Photo courtesy of St. Francis Neighborhood Center/Facebook.

The St. Francis Neighborhood Center (SFNC) will commemorate its 60th anniversary May 5 with a masquerade-themed fundraising gala to support its youth program, the Power Project.

The fundraiser will be held at the Center itself, and shed light on the organization’s past, present, and future through an exhibition created from its archives; a youth art showcase and silent auction; performances; and a celebration of the upcoming final phase of its capital project, set to commence later this year.

SFNC’s mission is to end generational poverty. Founded in 1963 as an outreach center for two local churches, it has provided critical resources for free to youth and families in Reservoir Hill and Penn North for 60 years. In 1972 it was incorporated as a neighborhood nonprofit corporation, independent of religious affiliation.

Founded by the late Father Tom Composto, SFNC grew from an outfit operating out of two rowhouses to an established anchor institution in the neighborhood. According to SFNC officials, “[i]n an area of Baltimore City that is historically underserved and under-resourced, SFNC’s commitment to community has only grown stronger.”

The Center serves more than 500 Baltimoreans regularly through its programs each year, a number they expect will triple once the final phase of their years-long, multimillion dollar expansion project is complete. The expansion was the brainchild of Composto, and SFNC officials hope to ensure the Center “endures as an iconic presence in Reservoir Hill for decades more to come.”

This year’s gala is titled “Masquerade in May,” and will showcase the creative talent of city youth participating in the Power Project and the Igniter Internship.

The Power Project is a free after-school program for students in kindergarten through the 8th grade. The program runs Monday through Thursday from October through May. It was first established in 2009, and provides students with tutoring and enrichment after school, along with wraparound services for families’ individualized needs. Proceeds from the gala will benefit this program.

The Igniter Internship is a paid internship program for Baltimore high school students in grades 9-12. Like the Power Program, the Igniter Internship runs Monday through Thursday after school, also from October through May. It offers job, college, and career preparation for participants.

High school Igniter Interns will perform an original spoken word piece in response to the book “We Do This ‘Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice” by Mariame Kaba. Student artwork will be available for viewing and bidding through the silent auction, and there will be photo displays, artifacts, and community testimonials to the work and impact of SFNC on its diamond anniversary.

SFNC works with a variety of Black- and woman-owned local businesses for its annual gala. Guests will be able to dine on a selection of hors d’oeuvres catered by Water for Chocolate, and participate in a wine tasting courtesy of Off the Rox Wine & Beer. Canned cocktails from woman-owned Tenth Ward Distilling Company will be available to gala guests for refreshment.

SFNC has also partnered with Baltimore-based, woman-owned Checkerspot Brewing Company to create a limited edition 60th anniversary Session IPA, available for tasting at the event. A sneak preview of this brew will be available at the Checkerspot Taproom on Friday, April 14, from 5-7 PM, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit SFNC.

Tickets and group sponsorships for the gala can be purchased online at Masquerade-inspired formal/cocktail attire is encouraged, and handmade masks will be available for a small donation.

St. Francis Neighborhood Center is located at 2405 Linden Ave, Baltimore, MD 21217, but guests must enter through the main entrance on Whitelock St.

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