Community Center Has History of Service in Baltimore Neighborhood By Christine A. Rowett Between bites of her 3 p.m. lunch, Gloria Ricks attempts to explain the many facets of the Lafayette Square Community Center. "We cook; we paint; we scrub; we do it all," said Ricks, executive director of the 40-year-old agency at 1510 W. Lafayette Ave. in West Baltimore. "Everybody does a little bit of everything." Programs include a licensed day-care center, after-school activities for students and counseling for high school dropouts and teens recently released from prison. The facility stresses its multigenerational status by also sponsoring programs for single parents and senior citizens. But it is the unofficial, informal services that the center provides that leave perhaps more of an impact on the community. Residents have been known to ask for everything from a notary to someone to accompany them on a visit to criminal court. "We attempt to service the community no matter what the need," Ricks said. "Sometimes we just have to hold someone's hand." The center is one of the more than 115 service agencies that will benefit from Hopkins United Way contributions. The campaign kicked off in September and will run through December. "The center has a very rich history in terms of providing services to this community," Ricks said. Founded in 1954, the center has been at its current location for 20 years. It is certified through the United Way of Central Maryland and accredited as a settlement house by United Neighborhood Centers of America. The center receives funds from the city, state and federal government, the United Way and other foundation grants. There are nominal fees for some services, such as summer camp, and private contributions make up the rest of the budget. "Of course we're understaffed, and we have all kinds of needs," said Ricks, who has been at the center five years. Some of the things Ricks would like to see added to the center include reliable transportation and drivers for members of the community who are housebound and professional counselors who will donate time to spend with those in need. The center is also working on getting a research grant to look at teen relationship abuse. "I can stand at my office window and look at them fighting," Ricks said. Sadly, she is not surprised. "I think the youth mirror what's happening to those in the adult world," she said. "Hopefully, we will be able to develop some prevention services." In order to service the between 19,000 and 20,000 residents Ricks estimates the center sees each year, the 26 staff members rely heavily on volunteers. "In many ways, we would not be able to do much of what we do without volunteers," Ricks said. Some are parents whose children use the center. Others are parents who attended center program themselves as children. For more information or to volunteer at the center, call 669-6646. For information about the United Way campaign, call Judy Peregoff in the Office of Faculty, Staff and Retiree Programs at 516-6060.
Go to Gazette Homepage