News & Community

The Feel Good: Five Great Things That Happened in Our Area This Month

The best pieces of good news that came out of Baltimore in September—from André De Shields' street dedication to a greenlight for a new city compost facility.

Waste Not: Baltimore Receives Federal Grant for City-Run Compost Facility
Don’t throw out that banana peel, Baltimore. Soon, city residents will have a local, city-operated compost facility ready to turn kitchen scraps into deep, rich humus— the soil created when organic matter is broken down through the process of composting. This month, Baltimore received $4 million of federal funding to build a composting facility at the city’s Eastern Sanitation Yard. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant is partly funded by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Left in dumps, food waste creates methane. Considering food waste is the single most common material landfilled and incinerated in the US, food waste is a massive contributor to America’s greenhouse gas emissions. In a press statement, the EPA said the composting facility, set to be built in 2025, “will prevent organic materials from being landfilled or burned, reducing the amount of greenhouse gasses and other toxic pollutants emitted in South Baltimore—where many industrial waste processing facilities are currently located—creating a disproportionate environmental impact on low-income communities.” The facility will be solar-powered, making it sustainable, and it will generate new jobs in the green sector. Not to mention, it will create some world class compost. Something of a super product, compost can remediate soil, fight erosion, and sequester carbon. Read more on the power of composting and the city’s sustainability goals, here.

On The Street Where You Live: Baltimore-Born Broadway Star Has Street Named in His Honor
You may know André De Shields from his days in epic Broadway performances like The Wiz—which is currently kicking off a revival at the Hippodrome. More recently, he clinched both a Tony Award for Best Actor and a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album with his performance originating the role of Hermes in Hadestown. (Oh, he has an Emmy, too.) But you may not know that the actor, choreographer, educator, and philanthropist grew up right here in Baltimore. From hence forth, if you drive or walk down what was, until recently, North Division Street, you won’t soon forget it.

On September 21, De Shields was on hand when city leaders renamed the 1800 block of North Division Street “André De Shields Way.” Now 77, De Shields grew up on the street, one of 11 children, and graduated from Baltimore City College. He began his musical theater career in Chicago and worked off Broadway before having his Broadway debut in 1973 with Warp! In addition to friends, former neighbors, and family, the marching band from Baltimore City College was present at the street’s unveiling to—fittingly—inaugurate the new name with song.

Back to School 2.0: Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake to Help Adults Obtain High School Diplomas
As many as 80,000 adults in Baltimore are estimated to have dropped out of high school. On average nationwide, people who drop out of high school earn 70 percent less than those who graduate. This is not good news. However, this month, Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake hosted the grand opening of its new Excel Center at 222 East Redwood Street, which will help adults 21 and older obtain a Maryland State Department of Education diploma. Understanding the barriers that keep people from graduating in the first place, the Excel Center has supports including transportation assistance, free child care, and flexible class schedules, as well as life and job training/counseling.

The Center fills an important educational gap in the city. It is unique in that it is a tuition-free adult high school that awards industry recognized certifications and high school diplomas, not GEDs. It’s a streamlined, self-paced, individualized academic program that typically takes two years to complete, depending on how many high school credits a student has already accumulated. The first session will have spots for 150 students, but Goodwill plans to double its capacity in future years. This is good news, as similar academic models in other cities have shown that 70 percent of Excel graduates go on to college or are employed up to six months after graduation. That could be a boon for Baltimore’s workforce.

Climbing Higher: Local Nonprofit Opens Center to Support Underserved Male City Youth
Speaking of positive academic news—when we wrote about Matt “Coach” Hanna in this year’s GameChangers issue (look out for the story online later this month), he was on the cusp of launching a new enterprise. This month, it became a reality when the founder of Next One Up (NOU) opened a full-time programming, educational, and social space at Belvedere Square called Base Camp. Hanna, a former pro-lacrosse player and teacher, started NOU to address some of the challenges he saw facing the kids he taught, but it has grown into a full-time nonprofit that offers academic, athletic, and social development to almost 200 young men from some of Baltimore’s most challenged zip codes.

At Base Camp, NOU is seriously leveling up, expanding its programs—from once a week to seven days per week—and growing the number of kids it can reach. From this new, central location, students can get the same academic and athletic supports that were foundational to NOU, but also have access to things like a tech lab with a 3D printer, makers spaces for robotics, a full gym, mental health counseling, meals—even a barber shop. Through Base Camp, NOU is projected to serve 10,000 meals, provide 400 hours of academic instruction, and deliver 300 hours of focused athletic training.

The Last Shall Be First: The Orioles Secure a Position in the Playoffs
Last, but certainly not least, the big news in Charm City sports is that the Orioles have secured a position in Major League Baseball’s post-season. It’s the first time the team has made it to the playoffs since 2016. The berth comes at the end of a charmed season that saw the O’s close out with a chance to have the best record in the American League East. The birds’ meteoric rise has been mirrored in larger crowds at the Yard than we’ve seen in recent years. Of course, the passing of legendary Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson earlier this week has cast a pall on all of the excitement, but we can confidently say that no one would be happier than Robinson—who played with the O’s for his entire career (1955-1977)—to see his team advance in the playoffs. Games begin October 3, but tickets were all but sold out within days of release. Let’s do it for No. 5!