29th Street Community Center separates from Strong City Baltimore, will be managed by new nonprofit

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The 29th Street Community Center in north central Baltimore has separated from Strong City Baltimore and will be managed by a new nonprofit, the community center announced on Wednesday.

The newly formed nonprofit 29th Street Community Center, Inc. will manage the community center alongside a “diverse community-led” board of directors, the community center said in a press statement.

The community center, which opened in 2013, is located in Baltimore’s Abell neighborhood near Charles Village, next to Barclay Elementary School.

Jennifer J. Mielke, board president of 29th Street Community Center, Inc., said the center is looking for feedback from residents to better serve the community.

“The Board and our talented staff are renewing the Center’s dedication to the students, families, and community that it serves,” Mielke said in a statement. “With the input and support of those stakeholders for our programming, we see a bright and successful future for all involved.”

The community center will receive fiscal sponsorship support and human resources management from the Central Baltimore Partnership and the Charles Village Community Benefits District, respectively.

The 29th Street Community Center’s separation from Strong City Baltimore comes after several local organizations last year expressed concerns about Strong City’s handling of their funds.

Strong City Baltimore served as a “fiscal sponsor” for more than 150 projects across Baltimore City. The organization lent their 501(c)(3) nonprofit status to various grassroots groups and managed those groups’ grants and other administrative needs in exchange for a fee.

But Strong City Baltimore’s handling of funds of the organizations it fiscally sponsored came under fire last year. A Baltimore Brew investigation in August 2020 found that clients experienced missing invoices, bounced checks, and other concerns related to Strong City Baltimore’s financial accounting.

In April 2020, Strong City Baltimore announced that its CEO at the time, Karen D. Stokes, was stepping down. Reginald Davis, who was originally hired as Stokes’ chief of staff, became CEO following Stokes’ departure.

Then, in May 2021, Strong City Baltimore announced that it was leaving fiscal sponsorship work altogether, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Baltimore Fishbowl reached out to 29th Street Community Center and Strong City Baltimore, but did not receive a response from either organization by the time of the article’s publication.

This article will be updated as new information becomes available.

As part of the community center’s relaunch, it plans to strip and wax floors; paint; replacing lighting; and purchase new computers and furniture. The community center is also seeking funding to renovate its existing kitchen into a community teaching kitchen.

The community center’s leaders expect the upgrades to be complete by mid-September.

The 29th Street Community Center, Inc. will continue to employ all active community center staff, and the center is also accepting applications for a new full-time operations manager.

The community center is conducting outreach to learn what programs community members want and need. Door-to-door and online surveys are already underway, and community focus groups and listening sessions are expected to be scheduled soon.

Marcus Dieterle

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