Submitted to the AFRO by Mayor Catherine Pugh

On March 7 at the Baltimore City Community College I entered a room full of community advocates and associations.  These were groups from across the city that have been working individually, collectively, some in their own silos and many towards the same goals to improve their neighborhoods and uplift people. There were actually 35 groups about to share in nearly $2 million in grants being distributed by the city through the Department of Housing and Community Development Office led by Michael Braverman to assist their efforts.

The small grants, called Catalyst Grants, are a part of the city’s commitment to share funds initially derived from creating our own Neighborhood Impact Investment Fund with local groups with lofty community goals.

They were excited. They were talking with each other, sharing stories.  A few were familiar because they had also received Community Development Block Grant Funding.  Most had not.  Their paths had crossed on several occasions. I could barely get through the crowd without someone expressing thanks for the attention they were expecting to receive that evening.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh

I knew most of the individuals in the room. I’ve seen them active in their various communities, working on different projects and some passionately expressive at the various community meetings I’ve attended.  I had even encountered some of them on my weekly walks through neighborhoods and communities that are suffering from crime problems with my Violence Reduction Initiative Team.

Many new their commanders in the various police districts and had complained about open air drug markets and wanting more visibility of police and some worked closely with the police department in their youth initiatives.  Among them were extraordinary people doing extraordinary things all with one goal in mind: to improve their communities.

What was missing from the room filled with laughter and joy about the work they are doing and the small awards they were about to receive was the news media.

I share this story with you and will list the 35 recipients because in a few weeks, we will distribute another $3 million dollars in capital grants to several more groups around the city to help them continue their work. They are derived from the city raising its bonding capacity.

The Neighborhood Impact Investment Fund, you may have read about, was created by this administration.  It was thinking creatively on how to capitalize on our assets instead of selling them, as we did in 1972 when we sold our airport, Friendship, to the state of Maryland for $36 million.

We took three city garages leased them to the state, bonded them and paid off all the debt and netted $52 million which is now up to almost $80 million.  This money will be used to invest in neighborhoods under invested for decades from Park Heights to East Baltimore.

On this day, we distributed nearly $2 million dollars.

We intend to do this every year.

Among the recipients of these funds are: Arch Social Community Network, Baltimore Good Neighbors Coalition, Baltimore Roundtable for Economic Democracy, Baltimore Youth Kinetic Energy, Belair-Edison, Bikemore, Black Women Build Baltimore, Bon Secours, Bridges, Central Baltimore Partnership, Cherry Hill Development Corporation, Coldstream Homestead Montebello, Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation, Clergy United for the Transformation of Sandtown Winchester, East North Avenue CDC, Enside Out Inc., Forest Park Alliance& WBC CDC,  Garrison Restorative Action and Community Empowerment, Greater Bay Brook Alliance and CASA, Habitat for the Humanity of the Chesapeake, Hanlon Improvement Association, Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition Inc., Holy Nativity St. John’s Development Corporation, Impact HUB Baltimore, & Twilight Quest, Intersection of Change, KMW/Threshold, Leaders of A Beautiful Struggle, Peoples Homesteading Group, Parks & People Foundation, The Neighborhood Design Center, St. Francis Neighborhood Center, Sandtown Harlem Park Master Plan Collective, Southwest Partnership, Station North Tool Library, and Upton Planning Committee, Inc.

Thank you all for your work and the work you will do.

Catherine Pugh is the mayor of Baltimore City.

The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
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