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Hamilton Crop Circle Raises Funds

Even though it's fall, and most people are done with gardening for the season, the Hamilton Crop Circle is still going strong. The effort, run by urban farmer Arthur Morgan, is finding new ways to raise money for its hoop houses, fundraise for its programs and get fresh produce to Baltimore's less fortunate.
The Hamilton Crop Circle used the fundraising website Kickstarter to raise more than $15,000 in 45 days to fund its program of building hoop houses for winter growing at the Hamilton Farmer's Market and Hamilton Elementary/Middle School. Through the elementary/middle school hoop house project, Hamilton Crop Circle will be able to increase its educational programs at the school to expose children to gardening and healthy foods. The produce that is grown by the students is used in the school cafeteria, so the kids get to taste the results of their work.
Urban farmer Arthur Morgan and the Hamilton Crop Circle are also taking initiative in gathering leftover produce from area farmer's markets and farming operations to feed the hungry. Seven Maryland farms allow Morgan to glean the leftovers from their fresh crops, which he then transports to Baltimore City non profits that feed the hungry and homeless.
The Hamilton Crop Circle has also recently held several local fundraisers, including restaurant nights, happy hours and even a Tattoo Day at the Baltimore Tattoo Museum.
Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Erika Alston

Baltimore's vital signs looking good says report

A new statistical analysis of Baltimore shows that the city has made important improvements in areas central to the city's improvement, including crime, housing, and education prior to the recession. Other social conditions, such as the number of teen births and the number of children with elevated levels of blood lead, have also improved according to the latest "Vital Signs" report by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute. However, the report shows that while there have been significant improvements in a variety of economic and social indicators in Baltimore, not all neighborhoods within the city have benefited equally.

Available on the BNIA-JFI's new website, analyzes data from nearly 80 indicators provided at the Community Statistical Area level. CSAs, created by the Baltimore City Department of Planning, are clusters of neighborhoods organized around Census Tract boundaries, which are consistent statistical boundaries. Neighborhood borders don't always fall neatly into CSAs, but CSAs represent conditions occurring within the particular neighborhoods that comprise a CSA.

"This latest edition of 'Vital Signs' will help us access how our neighborhoods are doing and what we can do to help improve outcomes," says Janice Hamilton Outtz, senior associate for Civic Site and Initiatives at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. "I am excited about the new report."

The 8th edition of "Vital Signs reveals the following important trends currently impacting the city:

  • The city's population declined by 3 percent, from 651,154 in 2000, to 631,815 in 2008. While a handful of neighborhoods lost population, several more, including downtown (22 percent), Loch Raven (8.4 percent) and Northwood (9.9 percent), experienced a growth in population.
  • Median sales prices for homes in the city increased by well over 100 percent in the past eight years, although the pace of that increase has slowed considerably since the start of the recession.
  • Both adult and juvenile crime has decreased in Baltimore City. In particular, Baltimore City's Part 1 crime rate has declined from 106.0 incidents per 1,000 people in 2000 to 78.3 incidents per 1,000 per people in 2008.
  • The number of residential properties receiving rehabilitation investment is climbing, and may be continuing as the recession lingers and more homeowners choose to stay in their current home.
  • Baltimore's high school completion rate is on the rise, while its rate of truancy in elementary, middle school and high school (including students who drop out of high school) is in decline.
  • The teen birth rate dropped from 83.3 teens out of 1,000 in 2000 to 66.1 teens per 1,000 in 2008a decline of 17.2 percent.

Other measurements, such as the larger number of Baltimore residents visiting local emergency rooms for non-emergency diagnoses and treatment, expose a city that continues to be constrained by larger trends such as rising health care costs and a lack of adequate medical insurance.

"While Baltimore City has made significant improvements in areas such as crime and education, we appear to be hampered by many of the same things that have struck other urban areas in this recession," says Matthew Kachura, program manager for BNIA-JFI at UB. "But we also are seeing some resilience, such as the increase in home prices, median household income, and an impressive number of small businesses based in well-established city neighborhoods like Edmonson Village and Greenmount East, and by the growing number of city residents who claim at least some higher education in their backgrounds."

BNIA-JFI began in 1998 as a partnership between the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers. In 2006, BNIA joined with the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute in an expansion of its capabilities. BNIA-JFI has strengthened the "Vital Signs" report and provided additional services and resources for those who seek data, information, and analysis about the city.

BNIA-JFI's latest product is a new Web site, www.bniajfi.org, which provides a wide variety of data, maps, and information for the City of Baltimore and its neighborhoods. Anyone interested in how Baltimore measures up can find easy-to-use statistical analyses, maps, reports and links relevant to the city.

This information is reflected in the latest "Vital Signs" report. For example, Edmonson Village reports the city's highest percentage of successful small businesses (69.2 percent), while a total of 50.9 percent of all city residents reported some type of college attendance as of 2008.

"These trends of educational attainment, lower crime and rising housing prices may not lead to a total revitalization for the city," Kachura said, "but show that many neighborhoods are improving and these improvements paint both a better and a realistic picture of Baltimore. The larger question is whether these trends can be maintained and translated into long-term improvements for Baltimore and its neighborhoods. For the most part, though, they are good news for the city."

Source: Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Goldseker announces first neighborhood-school partnership recipients of $435K in grants

What makes a neighborhood great? The obvious answer -- its the people. But, attracting people to a neighborhood takes a combination of ingredients that include both home values, services and its public schools. Forging strong partnerships between communities and their schools, that's the motivation behind the Goldseker Foundation's latest grant initiative, Neighborhood-School Partnership.

In recognition of the interdependence between neighborhoods and schools, in which the quality of one directly impacts the quality of the other, the Goldseker Foundation provided the $435,000 to fund the new initiative. The Neighborhood-School Partnership joins another Goldseker Foundation program, Healthy Neighborhoods founded in 2001.

The Goldseker Foundation helped to create the Healthy Neighborhoods program with a $125,000 grant in 2001. Healthy Neighborhoods helps strong but undervalued Baltimore neighborhoods increase home values, market their communities and create high standards for property improvements, while forging strong connections among neighbors. The program has been a catalyst for residential investment, while the current school reform environment in Baltimore City has led to an increasing number of quality public school options to complement an existing network of strong private schools in the city.
Last week the non-profit organization announced the partnerships that team five neighborhood organizations with eight local grade schools.

"We've invested $2.2 million to try and create stronger neighborhoods through strong real estate markets, strong resident leadership and emphasizing everything that's right with a neighborhood. We intentionally started in neighborhoods where we wouldn't have to spend 20 years trying to fix the public schools," says Timothy Armbruster, president of the Goldseker Foundation. "We want to stimulate creative thinking about how neighborhoods and schools can work together to build from strength and tell the story about the good things happening in these communities."

Through the partnerships and grants, the foundation hopes to encourage joint neighborhood and school improvement strategies that will enhance the desirability of neighborhoods due to high-quality schools, well-maintained properties, and strong community connections, and also increase enrollment and academic quality at schools serving children living in Healthy Neighborhoods. 

"We'd like to see the education, community development, and public and private funding sectors working together to leverage investments in schools and neighborhoods for greater impact," says Armbruster. "Forging stronger connections between schools andneighborhoods is one more step in making the city more responsive and attractive to a wide range of families, including Baltimore's growing middle class."

The real winners, however, are the students will benefit from the curriculum, programs, and projects instituted at their schools. Students at Calvin M Rodwell Elementary School as a result of a $50,000 grant will take on the role normally held by local TV weatherman. The school's new Weatherbug Science Curriculum will allow the pint-sized meteorologists to use their knowledge of science and math to help create their own weather forecasts. It's partner, Garwyn Oaks Northwest Housing Resource Center will receive $25,000 for core operating support and marketing.

"It is incredibly important [to give students access to these extracurricular opportunities]. We spend so much time on basic skills, on making them ready to met standards. The enrichment they'll receive from these projects that draw on their imagination, that of course is most important," says Dr. Andres Alonso, Baltimore City Schools CEO.

Other schools and neighborhood organizations receiving funds are Cross Country Elementary/Middle and partner Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. (CHAI), Gwynns Falls Elementary and Greather Mondawmin Coordinating Council, City Neighbors Charter, Hamilton Elementary/Middle and St. Francis of Assisi School partnered with Neighborhoods of Greater Lauraville Inc., and Barclay Elementary/Middle and Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle partnered with Greater Homewood Community Corporation.

Sources: Tim Armbruster, The Goldseker Foundation; Dr. Andres Alonso, Baltimore City Public Schools
Writer: Walaika Haskins
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