Harry Weinberg made his money through real estate and transit companies. "Mr. Weinberg's whole life and everything he did, when boiled down to its essence, it all came down to real estate. It was what he was comfortable with and what he knew," remembers Bernard Siegel, president of the major charitable foundation Mr. Weinberg created.
Ever since Mr. Weinberg's death in 1990, the foundation has contributed money to housing for the poor and the elderly. It bankrolled a 116-unit building that is Pikesville's first apartment complex for low-income elderly. It contributed to the conversion of the badly vandalized Gallagher Mansion in Govans into a senior apartment building.
Yet none of this quite compares with the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation's $1 million gift to St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, which has helped 4,000 low- and moderate-income families buy their first homes. "This is one of the most exciting days in our 27 years," enthused Vincent P. Quayle, the center's founder and director.
The Weinberg gift, which is a challenge grant that has to be matched, becomes the foundation of a $3 million endowment fund St. Ambrose hopes to raise over the next three years. If that goal is met, the center will be able to expand its operation through property acquisitions, help 150 families buy their first homes and provide homeownership counseling to 750 additional families. Other services involve intervention on behalf of homeowners facing foreclosure.
The St. Ambrose center was modeled after an innovative housing program Mr. Quayle saw in operation in England. The center's name came from St. Ambrose's, a big Roman Catholic church on Park Heights Avenue where the center was located before moving to 25th Street. Despite that connection, the center is non-sectarian. Its fund-raising drive, which is chaired by lawyer Ronald M. Shapiro, does not discriminate, either. "Your gift," its solicitation literature says, "is payable in cash, stock or properties."