Baltimore City’s oldest youth enrichment center is celebrating as its multimillion-dollar expansion project nears completion.
Today, St. Francis Neighborhood Center serves more than 500 people regularly through its community programs each year. After the renovations, St. Francis’s staff and volunteer team will be able to triple that amount according to Torbin Green, the center’s executive director.
The renovations will add classroom and community space to the center, including a multipurpose area to make it easier for St. Francis to collaborate with other community organizations. The project is slated for completion by spring of 2024.
Green’s relationship with St. Francis is special and has lasted more than a decade. He started as a volunteer but quickly knew he wanted to be more involved after seeing the life of the center.
“I was floored at what was going on there, the safe place—kids coming and going,” Green says.
Green isn’t the only member of the team who was drawn in by the mission. Angela Miller, the center’s community engagement manager, also started as a volunteer.
Recently, she applied her skills to organizing the center’s spring gala, this year a masquerade.
According to Miller, this was St. Francis’ second annual spring gala. The gala serves not only as a fundraiser for the center’s power project and youth program but also as a celebration of St Francis’s students and their passions.
“St. Francis has always been a dependable, safe place for people to go,” Miller says.
The center was founded by Father Tom Compasto in 1972, with the mission to end generational poverty. Since then, St. Francis has continued to expand its community support programs. These include its Power Project afterschool program, Summer of Service excursion youth camp, Igniter Internship program and Black Beyond Data reading group.
“I’ve learned about different careers, different types of people. I’ve learned that you can have a good relationship with people you wouldn’t have expected,” says Zayon Hill, 15.
Zayon is one of St. Francis’s igniter interns. Right now, he’s involved with many community projects through St. Francis, and he’s learning practical skills he can use his whole life. In the future, Zayon hopes to be an architect, own his own business and play in the NFL.
St. Francis’s paid internship program has students come in four days per week and, each student gets a role. Some work in community engagement, some in teaching and others in marketing. The internships are a 16- to 17-hour per week time commitment and take place outside of school hours. The students learn a variety of skills like resume building, performance art and career and college preparation.
The center’s deep connection to the community’s past, present and future is undeniable.
Recently, two St. Francis students got lost in the neighborhood while playing, and while they didn’t know how to get back home, they knew how to get to St. Francis, and that there would be someone there to help, Miller says. The center reunited the students with their guardians.
To the students at St. Francis, “it means community,” she says.
St. Francis Neighborhood Center
2405 Linden Ave., Baltimore 21217
To learn more about how to get involved as a St. Francis volunteer, email [email protected].