cleaned it up and -- with the help of city police -- driven out the drug dealers.

"We have a different philosophy [from the previous owner]," said Mr. Minor. "We view this as a little town and we're like the mayor. To our knowledge, there were 15 apartments where tenants were involved in drugs. Now maybe there are one or two."

Mr. Dean drives south on Pimlico Road, passing groups of idle young men who he presumes are buying or selling drugs.

"Don't they have anything better to do?" he says angrily. "If we can drive drugs underground, we'll be OK."

He drives by a small lot at the corner of Pimlico Road and Sumter Avenue. Once trash-filled, there's now a newly planted garden of shrubs and a winding walkway.

A little further west, Mr. Dean passes a large corner lot at Reisterstown Road and Grantley Avenue, recently enclosed by a handsome, wrought-iron fence. The Towanda Community Association will plant a garden there.

Mr. Dean drives north and slides the car behind the playground at Arlington Elementary School on Rogers Avenue. Children are playing on new playground equipment.

He also visits Johnny Clinton, president of the Pimlico Merchants Association who runs the busy Park Heights Barbershop in the 5100 block of Park Heights Ave.

Mr. Dean has worked closely with Mr. Clinton to revitalize the Park Heights commercial area. Colorful banners adorn light poles. There are plans to install awnings on store facades.

The farmers market was one of the first steps to bring attention to the commercial area. Another was the demolition this month of the abandoned Pimlico Center -- a former Holiday Inn -- in the 5400 block of Park Heights Ave., an eyesore for five years.

The farmers market "brought people north of Northern Parkway down to the southern end of Park Heights. It has been able to TC bring people into the community from outside," Mr. Clinton said.

"Terry will be hard to replace," he said, noting Mr. Dean's work in the community. "But we'll go on."

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