Outreach center to break ground on expansion St. Ambrose to add clinic, preschool, housing

July 23, 1998|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

St. Ambrose Family Outreach Center, which has been offering food, housing and educational assistance to the poor in Park Heights for more than 25 years, will break ground today on a $2.1 million expansion that will quadruple its space.

Once construction is finished in July 1999, St. Ambrose will expand its services to include a preschool, a health care clinic and short-term emergency housing for women and children.

"This will dramatically increase the amount of space they will have available to them," said John J. Schiavone, executive director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Baltimore, which runs St. Ambrose. The center will grow from 3,000 square feet to nearly 13,000 square feet.

The outreach center was started in 1972 as a ministry of St. Ambrose Roman Catholic Church and taken over by the St. Vincent de Paul Society in 1996.

"It got to the point where it was too much for the church to operate on its own, and they were looking for a partner to take over and go with it. And that's where we came into play," Schiavone said.

St. Ambrose's many programs are crammed into the two buildings it occupies. A preschool program that operated in the basement for several years had to close because the ceiling was 3 inches too low to comply with state standards.

It was always a headache to keep the tiny kitchen, where a hot meal is cooked each day for 80 to 100 people, up to the standards of the city code, said Sister Charmaine Krohe, a School Sister of Notre Dame who has operated St. Ambrose since it opened.

Yesterday was a typical example of the activity at St. Ambrose every day. On the first floor, about 30 neighborhood children attending the summer day camp played bingo before boarding a bus to go to a pool for swimming.

Upstairs, shifts of 20 people at a time crowded into several tables in the dining room for a lunch of chicken salad, bow-tie pasta, salad and rolls. In an office next door, a worker interviewed families in need of rent assistance. Last night, teen-agers gathered to play games and eat snacks as part of the night teen summer camp.

The expansion, which will be paid for by a combination of city and state money, private donations and foundation grants, will enable St. Ambrose to expand its educational programs, which include basic literacy, instruction for General Educational Development to earn a high school diploma and the "Learn to Earn" job skills training.

In another project that should begin in October, St. Ambrose will buy and renovate 15 rowhouses on nearby Cottage Avenue that will be used for transitional housing for families.

Pub Date: 7/23/98

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