U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined religious figures, community leaders and local residents to bring attention to a substantial amount of federal funding directed toward rebuilding underprivileged communities in West Baltimore.
The Rev. Al Hathaway led the concise press conference that celebrated the allocation of congressionally directed investments to three community-based organizations that totaled $1.5 million. The gathering, which attracted a few dozen attendees, including Baltimore City Councilman Eric Costello and former Mayor Sheila Dixon was on April 1, 2022 at the site of Thurgood Marshall’s elementary school — Public School No. 103 on Division Street.
Sens. Cardin and Van Hollen “fought to ensure that these funds became part of the fiscal year omnibus funding package enacted on March 15,” according to the Office of Ben Cardin.
Along with Hathaway, the Rev. Derrick DeWitt and the Rev. Patrick Clayborn were among the notable guests at the press conference. The three faith leaders administer the organizations that were recipients of federal funding that will enable them to facilitate various initiatives and projects focused on rebuilding underserved communities in West Baltimore.
Clayborn, the pastor of Bethel AME Church, was present on behalf of the Bethel Empowerment and Wellness Center, the church’s nonprofit community arm, which received $251,000 that will help expansion of the establishment— from meeting rooms, to an industrial kitchen to provide nutritious meals for families, to other comprehensive services geared toward the surrounding Upton community.
Clergy United for the Transformation of Sandtown-Winchester (CUTS), led by DeWitt, was awarded $250,000 which will fund revitalization efforts for the Sandtown Community Center.
Lastly, Beloved Community Services Corporation, of which Hathaway is president and CEO, received $1 million that will assist the renovation project of P.S. 103 in addition to workforce training and educational opportunities, among other programs and initiatives included in what will be the Justice Thurgood Marshall Amenity Center. The building is still labeled “Upton’s Henry Highland Garnett Community Center.”
The total cost for the renovation of P.S. 103 will be more than $12 million, said Hathaway, adding that he and his partners will settle on the project’s financing by the end of April and will begin construction on July 2.
“The federal government, as well as corporate and private partners recognize that this community has experienced some historic disnivestment and now you’re going to see some investment come,” said Hathaway, a community activist who also serves as the Pastor Emeritus of the historic Union Baptist Church.
“This community is going to see a resurgence of investment and it will be catalytic, but the most important thing is that in this community the people have to be the beneficiaries of that investment and we’re going to make sure that happens.”
Van Hollen was made aware of the project about a year ago and said he and Cardin have been working directly with Hathaway and others to incorporate P.S. 103 into the National Park Service system, aiming to preserve the site as a historical designation.
“The vision, of course, is to restore that building, but not simply make it a memorial to the past but to make it a living legacy,” Van Hollen said.
“It’s a place where we will continue the work of the great Thurgood Marshall. There will be classrooms, there will be opportunities for law students. There will be lots of opportunities to remember the great work that Justice Thurgood Marshall did and bring that into the present and into the future as we go forward.
“We are pleased Reverend Hathaway, to work with you to secure $1 million for the Public School 103 program. Congratulations.”
When Cardin took the podium, he expressed gratitude toward the faith leaders in attendance and said he was impelled to respond to a demand for “more community centers,” which are often pivotal contributors to a neighborhood’s well-being and success, he highlighted.
“This is the type of community investment that gives great hope for the future,” Cardin said. “We know the community is strong in its residents, but it needs community facilities to be able to grow and have a future.”
In addition to the development and renovation of the Sandtown Community Center, the $250,000 received by CUTS will enable the establishment to provide small business incubation, a community meeting place and retail, health and business opportunities for residents.
“This is a great opportunity for that community for sure,” said DeWitt, also the pastor of First Mount Calvary Baptist Church.
For the first time in about 15 years, U.S. senators from Maryland have secured direct congressional funding, Van Hollen said gleefully.
“This was an initiative we believed in,” Van Hollen said. “This is something that we have a lot of passion about because of the needs here in West Baltimore and the potential… and so that requires investment and this has been a passion of mine – securing these funds.”