Mission & History
Mission and Overview
St. Francis Neighborhood Center is the oldest neighborhood center providing enrichment in all of Baltimore City! Our mission is committed to ending generational poverty through education, inspiring self-esteem, self-improvement, and strengthening connections to the community.
Our presence has served as a resource and catalyst for improving the lives of those in Reservoir Hill and making Baltimore a better place since 1963. We were founded to serve a growing segment of our community in need of inaccessible services. We have continued to grow with the help of our donors and volunteers who make our mission possible. Through the years our purpose still remains the same: bring services to those in need.
By utilizing education, art, mentoring and tutoring we work to provide people with the tools they need to advance their lives financially and socially, while fostering positive interpersonal and community connections. This in turn gives people a sense of self-empowerment, which is the principle driving force in creating extraordinary change within individuals and the community. Our programs build self-esteem as well as academic, emotional, interpersonal, social, and community development that works to address complex challenges in an effort to break the cycles of urban poverty. In an average month, we serve over 500 adults, youth, and families.
St. Francis Neighborhood Center is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3), community based organization in the Reservoir Hill area of Baltimore. Founded in 1963 as an outreach center for two local churches, was incorporated in 1972 as a neighborhood nonprofit corporation, independent of any church affiliation. Due to its unwavering dedication, the Center has become an iconic presence within the Reservoir Hill community.
Father Tom Composto was the Jesuit priest who moved into the original center in the 1960s and stayed the rest of his life, devoting himself to the poor. He was known as the Pope of Whitelock Street. He used to stand on the porch and challenge the drug dealers to get off the corner and do something better with their lives. Father Tom was tough, determined and humane. He passed away March 11, 2011. We feel he would have been so happy at the scene on the corner of Whitelock and Linden now — kids showing up for help with their homework, and a handful of adults making a difference in their lives (this paragraph compliments of Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun).
The Center is uniquely positioned to serve the Reservoir Hill region due to its long history of over 50 years and respect by all of the community. The Center is active with the over 20 neighborhood coalitions, partnerships, and countless community organizations. The Center has been the only community organization in Reservoir Hill to expand its programming to meet the growing needs of the community during these times of economic turmoil. And, the Center has been the only organization delivering these types of wrap-around services, programs, and events to Reservoir Hill’s large and diverse community. The Center strives to give people hope for a better tomorrow by providing them with the tools they need for a better today. Here is a highlight of our key accomplishments over our 50+ year history:
- We were the only distribution hub in the community during the riots of 1968
- Launched a dental service for the neighborhood in 1972 and later added a mobile dental service for shut-ins and nursing home residents in 1987
- Expanded its outreach to multi-drug-addicted RH residents in 1988
- 2006: Started Peace Patrol Walks; the first organization to provide health services to Reservoir Hill through the annual Health/Resource Fair
- 2007: Opened the Community Library and Computer Lab;
- 2008: Began a new personal finance workshop in the wake of the economic recession; doubled our staff
- 2009: Launched a new and innovative youth development program, The Power Project; also a greening and community development program; and launched volunteer program;
- 2010: Established community movie screenings and Yoga
- 2011: Launched RH’s first ever community "music" festival added to the resource fair; offered job readiness and personal finance workshops
- 2013: Launched the Free Book Exchange and Adult/Family Literacy Program; Intern Leadership Program; Food Resource program, including grocery distribution, and dinner served to children; expanded Computer Classes, open lab hours, and mentoring; expanded our academic enrichment in Power Project by increasing initiatives with tutoring, mentoring, and adding new significant partners, such as Code in the Schools (computer science); participated in our first full financial audit in organizational history for 2012 & 2013; provided our Power Project data to an external evaluator for 2012-2013 & 2013-2014 school years for objective statistics and measureables; developed our first “Resource List” for neighborhood residents; added 5 new board members—a CPA, HR Expert, Attorney, Nonprofit/Conflict Specialist, NASA Rocket Scientist/educator, STEM educator. Added a new staff position, Communication Outreach Manager. Had first ever board/staff strategic planning and team building retreat.
- 2014: Launched new partnerships with Maryland Disability Law Center to create an inclusion policy for disabled children; Love & Liberty Ministries to provide Sunday services; and Corpus Christi Catholic Church to host their weekly grocery bag program. We continued with our full financial audits, and external evaluator to analyze our impact. We engaged Episcopal Housing Corporation to start discussions of a Capital Campaign to renovate and expand.
- 2015: To date, we had our 3rd annual full financial audit, have a new partner Digit All Systems and are introducing a new STEM component: Google Certification classes, drone, and 3D printer programming. We are currently working with an architect and starting our expansion project. We launched Phase 1 of our Capital Campaign to replace the roof, insulate the roof, and water/air proof the basement.
- Overall, we had nearly 35,000 "touches" (touches = every person, even if multiple times, that utilize the Center programs, services, support, and referrals); in 2015 and are growing. For a physically small Center and staff, we have a big impact. Our "touches" increased over 300% since 2010; we have grown our foundational support 26 times in the last few years, and increased our membership base 35% from 2008-2015.
- In 2016 we launched a capital campaign and have many accomplishments to report. Stay tuned!