As we enter the summer, when many things slow down, BUILD and Redeemer’s engagement with its multiple initiatives is gaining momentum. Below is a brief update on Redeemer’s work with BUILD on several fronts:

ReBuild Metro: ReBuild Metro is BUILD’s affiliate organization undertaking meaningful rehabilitation and renovation of housing in east Baltimore, implementing these projects while also preventing dislocation and gentrification. Having successfully completed substantial neighborhood housing reclamations in both the Oliver and Greenmount West neighborhoods, ReBuild Metro is now actively pursuing its third major project, this one centered on Johnston Square. A number of parishioners are actively involved in this initiative, and many more are welcome. There may also be an important role for Redeemer to play in advancing this effort.

Turnaround Tuesday: Turnaround Tuesday is BUILD’s affiliate which takes a unique approach to preparing returning citizens and other people searching for successful integration into the workplace. Instead of a traditional “job training” approach, Turnaround Tuesday provides its participants with an immersive program that educates them about the cultural, behavioral, and relationship norms and values of a commercial business. This critical, yet frequently overlooked, aspect of equipping people with core knowledge about functioning effectively in a workplace is the key to Turnaround Tuesday’s success. Since 2015, Turnaround Tuesday has successfully placed almost 700 people into full-time jobs, with a one-year retention rate in excess of 80%, a remarkable success. Our parishioners can play a meaningful role in a number of ways, including extending Turnaround Tuesday’s access to employers for its program graduates.

Member Expansion: Redeemer has actively worked to introduce new members to BUILD. Specifically, David, Cristina, and a number of parishioners participated in a conversation with the Bolton Street Synagogue about BUILD and the opportunities that come with a relationship. The Synagogue is moving thoughtfully toward becoming a member of BUILD alongside Redeemer. Parishioners are also working with the Roland Park Civic League to assist that group in evaluating the opportunities created by joining BUILD. All our parishioners are encouraged to think about organizations that might benefit by becoming members of BUILD.

BUILD and Education: Redeemer has worked with BUILD in following the progress of the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations as they work their way through the legislative process. With its enactment by the legislative assembly and the Governor’s releasing of funds, Kirwan will be subject to detailed discussion and debate during the coming legislative session on specifics revolving around the appropriate accountability framework as well as the allocation of funding responsibility as between the State and localities. Redeemer plans to sponsor a forum this fall to provide all constituencies the opportunity to review these important issues.

Redeemer’s relationship with BUILD is successful to the extent that a growing number of parishioners become engaged and remain involved. So far, with David’s and Cristina’s leadership, things are off to a strong start. We encourage everyone to think about how they might engage with BUILD. Anyone with questions about how to become involved or to learn more should feel free to contact David Ware.

~Peter Bain

Dear Folks,

Rebuild Metro has been around for 15 years, quietly working in East Baltimore.  In 2002 the team began acquiring scattered properties in the Oliver neighborhood, collaborating with five local churches from whom they raised $1.2 million dollars, along with the city, who agreed to sell them the houses at low cost and turn them over to Rebuild, address by address, as they were ready to rehabilitate them.  The developer, which is an outgrowth of BUILD (Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development), used economic data and community relationships to get things started, focusing on small areas where they knew the rehabs would produce the greatest effect.  “We build from strength,” said Sean Closkey, executive director of Rebuild, when I met him last Thursday.

“We work inward from natural boundaries—railroad tracks, a park, a business—to define an area where our work will have maximal impact.”  The neighborhood needs to feel the transformation, see it, and celebrate it “if our efforts are going to be relationship-based and long-lasting,” he said.  Perhaps most importantly, there has been no displacement of current residents.  “It’s hard to build relationships when the community is gone,” Closkey reported in a 2018 Guardian article.

“The model here is to rehabilitate existing houses, as well as to take smaller actions, such as fixing up a corner garden, or clearing an overgrown field. All this is of a piece – and built around organizing – with residents taking charge of consulting neighbors, identifying needs, and mobilizing resources with support from local institutions and philanthropies.” (Siddhartha Mitter, Guardian)

Closkey and I talked about the vacant houses in Baltimore (16,000 by last count, with the city owning 2500 of those) and compared typical “urban renewal” to the community-based work that Rebuild Metro embodies.  “Most often a developer acquires several blocks of a depressed neighborhood, helps the few remaining residents move to a new location, razes the existing housing stock, and builds a high density structure.  A block of twenty row homes might be replaced with sixty new residences.”

“But the Baltimore housing stock, which was built for a city with a population of one million people, arguably doesn’t need more houses.  Rather, neighborhoods like Oliver and Greenmount West are strengthened by being right-sized and having fewer houses, while adding more community-building features, like green spaces and coffee shops and small businesses. You can’t organize without residents,” Closkey adds, and since our vision is based on knowing the people we serve, “we help them stay in the neighborhood.”

“Place matters,” said the Reverend Calvin Keene, a former business executive who was called in midlife to be pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Oliver and to serve in the neighborhood that raised him.  “And we nurture individuals’ commitment to a house or a church or a block into something bigger—a community that cares about its common life.”  Keene is the board chair of Rebuild Metro, and he joined us for a tour, pointing out a playground where a drug market once plied its trade and a pocket park where a notorious tavern once stood.

Now, thanks to the tireless efforts of Regina Hammond, who has been organizing her block in Johnston Square for 20 years, Rebuild Metro will turn to this neighborhood which bridges the gap between Rebuild’s earlier projects.  The work is radical, restorative, and regenerative, according to their website—slow and steady and organic, the way a plant grows.

Take a look at www.rebuildmetro.com and pray about how it moves you.  If you want to learn more, reach out to me or parishioner Peter Bain.  How might Redeemer be called to be part of this transformative community collaboration?

Love,

David