On May 25, 2022, the Cook family’s Northeastern Supply, Inc. donated a 26,000-square-foot retail building to the Ames Shalom Community, Inc., during a transfer-of-property ceremony, to support The Resurrection Sandtown Project’s revitalization efforts in the community. The event was held at the corner of Pennsylvania Ave. and Baker St. Two nearby properties totaling 10,000 square feet were also donated. Pastor Rodney Hudson of the Ames Memorial United Methodist Church (Ames) represented Ames Shalom Community, Inc.
In an interview with The Baltimore Times, Steve Cook— CEO of Northeastern Supply, Inc., explained why the family-owned business, which is a wholesale distributor of plumbing, heating, air conditioning and water systems – made the Northeastern Supply’s Sandtown store and additional property a gift.
“We (Northeastern Supply, Inc.) had been in West Baltimore for 20 or 25 years, and honestly had seen that part of Baltimore… really, not fare as well as some other parts of Baltimore. We still operated a profitable business there and… survived through the Freddie Gray riots,” Cook said. “But as I would visit that store, it just became apparent that, as I said to the pastor (Hudson), ‘Baltimore needs help, but West Baltimore really needs help.’”
Sandtown-Winchester is the community where Freddie Gray once lived. He died following a spinal cord injury which resulted after a police encounter in 2015. Quality of life still needs improvement in a place which has been challenged by a plethora of battles.
Cook explained that someone needed to step up and make a difference. Northeastern Supply, Inc. operates approximately 40 locations in five states. The business owner recounted a story that began with his father buying Northeastern Supply, Inc. in 1971. Cook took the business over in 1987. His daughter, Stephanie Cook, also works for the company. The Cook family decided to invest in the community and support of The Resurrection Sandtown Project by donating the property which is located within the Historic Pennsylvania Avenue Black Arts & Entertainment District. Steve mentioned that no jobs were cut because Northeastern Supply, Inc.’s West Baltimore location was shuttered. Employees shifted to other stores.
“You know, there’s probably a lot of people like me that could do this and just don’t,” Steve said. “As the pastor (Hudson) said, ‘I’m hoping this gift, and I’m confident that this gift, is not just going to be a band aid.’ This is something that I hope for… the next generation, and the next generation can say, ‘Wow, that that helped turn this neighborhood around. So that’s my goal.’”
Before the pandemic began, Hudson called the Cooks and asked about a small, unused piece of land. After COVID-19 calmed down, Stephanie called to set up a meeting with Hudson. The Cooks had a chance to learn about Hudson’s vision for the neighborhood. It included a 24/7 daycare, after school activities, and possibly looping in the Boys & Girls Club. The conversation led the Cooks to feel that providing the property and building donation beyond Hudson’s initial request was the right thing to do.
Van Beall, a trustee at Ames, provided a history of The Resurrection Sandtown Project, dating back to 2016. Hudson and Bishop LaTrelle Easterling and others were instrumental in initially exploring project ideas. According to Resurrection Sandtown’s website, “the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church” approved “funding to acquire neighboring property from private owners and Baltimore City to expand the project’s footprint” in May of 2018. Beall explained the reason why an empty lot that Northeastern Supply, Inc. previously owned was a desirable addition.
“We wished to acquire the empty lot because that would help us to create the rectangle that we wanted at the corner of Baker and Pennsylvania,” Beall said.
By March of 2022, Northeastern Supply, Inc. made a donation offer. Acceptance of it doubled Resurrections Sandtown’s footprint.
“With this gift, we really were caught by surprise, but so we’re going to be taking our time figuring out what’s the right thing to do. This is an enormous gift for the community. The Cook family’s focus was making sure it benefited the community,” Beall said.
Hudson further explained that emails sent by Beall led to Stephanie’s follow up to meet about the initial property request. Hudson was mulling over ideas to offer the Cooks a modest sum for it. Offering a large amount was simply not in the budget. A positive result was in the making. Conversations had been held about what types of services should be included in the Resurrection Sandtown project for quite some time. Since paying for the lot had been removed from the conversation, Hudson and Beall could redirect their energies to address how the Cook’s donation could be best used. And now, a feasibility study is on the horizon.
“One thing we would like to deal with is the systemic structures that have led to the decline of our community,” Hudson said.
Job creation, supporting youth and children, senior housing, and providing wrap around services are being discussed.
“People like the Cooks can feed America with new ideas of how to become an overcomer,” Hudson said.
Please visit https://resurrectionsandtown.org/ to learn more about Resurrection Sandtown.