Clinton Street Community Center Beginnings - A letter from Pastor Mark Parker
Dear friends and neighbors,
Peace and joy be with you today and throughout this Christmas season! I hope that it represents a good break for you and those whom you love, and a chance to rest and enjoy time together. And while we have not been able to gather with our extended families and friends in the same way this year, vaccines hold the promise that our future celebrations will be a bit more full.
In looking ahead to the new year, our church and school are exploring an opportunity which would allow us to be able to expand our ministry, support more families with our school, and better serve our community. We wanted to let you know about it now so that we could all be working with the same information, and so that as a community we could come alongside and support this effort if and when it shifts into a certain thing.
A fire on November 22nd damaged three houses immediately adjacent to our church building and did some damage to the church building itself. One of those houses was vacant, while the other two were occupied. There was no loss of life, and we have helped to coordinate the community response to the fire and the support of the families driven from their homes. Our support for them continues as they continue to rebuild their lives.
One outcome of the fire is that the two properties directly north of our building are likely to be available for purchase. We are in touch with ownership for both properties, all of whom are very open to that conversation.
The plan would be to purchase and renovate those properties for multiple uses, in accordance with our mission of our congregation and the needs of our community. The primary use will be the expansion of The Highlandtown Preschool. While the pandemic has disrupted the growth pattern of our school, we were able to successfully return to in-class education back in July and have continued to add students through the fall term. The underlying need for high-quality and equitable early childhood education has not lessened in our community—in fact, this pandemic has only heightened the importance of it for families in our area. We believe that we are well-positioned to emerge from the pandemic with a growing staff and a growing school.
The purchase and renovation of these two houses would allow us to add two-year-olds to our program. Two-year-old slots are significantly harder to find in early childhood education centers here in our area, and about half of the inquiries we receive are from families looking for such an opportunity for their child. Not only will we be providing a much-needed form of support for students and families, but bringing students in at two years old allows us to work with them for three entire years before sending them to kindergarten. Their outcomes and our school community will be better as a result—and having more long-term stability in our student body lessens the burden on recruitment each year and allows us to develop stronger partnerships with our parents.
We will also use space in the two buildings to house our future student pastors (like Vicar Alyssa Kaplan last year), giving them an independent living situation here in our community and allowing us to invest the money we would have spent on their rental housing back into the loan payments on these two properties. Other future uses are still to be determined, but will be guided by the mission of our congregation and the needs of our community.
We are in conversation with the ownership of both properties right now. Clearly one of the main considerations for whether this project will happen is cost--for purchase and for renovation. A related consideration is our financing and our fundraising. The lower we can keep our costs, and the more we can raise now, the stronger the long-term prospects are for this project. Our goal in the next two months is to raise $120,000 (in hand and future commitments--receivable by July 1st, 2021) toward the project costs. We have already received commitments for $60,000, and are working now to raise the rest. If you or someone you know would be interested in supporting this effort, they can use this form to make a commitment, or may simply mail a check to the office at 141 S. Clinton Street, Baltimore, MD 21224, or use the PayPal donation link for the on the Clinton Street Community Center website.
For those considering a donation toward this effort before the end of the year, there is a particular provision of the CARES Act which may be relevant for you. For those who do not itemize, the CARES Act allows all taxpayers to deduct up to $300 this year for a gift to a non-profit. This deduction is available for everyone. For those of you who still itemize, this year you will be able to deduct cash contributions to offset up to 100% of your income. This benefit goes away after December 31st. Please check out the IRS website for more information.
Thank you for being part of our church and school community, and for being so supportive of our work in and for our neighborhood! Major projects like this are only possible with the support of our congregation as a whole, plus friends and neighbors. We will be in touch with you as the project progresses. If you have any questions, please be in touch with me at Lsmparker@gmail.com, or (443) 683-2582.
Mark Parker, Pastor
with Brynn Huffman, Council President