State grant aids church in opening job center Payne Memorial is first in Maryland to join welfare reform effort

September 29, 1997|By Marilyn McCraven | Marilyn McCraven,SUN STAFF

Payne Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church yesterday became the first Maryland church to join the welfare reform effort by officially opening a job training center underwritten by government.

At ribbon-cutting ceremonies of Payne's Intensive Job Service Program on South Baylis Street in Canton yesterday, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and state government representatives said the center heralded a new age of government, church and business partnerships to solve social problems.

"The city government doesn't have the funds to do it alone, neither does the private sector," said Schmoke. "We all have to work together."

In competitive bidding, Payne won a $1.5 million state contract to provide a wide range of services to 1,000 welfare recipients over two years and help place them in jobs.

The contract blurs the line between church and state, which is not only permitted but also encouraged under federal welfare reform legislation passed by Congress last year.

'Strengthening factor'

"We see no other alternatives but to step in and be TC strengthening factor in the weakened areas of the human services safety net," said the Rev. Vashti McKenzie, Payne's pastor.

Payne is one of many churches helping Baltimore's poor to cope with welfare reform, say local church officials.

In West Baltimore, representatives of 30 churches plan to meet next month to discuss possible programs, said the Rev. Maurice Blackwell, a priest at St. Edward's Roman Catholic Church.

Blackwell is eyeing a vacant health center as a possible site for a job training center.

Ideal partners

Churches and welfare reform are ideal partners, said Lynda G. Fox, a deputy secretary in the state's Department of Human Resources.

"There's a great interest in the religious community in helping people learn to fish rather than giving them fish -- that's what this is about," said Fox.

Under federal welfare reform, for the first time, churches aren't required to set aside their message when contracting with the state. The federal government's aim is to draw in a wider variety of organizations providing social services.

Fox said the key protection of the rights of people receiving services will be the variety of providers, most of which have a secular base.

Pub Date: 9/29/97

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