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A Good P.L.A.S.E. to start off the New Year

1/20/2017, 6 a.m.
Baltimore County official hosts fundraiser to fight homelessness
Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch and Jeff Mayzck during Dr. Branch’s annual Project P.L.A.S.E. fundraiser on New Year's Day. Project P.L.A.S.E. serves the most vulnerable and underserved, including persons with mental illness, HIV/AIDS, addiction, developmental disabilities and ex-offenders and aims to empower each individual to function at the highest level possible. Ursula V. Battle

— January 1 marks the beginning of a New Year. However, for supporters of Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch’s annual Project P.LA.S.E. (People Lacking Ample Shelter and Employment) fundraiser, this day also brings a memorable time of great food, fun, and fellowship - all while supporting a worthwhile cause.

Dr. Branch serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Project P.L.A.S.E. Inc., whose central office is located on Frederick Avenue in Baltimore. The organization addresses homelessness in Baltimore by providing transitional housing, permanent housing and supportive services to homeless adults. Their vision is to eliminate homelessness.

“2017 is my 15th year hosting this event,” said Dr. Branch. "Homelessness, has very little to do with brick and mortar. Homelessness is actually ‘relationshiplessness.’ We are trying to help the most vulnerable people to not only get a home, but to rebuild their relationships.”

He added, “My best friend, Anthony Allen, IV was an employee of Project P.L.A.C.E., and introduced me to the organization. This cause is near and dear to my heart.”

The event drew an estimated 100 people, which included Baltimore County Councilman Julian E. Jones Jr., Pastor P.M. Smith of Huber Memorial Church on York Road in Baltimore, and Pastor Alex O. Stone and First Lady Irene Stone of Olivet Baptist Church on Edmonson Avenue in Baltimore. Heaven 600 AM on-air radio personality Dr. Shirley K. Russell and her daughter Shirlethea “LeLe” Holmes, and author Stella Adams also attended the event.

First Lady Irene Stone and Pastor Alex O. Stone of Olivet Baptist Church are longtime supporters of the annual event.

Ursula V. Battle

First Lady Irene Stone and Pastor Alex O. Stone of Olivet Baptist Church are longtime supporters of the annual event.

The expansive menu included fried chicken, oatmeal, shrimp, jambalaya, peas and rice, homemade biscuits, sausage, ham, collard greens cabbage, macaroni and cheese, and vegetable ziti. Musician David White also played the piano during the event, while Holmes sang along.

“The goal of this year’s event was to raise as much money as possible for The Beacon House Square Project, which is a school building that was purchased on Frederick Road,” said Dr. Branch. “The plan is to convert the building into housing for the homeless.”

Beacon House Square’s target population will be homeless men and women with either a history of mental illness, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, or other needs. The facility will house four men and 12 men in dormitory style living.

Project P.L.A.S.E. serves the most vulnerable and underserved, including persons with mental illness, HIV/AIDS, addiction, developmental disabilities, and ex-offenders and aims to empower each individual to function at the highest level possible.

The organization’s philosophy is to stand with and serve marginalized and underprivileged individuals and families who lack access to resources in the larger community. Project P.L.A.S.E. offers emergency housing, and 24-hour supported supervision and case management for residents. The organization also provides residents with three meals daily, linens, bus tokens when available, assistance with medical appointments, and clothing as needed.

“Since I started hosting this fundraiser, we have been able to raise approximately $50,000 for Project P.L.A.S.E,” said Dr. Branch, who also serves as Director of Health and Human Services for Baltimore County. “This event has become a tradition, and start’s the New Year off in a positive way. I thank all of those who support this effort year after year, and have joined me in taking an active step in helping to eradicate homelessness.”