Publishing a community's charms


Laurel Durenberger: 0...

January 21, 1996|By Stephanie Shapiro

Publishing a community's charms; Laurel Durenberger: 0) Hampden resident's publication tells the news of the Jones Falls mill communities.

Since it first appeared in May 1994, the Mill Corridor has become a must-read among those who crave the bread and butter of community news in northern Baltimore. Laurel Durenberger's free monthly journal brims with stories, reports, memories and activities from the businesses and historic neighborhoods planted along the Jones Falls Valley.

Last fall, Ms. Durenberger wrote of a community effort to feed firemen for nearly two weeks after the Clipper Industrial Park blaze took the life of a firefighter in September.

Correspondents like Hampden's Janna Bialek write of the cats in her life, and of inviting neighborhood children to share her family's Jewish harvest celebration.

Mill Corridor readers also find poems, investment advice and local zoning reports.

Ms. Durenberger, a Hampden resident for eight years, fell in love with Baltimore's mill communities when her father, sculptor Les Harris, became one of the first artists to occupy a Clipper Mill studio.

Her publication's support of urban living has played a role in the revitalization of Hampden, and has alerted residents throughout Baltimore to the charms of the Jones Falls Valley.

As she strides through Hampden, Woodberry and Mount Washington on her rounds, saying hello to everyone she meets, Ms. Durenberger herself is a walking endorsement for community involvement. "I believe that the only way to make [a] community strong is by becoming active in it," she says.

And now that she has established a Mill Corridor site on the World Wide Web, Ms. Durenberger is in touch with like-minded citizens of mill communities around the country.

It all started with Elvis. Mississippi housewives and tortured rock and rollers have all blamed it on the King, but now John Van Emden, Owings Mills businessman and Franklin Mint alum, is pointing the finger at Elvis, too.

In 1992, six months before the U.S. Postal Service put out itcommemorative stamp of the King, the island government of Saint Vincent issued a set of stamps featuring Elvis. Because the International Collectors Society had a thriving coin collectors mail-order business, it was offered distribution rights to the island's limited edition Elvis stamps. More than 1.5 million of those stamps were sold, putting the Owings Mills company on the stamp collecting map.

Since then, the Collectors Society has sold stamps for governments around the world -- from the Americas to Luxembourg and Japan -- says Mr. Van Emden, the company's president.

The most recent offering is a limited edition Tanzanian commemorative of the Beatles, which is touted in magazine and newspaper ads featuring Mr. Van Emden, aged 50. Buying stamps allows collectors to "follow a celebrity without having to pay $40,000 for a pair of ruby slippers," says Mr. Van Emden, who joined the 4-year-old company in 1994. A sheet of nine Beatles stamps is $9.95 plus shipping and handling.

Subscribers to the Collectors Society newsletter are fascinated by pop culture icons rather than by stamps, he adds. "A James Dean collector is not worried about perforations per inch." (In June, the U.S. post office is scheduled to issue a Dean stamp.)

Next up? Spanish Sahara plans to issue a Marilyn Monroe series next month.

Melissa Grace

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