Reser­voir Hill’s is­land of sta­bil­ity eyes face-lift

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Ed­ward Lee ed­ward.lee@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Ed­wardLeeSun

In a mat­ter of months dur­ing his fourth-grade year at Waverly Ele­men­tary School in Bal­ti­more, Martin Walker Jr. went from be­ing an average stu­dent in his first two quar­ters to an honor-roll mem­ber in his fi­nal two mark­ing pe­ri­ods.

His fa­ther cred­its the staff and the ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses at St. Fran­cis Neigh­bor­hood Cen­ter in West Bal­ti­more with his son’s aca­demic im­prove­ment.

“I’m so grate­ful that this or­ga­ni­za­tion is here,” said Martin Walker Sr., a handy­man who lives about a block from the cen­ter in Reser­voir Hill. “I can’t imag­ine what he would be into with­out this cen­ter.”

Scott K. Thomp­son is hop­ing the cen­ter can pro­duce more suc­cess sto­ries af­ter un­der­go­ing a dra­matic makeover. The ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Du­raBante, a man­age­ment con­sult­ing firm in Sparks, and trea­surer of the cen­ter’s board of di­rec­tors, Thomp­son is or­ga­niz­ing an Oct. 17 golf in­vi­ta­tional to ben­e­fit St. Fran­cis at Hil­len­dale Coun­try Club in Phoenix.

Pro­ceeds will go to­ward the cen­ter’s Count On Me Cam­paign, a pro­ject de­signed to ren­o­vate and ex­pand the his­toric four-story town­house at the cor­ner of Lin­den Av­enue and White­lock Street. The plan’s first phase — re­plac­ing the roof of the fa­cil­ity, founded in 1963 by the late Rev. Thomas F. Com­posto — be­gan in Au­gust.

The sec­ond part of the pro­posal in­volves at least dou­bling the cen­ter’s 6,000 square feet of space by adding class­rooms, an art stu­dio, a me­dia lab and li­brary and mul­ti­pur­pose space. Christi Green, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at St. Fran­cis, said the in­sti­tu­tion has raised about $500,000 of the pro­ject’s $4 mil­lion price tag.

The cen­ter, which works with 100 chil­dren ages 5 to 14 through ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams and has served 36,000 peo­ple over­all, needs a face-lift. Paint in some rooms has flaked off the walls. The frame of the kitchen door had to be re­moved to fit a re­frig­er­a­tor through.

Thomp­son con­nected with St. Fran­cis af­ter his son Connor and his Boy Scout troop vis­ited the cen­ter on sev­eral oc­ca­sions to dis­trib­ute Christ­mas presents. Work­ing with the fa­cil­ity since this past win­ter, Thomp­son­said he was struck by the fact that many stu­dents and their fam­i­lies sought so­lace at St. Fran­cis dur­ing the days of un­rest af­ter the death of Fred­die Gray from in­juries suf­fered while in po­lice cus­tody in Bal­ti­more.

“The kids grav­i­tated to the cen­ter as a safe place,” he said. “So they re­ally see it as an ex­ten­sion to their homes.”

KIM HAIRSTON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Young peo­ple study at St. Fran­cis Neigh­bor­hood Cen­ter’s youth de­vel­op­ment pro­gram.

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