Associate Black Charities is hosting “Community Convos” in various neighborhoods across Baltimore City to engage residents around the concerns and opportunities in their communities. On July 26, ABC leaders spoke to residents of the Poppleton neighborhood. (Credit: Courtesy of ABC)

By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,

Southwest Baltimore residents gathered to voice their opinions about opportunities and obstacles in the Poppleton neighborhood during a community conversation hosted by Associated Black Charities (ABC) in Poppleton on July 26. 

“Community Convos,” as ABC has dubbed them, were launched this year to engage residents around the assets and needs of their communities. Since then, the organization has hosted discussions in several neighborhoods including Cherry Hill, Mondawmin and Johnston Square. 

The event was co-hosted by University of Maryland School of Pharmacy’s PATIENTS Program, which works with patients and providers to discern treatment options that equitably benefit health and quality of life for community members. 

“The purpose of our Community Convos is not to take the place of community association meetings. Our purpose is to convene stakeholders, partners and community residents to come and have a level platform,” said Bernard Sims, director of culture and community for ABC. “Everybody here is somebody, and everybody here is important.”

Sonia Eaddy, president of the Poppleton Now Community Association, started the conversation off by sharing the news of the groundbreaking for the $2 million renovation of the Poppleton Recreation Center at Greater Model Park. The facility, which once offered swimming, skating and family activities, has been vacant for more than two decades. 

In 2021, Southwest Partnership took over its operations and began plans to reopen it with the help of the Southwest Sports and Fitness Alliance. 

“The community has worked diligently to find the key and get the funding to get those doors open,” said Eaddy, who’s served as president  since 2017.

She is a third-generation Poppleton resident. Her paternal grandfather became a homeowner on the 300 block of N. Carrollton Ave in the 1940s, and she has lived on the same block ever since. 

Eaddy said the Poppleton she remembered growing up is much different than the one today. The neighborhood was brimming with amenities, like markets, a furniture store, a pharmacy, banks and a bakery. 

“There was so much that you didn’t really have to leave your neighborhood. I would love to see Poppleton restored to a place where people will want to live,” said Eaddy. “The only way that that can happen is by building and making sure that [residents] can purchase rather than continuing to make this a transient place of rentals.”

Several attendees went on to praise Eaddy’s leadership in the community, thanking her for her commitment and support such as Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby.

“We all literally stand on the back of Madam President here. It’s this level of engagement that Poppleton needs to continue to have because you don’t have a better voice in the city of Baltimore outside of your president,” said Mosby. “Leverage that.” 

Mosby went on to highlight his focus on Baltimore’s inclusionary housing legislation, which expired last June. He said the previous policy only produced about 30 affordable housing units in the city. 

“We’re doing inclusionary housing to ensure that we do not create communities with concentrations of poverty,” said Mosby. “What we don’t want to do is disproportionately disinvest in certain communities, while we invest in the pockets of developers to ‘allow’ people to live in their buildings. That’s not what inclusionary housing is.” 

Howard Hughes, who resides in Hollins Roundhouse, addressed Mosby about the food deserts, or areas lacking in fresh food, impairing the health of not only the Poppleton neighborhood, but the broader Southwest Baltimore community as a whole. 

“With the closing of Price Rite, addressing the need for fresh food and a decent grocery store within walking distance is an ongoing situation now with the elderly in the area and even with the youth,” said Hughes. “We’re talking about youth who are just going to the corner store and getting candy or a chicken box for breakfast versus a square meal.” 

He asked Mosby where the city was in locating a new grocery store for the area. The city council president explained that he is working with the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development for the agency’s request for proposals (RFPs) to include community market analyses. This would enable projects to be awarded based on the immediate needs of the community. 

“It’s one thing to put out an RFP that specifically ties down the needs and assessment of a community, and you get nothing back,” said Mosby. “But we have to at least try to see if there are capable developers out there that are willing to go after and address the needs of our community.” 

Hughes has lived in Southwest Baltimore for 23 years and said food deserts have been a perpetual problem in the area. He pointed out the risk they pose to residents’ health. 

“There is a greater disparity of health concerns, especially in the Black and Brown neighborhoods with diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity,” said Hughes. “Not having a good source of grocery stores or fresh goods increases that exponentially.” 

Megan Sayles is a Report for America Corps member. 

#SouthwestBaltimore #ABC #community

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