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Friday, June 2, 2023

The ‘March’ Culminates Where It All Began

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Roberta's House
The Roberta’s House Bereavement Center at the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building located at 928 E. North Ave. Photo: Ursula V. Battle

Part Two of Series on Roberta’s House

Established in 2007, Roberta’s House moved into its first professional office at 1900 N. Broadway, and has provided services to over 8,000 children and adults. Since opening, the non-profit has become the leading pioneer in
addressing grief as public health prevention against violent behavior.

Even with the success of the program, Annette March-Grier pressed for more, wanting to see Roberta’s House offer a larger space to accommodate its growing programs, staff, and services. March-Grier also wanted Roberta’s House to accommodate a greater number of people in need of bereavement care.

With those goals in mind, she began a new journey, leading the ‘March’ to generate $12 million dollars thorough a capital campaign effort for the construction of a new building. The ambitious fundraising drive also included members of Roberta’s House board of directors, Maryland Legislative leaders, foundations, and the community.

The result of their efforts came to fruition in January 2021, with the opening of the Roberta’s House Bereavement Center at the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building.

The new facility is located at 928 E. North Avenue, in Baltimore, and is the first bereavement center in the nation founded by, and serving, the African American community. The state-of-the-art center includes a library resource center, multi-purpose room, theatre, art activity room, fitness room game room, expression room, conference rooms, family counseling rooms, and administrative offices.

“The vision was never this big, but as the programs continued to grow and the staff continued to grow, I felt the building we were in wasn’t big enough,” said March-Grier, president and co-founder of Roberta’s House. “I began thinking, we need to acquire the whole block,” she said, referring to the 900 block of E. North Avenue – the original location of March Funeral Homes, which later became the administrative offices.

“We needed more space for parking, programs and staff, so I went to the board of directors about acquiring the whole block. I thank The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the Maryland General Assembly, Governor Larry Hogan, and so many others for their support in making this possible.”

The 22,000 square foot building is built on the landmark of row homes at 928 E. North Avenue, where March Funeral Home was originally founded in 1957. According to March-Grier, the expansion allows the organization to double its support in addressing the growing concerns of urban grief and provide healing for the entire family system.

“With the new center we have the capacity to increase the number of families we serve each year…we can now help up to 300 people a week,” she said. “We have been here since February, and moved completely out of the last location. We are all full of excitement and gratitude to be here. The community and volunteers have been in prayer for this project since the beginning. To see the fruition of the fruits is awesome.”

While the program is in operation, the building has not yet been opened to the public due to the COVID pandemic.

“COVID forced us to quickly pivot into virtual support groups,” said March- Grier. “Nothing has stopped. We have helped people to adjust to this new way of having groups now. People have adapted quite well. The biggest question people are asking is when we are opening. They can’t wait to come inside. But we are being very strategic about how we are going to bring people into the space safely. We are hoping by mid-summer, but it depends on how Maryland progresses with the vaccinations and where things stand with the pandemic.”

March-Grier is the daughter of William Carrington March – a former postal worker, and Julia Roberta March, founders of March Funeral Homes. Her siblings are Cynthia, Erich, and Victor, co-founders of Roberta’s House, named in memory of their mother.

The four along with other members of their family, operate March Funeral Homes, one of the major African-American funeral service businesses in the nation with locations in Baltimore, Prince Georges County, Washington, DC, and Richmond, Va.

The family also founded King Memorial Park, the largest African-American owned and operated cemetery in the United States.

“Some of the older neighbors will ring the bell and tell us the history about the funeral home and our parents,” said March-Grier. “Some will talk about my father working at the post office and others talk about March Funeral Homes handling services for their loved ones.

There have been so many warm welcomes, prayers, and well-wishes. My mother was so caring and was always helping somebody out. Her spirit of love lives on along with her compassion through Roberta’s House.”

For more information about the Roberta’s House Bereavement Center at the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building visit www.robertashouse.org.

Roberta's House
The new location’s Assembly Room, a space to provide meals to Roberta’s House participants. Photo: Ursula V. Battle



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