Grant made to help Quality of Life Group that provides services to the poor is awarded $5,000

August 22, 1996|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

A Northeast Baltimore group, operating in a former bar, has received a $5,000 planning grant to expand its services of dispensing emergency food, discounted household goods and advice on social services to low-income people.

The Quality of Life Center, 2630 Harford Road, was one of seven area groups given a total of $115,500 by the Campaign for Human Development (CHD), a national Catholic program. For 26 years, the campaign has backed groups that try to help change patterns causing poverty.

"It was thrilling to listen to these seven positive groups taking charge in their communities, an answer to naysayers on city improvement," said Monsignor William F. Burke, CHD diocesan director. He is also pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church, 3615 Harford Road, which helped open the center in January.

Happy with the $5,000 boost, Doris M. Johnson, the center's director and a St. Francis parishioner, said the new business plan would touch on storage of food and other goods in a nearby warehouse, starting a thrift store and a training program for leaders, and possible new jobs in the Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello community, called "Chum" by some residents.

Johnson, 13 other parishioners -- all unpaid volunteers -- and six VISTA volunteers staff the center in the one-time tavern. Johnson recalled helping shut down the bar years ago because of neighborhood objections to its atmosphere.

They work in an unmarked red-brick building, gutted and redone inside, with a partial wooden front, at the corner of Harford Road and Gorsuch Avenue.

A "Quality of Life, Inc." sign is coming soon. Meanwhile, how do people know the whereabouts of Quality of Life? "They all know where we are," said Johnson. "Word of mouth."

Another volunteer adds that "everyone knows Mrs. Johnson," who has lived 30 years in the area,

In the front room, the volunteers run a minimart offering clothing and household goods, such as soap and toothpaste, at reduced rates to impoverished residents. In another room are canned goods, mainly for emergencies. "After the first emergency, people must really prove their need," Johnson said.

Offices are used for counseling. In another room, Grace White, another worker, coordinates projects such as community involvement in the SHARE program of Catholic Charities, offering discounted food for volunteer work once a month.

Johnson is a former school board and elections board member who has worked for affordable housing and other goals for low-income people. A widow, she is the mother of five, grandmother of 14 and great-grandmother of two. In her current job, she counsels residents on matters ranging from home ownership to family problems.

JTC "We're growing," said Ms. Johnson. "We have 217 members on fixed incomes paying $6 a year. Many others come here, too. The discount food is for people in emergencies. The mini-mart's toilet paper, clothing, detergent and so on are for fixed-income and low-income people."

Archbishop William Borders, in announcing the annual awards, said, "The CHD provides a way out, not a handout."

Other winning local groups are:

Solidarity in Baltimore, an offshoot of BUILD (Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development), $50,000, for its work for higher wages, job protection, benefits and insurance discounts for low-income contract workers. It won "living wage" legislation in the City Council last year for work done under city contracts, creating a minimum hourly wage targeted to reach $7.70 in four years.

Baltimore Jobs with Peace, $22,000, a third grant for its economic development program to provide jobs for low-income residents in Franklin Square and Coppin Heights.

New Southwest Community Association, $18,500, for leadership training for volunteers, and for hiring part-time staff to help in better delivery of city services.

Tri-Churches Housing, $8,000, to continue the rehabilitation started by pastors and residents in 1985 to provide decent, low-cost housing. It has renovated 27 units and bought seven more for renovation and sale in 1997.

Latrobe Resident Council Inc., $8,000, for organizing and training leaders in public housing.

The Park-Reist Corridor Coalition/Baltimore Civic Works, $4,000, to provide a focus for its work to improve quality of life in Park Heights/Reisterstown Road corridor.

The American Catholic bishops began the annual campaign in 1970 to promote "social justice and to help with low-income self-help groups." Catholics donate once a year just before Thanksgiving, but self-help recipients include non-Catholics.

Since 1970, Baltimore archdiocesan Catholics have given $2.5 million, and 90 local groups have shared more than $3 million from local and national donations.

Recipients are chosen by the national CHD office in Washington and local archdiocesan committees with at least half of whose members are poor. "This is so lawyers in New York don't decide on projects for Native Americans in Arizona," Burke said.

Pub Date: 8/22/96

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