Grant sought to help children Baltimore competing for $5 million to aid their safety, health

July 04, 1996|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Community Foundation has given nine groups a total of $122,000 and joined with Associated Black Charities (ABC) in a campaign to win a $5 million grant that would be used to make Baltimore children healthier and safer.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation of Princeton, N.J., one of the country's largest health philanthropies, invited groups in 20 cities in May 1995 to enter a two-stage competition to find practical, successful ways to help children.

Last fall, the local foundation, having worked with city and county agencies, nonprofit groups, young people, community groups and businesses, became a finalist along with groups from seven other cities. Each received $400,000, partly to plan and implement some programs.

Using the slogan "Safe and Sound," the local nonprofit groups are collaborating to land one of five $5 million grants by creating practical plans to nurture children and adolescents. The eight cities' proposals are due in December 1997. The grants would be spread over eight years.

Hathaway C. Ferebee, project director of the community foundation's effort, said opinions are sought from many residents on specific ways to achieve these goals in Baltimore:

Families that are healthy, nurturing and economically self-sufficient, safe neighborhoods and communities, students entering school ready to learn and leaving school educated, and adolescents staying out of trouble.

"We are increasingly trying to figure out how to produce safe and healthy kids," said Timothy D. Armbruster, executive director of the Baltimore foundation.

"We are questioning the structure of our current system, which delivers services primarily in crisis. We provide therapy for youngsters who have already become suicidal, and special education for children who are already failing school.

"Why not build a network of resources which allows children to grow up healthy, safe and ready to learn?"

Of 50 national health programs now funded by the Johnson foundation, the one focusing on the welfare of city children has the longest life span -- up to 10 years -- "in recognition of the severity of problems facing urban children," said Paul Tarini, a foundation spokesman.

Another unusual aspect of the Johnson program is its "limited competition," with only certain cities invited to take part. Most of the time, Johnson competitions are open to all. The philanthropy calls for proposals on specific projects and then awards grants.

Urban problems for children are so challenging, Tarini said, that some cities were deemed unsuitable either because they had problems under control or lacked the means to attack deficiencies seriously.

In Baltimore, Ferebee said, "action groups" are seeking opinions from Associated Black Charities and more than 100 area and neighborhood groups to get ideas, and to use and refine what has worked to help children.

"The foundation and Associated Black Charities will facilitate the work of many others," she said.

"By joining with ABC, we have a model of diversity that we ask of the many citizens working on Safe and Sound. We expect to win the grant, but more importantly, we will have a plan that can be implemented to help kids grow up safe and healthy."

Donna Jones Stanley, executive director of ABC, at 1112 Cathedral St., said her 11-year-old group is optimistic about Baltimore winning the bigger prize. It raised $1 million for the fiscal year that ended Sunday, a record amount.

She and two other staff members will offer their time and ideas and input from African-American residents. ABC received $50,000 as one of the nine grants from the community foundation.

"We're really excited about the prospects," Stanley said. "We're absolutely going to win. Our group has worked for 11 years to bring Baltimore to a higher and better place for children; the Johnson effort is a more focused program. We'll support what we've worked for -- economic development, family preservation and community development."

The other competing cities are Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, Oakland and Sacramento in California, and Richmond, Va. Lead groups in those cities vary; they include community foundations in two other cities, a city health department and grass-roots organizations.

The Baltimore foundation, with assets of $53 million, will be 25 years old next year. Since 1989, it has shared offices and its executive director, Armbruster, with the Goldseker Foundation, which has $64 million in assets. They are at the Latrobe Building, 2 E. Read St.

The community foundation gave top priority to children's groups in its semiannual spring distribution of $435,899 in grants to area nonprofits. The largest gift was $125,000 to arts groups and area high schools in arts education partnerships.

Included in the grants were the Safe and Sound gifts to support Baltimore's bid for the Johnson grant in practice as well as planning. They are:

Three groups, $10,000 each: Citizens Planning & Housing Association, to monitor city school initiatives; Notre Dame Mission, for an AmeriCorps program to improve achievement at two East Baltimore schools; Ready at Five, a partnership for children, to monitor government education decisions.

Also, Shriver Center, University of Maryland Baltimore County, $15,000, to hire a youth organizer; Paquin Middle/Senior School, $7,000, to help teen-age mothers and expectant mothers plan careers; Baltimore Urban League, $5,000, to develop and discuss with teen-agers a video on teen sex; and Families Involved Together, $5,000, to recruit volunteers for a program to avert the need to place troubled youths outside their homes. Another $10,000 was partly used for a recent three-day Inner Harbor event to solicit young people's opinions.

Pub Date: 7/04/96

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