BALTIMORE — Nehemiah 4:6 (KJV) says “So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.”
This scripture fits members of Fayette Street Outreach (FSO), an organization formed in 1993 to address the needs of the residents of the community. For these members have set their minds on working together to rebuild their community.
“FSO started in my mom’s house with about seven residents who wanted to make a change in the community,” said Edna Manns-Lake, President and Founder of Fayette Street Outreach, “Around that time, drug traffic had a heavy presence in our community. We soon developed a comprehensive community program. We boarded up houses, sponsored beautification projects, and worked with the police to identify drug hot spots. We conducted community clean-ups and established an after-school program with Boyd-Booth, another community association north of us.”
She added, “We marched the drug dealers off the corner. The dealers sat and looked at us and realized we weren’t going anywhere.”
According to Manns-Lake, FSO encompasses the areas of Mulberry Street, Monroe Street, Gwynns Falls Parkway and Warwick Avenue. She said the organization wanted to ‘build’ on their success by having its own building of brick and mortar.
“God blesses the child who has their own,” she said. “We wanted our own building.”
And, like those referenced in Nehemiah 4:6, the members of FSO had to overcome seemingly insurmountable circumstances in order to build. And like Nehemiah and his workers, they were victorious.
FSO recently held a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for their new building slated to open this year. Located at 29 N. Smallwood Street, the facility will include a Multi-Purpose Room, kitchen, Conference Room, and other areas. Computer, Art & Music, Mentoring, STEM, and Food Desert Awareness are among the programs that will be offered.
“Fayette Street Outreach is looking to make a difference,” said the building’s contractor William Tates. “I have watched the footprints of Fayette Street Outreach in this community, and they are consistently doing what it takes to make it work.”
He added, “They brought me in, and I was happy to be a part. We are saving souls one project at a time. Our goal is to grab the ones that don’t get an opportunity to go to college. Someone invested in me and that’s why I am here today.”
Tates, who is Manager of A&W Helping Hands, LLC, said he is looking to turn youth away from the lure of the drug trade by teaching them the tools of his contracting trade.
“I want to teach them basic skills because they will never be hungry,” said Tates. “We want to exercise all avenues to push these kids. My blueprint did not say I would be what I am today. But God had another plan. I probably would be a drug dealer, addict or dead. We come from the same swamp. We look just like these kids. But we are representing change. Their yesterdays don’t dictate their todays.”
Sterling Brunson is Treasurer of FSO.
“We work with the community so they can embrace themselves,” said Brunson. “There is a generational wealth gap in this area. We want to teach residents how to save money and reinvest in their community. We want to give people the opportunity to live and thrive in this community. We also give away food and produce. We don’t want to give handouts, but give people a leg up. Teaching people to be self-sufficient is the end goal.”
According to Timothy Bridges, Vice President of FSO, funding for the building was provided by a HUD grant, political allies, and other support.
“We developed these relationships and partnerships and was able to do this work with God’s help and somebody else’s resources”, said Bridges. “We are very adamant about having a place that youth and seniors can come and receive experiences that will be life-changing. Many of our citizens have a felony and can’t get a job. But locking people up won’t help us out of our situation.”
Bridges noted some of FSO’s community builders.
“We had a lot of people invest in our community such as Joy Bramble and Neal Muldrow,” said Bridges, referencing Baltimore Times Publisher Joy Bramble and businessman and Baltimore Times consultant Ackneil M. Muldrow II. “It shows the possibility of what can happen. We are in the mode that the sky is limit. There is nothing we can’t accomplish if we don’t put God first and set our minds on what we can do.”
For more information about FSO call (443) 708-5283.