Neighborhood Institute Sponsor Spotlight: Mahan Rykiel and Associates

Mahan Rykiel Associates is an award-winning landscape architecture, urban design and planning firm with offices in Baltimore, Maryland and Hong Kong. We recently caught up with Tom McGilloway, who works as a professional landscape architecht for Mahan Rykiel. He took some time to reflect on the work he does and how design helps create vibrant urban communities.


Tell us a bit about your firm and what you do?

Mahan Rykiel Associates is a landscape architecture, planning and urban design firm. We have a broad portfolio of project types including parks, downtowns, transportation enhancements, retail, healthcare and campuses. My area of focus is park and campus planning and design, and downtown/neighborhood revitalization.  A particular focus of mine is working with “Main Street” communities throughout the country. Outside of the office, I was involved in the Hampden Main Street program for 8 years and continue to be actively involved with Friends of Wyman Park Dell and Friends of Stony Run.

What do you love about working in Baltimore?

I feel “connected” in Baltimore. Living and working in the city gives me the opportunity to work with organizations, both professionally and as a volunteer, that are important to the city, particularly in North Baltimore. I am fortunate to interface with great people in both the public and private sectors. Sure, there are many frustrations with life in Baltimore, but the positive outweighs the negative. There are so many passionate people in the community committed to making a difference. It is inspiring!

Why do you choose to support Greater Homewood and the Neighborhood Institute?

The main reason is that I believe GHCC is a fantastic organization that has done a lot for North Baltimore. My relationship with GHCC has been beneficial to me both professionally and as a resident of the Greater Homewood area.

Are there any projects around town that you have worked on which you are particularly proud of?

I am particularly proud of Mahan Rykiel’s master plan for the Wyman Park Dell. It has served as an implementation framework for the City, Friends of Wyman Park Dell and local volunteer groups. It continues to allow partners to work together to improve this important open space. To give a little background, The Wyman Park Dell is an historic Olmsted Brothers park located next to the Baltimore Museum of Art, that has maintained its design integrity since the early 1900’s.


The master plan has provided a guide for many completed projects including restoration of the historic stone wall, a new playground, park signage and the planting of/care for over 100 trees. The Beta Fraternity and baseball team from the Johns Hopkins University have helped us for many years with picking up trash, planting trees, removing invasive plants and other maintenance projects.  Another exciting project coming soon is a permanent outdoor ping pong table which wouldn’t be possible without the fundraising efforts and creative thinking of Ping Pong Baltimore. The master plan provides a framework for all of these positive things to happen.

What role do you think design plays in building healthy and vibrant communities?

Design allows one to thoughtfully implement creative ideas to improve a place, making it more conducive to positive activity and investment. Good design extends beyond aesthetics and, if done well and done with user groups/the community in mind, can fascilitate economic development and social interaction while being sensitive to the environment and the inherent qualities of a particular place.

Can you share an example of a great project in the area?

There are many. The investment and revitalization that is happening in Remington and neighborhoods throughtout the city continues to highlight the rich variety of places we have in Baltimore. Patterson Park continues to be a model for parks throughout the city and demonstrates the power of investing in our parks and open spaces.

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Neighborhood Institute Sponsor Spotlight: Falkenhan’s Hardware

ma09_lifelessons_falkenhanDeb Falkenhan has owned and operated Falkenhan’s Hardware in Hamden for nearly 16 years. We caught up with her to learn a little more about what she loves about the business and the history of the store.
*Photo Credit: Baltimore Style Magazine

Tell us a little bit about Falkenhan’s Hardware and how you came to this part of Baltimore.

Falkenhan’s Hardware was originally started in 1968 when my father, Frank Falkenhan, bought the building (called Mt. Vernon Hall) at 3401-03 Chestnut Ave.  The store at that time was called Benson’s Hardware, and had been Towson Hardware before that. He operated the store, along with his plumbing and real estate businesses with his sister for 20 years.  In 1988, the hardware business was sold to Ken and Earl Klock.  Thus, Klock’s Hardware was born.  In 1997 my father approached me about re-opening the store with his help.  We totally renovated the space, and I reopened the store on June 17, 1998, now going on 16 years.  As to how I came to this part of Baltimore, I was born here.  My parents lived on Chestnut Ave, then Roland Ave, and other than a 6 month stint in Philly I have been in Hampden pretty much ever since.

What do you love most about owning a business in Hampden?

There are many reasons! It is where I grew up and I know so many people in the area  by name. Its great to know that the neighborhood girl does well. Walking to and from work is great (no rush hour!) I have the opportunity to get to know my customers – new and old and there are other great business owners to discuss ideas with and get support from.  Seeing the smile on customers’ faces when they realize they don’t have to leave the neighborhood is really a treat.

Q3: What prompted you to renew your sponsorship of GHCC this year?

I believe in sponsoring local, just like I want people to shop local.  After all, I wouldn’t be in business if everyone ran to the box stores for all of their shopping.  Although I couldn’t attend the Neighborhood Institute, I think this is a great idea for people to work together for a stronger neighborhood.

What do you most appreciate about GHCC’s work as a local business owner?

GHCC does some great things.  Promoting and supporting neighborhoods is important. There are so many sections of Baltimore that are not as fortunate as the areas around GHCC, where so many people want to live.  I love the things going on at the 29th Street Community Center and can’t wait to try some of the classes there.  Also, because GHCC promotes city living, whether it is rental or homeowner, it brings me new customers who I hope will become lifelong customers.

Do you have a favorite customer-service experience you would like to share with us?

There really aren’t any favorites, but there are several that come to mind. There was the little boy who said “Mommy, I have to pee!” and he did right where he was standing in the store. Gus the yellow lab who used to come in with Bob and walk right behind the counter and sit down waiting for his treats, as well as the many people who loved CopCar, the hardware cat – some came just to see him and get their “CopCar fix”. The smiles you see when you fix an old faucet stem or have a brand new one or finding something that people haven’t been able to find. Customer service is very important in a small business and I want all customers to walk out knowing we did our best for them, whether we had what they needed or

Falkenhan’s Hardware is located at 3401 Chestnut Ave. Baltimore, MD 21211
They can be reached at 410-235-7771, open Mon -Fri 8am – 6pm and Sat 8am – 5pm

Services Provided: Key duplication, pipe cut & threaded, small lamp repairs, glass & acrylic cut, sharpening services

Supplies kept in stock: Basic hardware, electrical, painting, plumbing, houseware supplies; small wood products – i.e. 1×3,2×4,etc., seasonal items

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Life After VISTA

GHCC AmeriCorps*VISTA leaders Tom Pfeifer and Allison Wilhite  took some time to reflect on the recent Life After VISTA event that took place at City Hall on March 25th.

Despite unexpected snowy weather and challenging commutes from as far as Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, nothing could put a damper on the GHCC VISTA Cohort’s excitement as they arrived at Baltimore City Hall to learn about what “Life after VISTA” could hold for them. The afternoon event, co-hosted by GHCC, the Mayor’s Office, and Maryland/DC Campus Compact VISTA programs, kicked off with an alumni panel of former AmeriCorps members enthused to share about their career paths after service.

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Two former GHCC-sponsored VISTAs, Jimmy Stuart (2010-11 cohort) and Priya Bhayana (2011-12 cohort), contributed to the alumni panel discussion by sharing how their service terms helped them land their current jobs. For example, Jimmy explained that it was because of the network he formed while serving that he was on Child First Authority’s radar. He stressed the value of holding informational interviews, stating to the group that, “VISTAs have all of these networks and opportunities at your finger tips… spend time with people you respect and whose work interests you.” Priya offered that it’s OK to explore opportunities to find the right fit. She used her education award to briefly attend graduate school before her current position as Director of the Bromo Arts and Market Center.

Also on the panel were Liz Matthews of the Corporation for National and Community Service, Rollin Johnson, Jr. of Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Concern (and former Peace Corps volunteer), and Holly Freishtat, Food Policy Director of the City Planning Department. “AmeriCorps really launched my professional career,” Holly explained. She later gave three key pieces of advice – conduct informational interviews to build a network now and for when you have a job, find a mentor or two, and constantly update your resume.2014-03-25 14.16.50

The panel was followed by a series of workshops including resume writing, job search, and how to maximize the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award ($5,550 toward educational costs or repaying student loans). Sarah Schulman (2012-13 GHCC cohort), who was hired by Maryland New Directions after her VISTA year with them, led the workshop on resume writing and encouraged that VISTAs highlight their transferable skills gained in service and to tailor resumes to their desired job. Liz Matthews, Outreach Specialist at CNCS, offered insights on the federal hiring process. The VISTAs were thrilled to learn that their year of service counts toward federal retirement!  Furthermore, VISTAs receive a year of non-competitive eligibility status for federal employment, both big perks for those interested in a government career path. By the end of the afternoon, there was certainly a high degree of buzz among the VISTAs about the dynamic options available to them.

GHCC-sponsored AmeriCorps*VISTA members receive a solid foundation of skills they can use as a springboard for careers in government, non-profits, education, and much more. Are you interested in serving a year as a GHCC-Sponsored VISTA member? We’re recruiting now for our 2014-2015 cohort! Check out our website for information about how to apply and to see what positions are available.

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Neighborhood Institute Sponsor Spotlight: CVCA


cvcaSandy Sparks is the president of the Charles Village Civic Association. A long time resident of the area and advocate for the community, we were excited to spend some time talking about Charles Village and Greater Homewood with her. 

Tell us a little bit about CVCA-what is it you do exactly?

The primary focus of CVCA is to promote and strengthen Charles Village. Among the chief focuses of the organization are land use and zoning issues. The CVCA has fantastic continuity, as it has been around since the late 1960’s.

How is CVCA different from the Charles Village Community Benefits District (CVCBD)?

CVCA is very distinct! CVCBD is in many ways its own creation- they are established by state law, wheras CVCA is a neighborhood community association. The entire mission of CVCBD (Safe & Clean) differs. Besides the scope and intentions, the levels of marketing and promotion also differ.

What do you love most about being located in Greater Homewood?

There are a number of things! The diversity of the area continues to be a very appealing feature. There are many resources for improvement and opportunities to use them creatively. The area continues to improve so it is a joy to witness.

What prompted you to become a sponsor of GHCC?

I have been involved with GHCC since the 1980’s. During the 1980’s I served on the GHCC board so I am very familiar with the organization’s mission and goals.  As a homeowner you become increasingly invested in your community, and GHCC is an organization that really advocates for the area.

What is CVCA’s proudest accomplishment in years?

Among the greatest accomplishments are the “Charles Street Master Plan” and the Charles Street construction. I am also proud of CVCA’s involvement in bringing in new business’ and our continued support for local schools.

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UM Urban Studies and Planning Students visit GHCC

HoweThis is a guest post from community resident Howie Baum. A professor of Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Maryland College Park, Howie took some time to reflect upon the importance of GHCC’s work after a recent visit to 29th Street Community Center with his students.

I live in Rosebank Brackenridge Bellona, a North Baltimore neighborhood that is part of the Greater Homewood Community Corporation area, and I teach social planning in the University of Maryland’s Urban Studies and Planning Program in College Park. As a city resident, I am fortunate to be represented by GHCC on a variety of public issues. As a professor, I am glad that I can bring my students to GHCC to see what a strong, creative community organization looks like.

I recently took my Community Social Planning class to meet with Karen Stokes, Ira Kowler, and Hannah Gardi at the 29th Street Community Center. The students are preparing for careers in urban planning, and I wanted them to see the assets and challenges of a low income neighborhood and to understand how a community-based organization works with neighborhoods, and what the staff of the organization need to do to keep it going. Also, as I tell my students, I’d like them to fall in love with Baltimore and decide to work and live in the city after they graduate.

The students caught on to Greater Homewood. They liked the vision of holistic community development that guides the organization: the first question always is, what do residents think would be in the interests of their community? The students liked the idea of community schools. (In the 1990s I helped start a community school at Tench Tilghman Elementary in East Baltimore, and I know the idea makes great sense.) Students were impressed by not only the range of GHCC activities, but also the considerable time and energy spent involving residents in community organizations. And, the students were struck by how much effort is necessary to keep GHCC funded and to maintain and manage the organization. The fact that Greater Homewood has been around for 45 years, when many other Baltimore community organizations have died, speaks volumes. The visit showed students that there are places where they can apply their intelligence and idealism in real jobs doing the kinds of community development we discuss in class.

I think GHCC is good at doing important work. Baltimore faces all the challenges of any big city with a large low-income population, and efforts to address these problems are handicapped by a scarcity of local wealth. The city depends on outside money. However, private investment, by its nature, goes where profits can be made, and low-income neighborhoods are rarely attractive in these terms, and the federal government hasn’t had a serious urban policy in decades. Under these conditions, neighborhoods must do what they can to identify and exploit their own assets.

Greater Homewood has been doing that. Voluntary, nonprofit organizations in Baltimore are doing some of the most creative work in addressing challenges and creating a more livable city. As a resident who sometimes gets discouraged, I was uplifted to see the work of Greater Homewood. I will keep it in my students’ minds, because, selfishly, I want them to come work in our city.

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AmeriCorps*VISTA Spotlight: Michael Jefferson

Michael Staff Photo (2)Michael Jefferson is an AmeriCorps*VISTA member serving with the Youth Empowered Society (YES) in Baltimore, MD. Founded and run by formerly homeless youth and their allies, YES works to end homelessness in Baltimore by supporting currently and formerly homeless youth in becoming leaders in our community and by providing desperately needed direct services to homeless youth.

Everyone deserves to go home.

In the several years since I started volunteering in Baltimore, this simple statement has become a core principle for me and a source of tremendous inspiration. As an AmeriCorps*VISTA with the Youth Empowered Society (YES) Drop-In Center, and as a volunteer with various nonprofits, I’ve heard hundreds of firsthand stories about the dehumanizing consequences of homelessness. Families torn apart by evictions, young women and men forced to survive on the streets after fleeing abuse at home, constant psychological oppression caused by disrespect and even hateful treatment -these experiences are tragically common for many of the folks I work with. Their stories and, more importantly, the bonds I’ve forged with my community since beginning this work has taught me that certain needs are so fundamental to a person’s life and well-being that everyone deserves them.

My journey to discover this truth started in the winter of 2009. At the time, the Great Recession was causing massive layoffs worldwide and, by chance, I started volunteering with a small grassroots group that shared food with several people who were living under the I-83 overpass in downtown Baltimore. I will always remember the night I spoke with one of the men who was living there. Sharing stories over cups of soup below the overpass, he told me that he lost his home when he was laid off during the early months of the recession. Now, with nowhere else to turn, he was forced to sleep in the dirt and the cold below the highway. The injustice of it was overwhelming and unspeakable. The visceral impact woke me up and filled me with a burning desire to become an activist in the struggle to combat homelessness and poverty.

Fortunately, the anger I felt that night is not my only source of commitment to democracy and working with my community. At the heart of it all, my work is driven by an unshakable love for people. I am endlessly inspired by the resilience and potential of the people I work with, and though painful, these stories have also allowed me to see the greatness of the human spirit. The youth who come to YES are brilliant and often full of energy and I cannot help but wonder how magnificent the world would be if circumstances permitted them to pursue their dreams. Love of people above all else has driven me to become a meaningful participant in the struggle to end poverty and its many manifestations.

I am also incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to share many beautiful aspects of my work with the broader community. The volunteers I’ve met I truly believe are some of Baltimore’s most inspiring citizens. The energy and passion they bring to the drop-in center make YES a wonderful place to be. The artistic activities that volunteers make YES a place of awesome creativity, and their educational workshops make it a place of hope and possibility. Everyone learns at YES: volunteers teach youth who in turn teach volunteers, and everyone (often without realizing it) teaches me about humankind and our infinite depth, complexities, and insatiable curiosity.

Sharing even a small piece of my story as one of many participants at YES is a pleasure. As words will forever fail to express its power, we welcome you to share a part of the action and come visit us!

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Jump for Joy at the 29th Street Community Center

IMG_4026The 29th Street Community Center is incredibly privileged to have Charles Village resident Kim Landes as a program provider and leader of Jump for Joy. She brings energy, determination, and joy to kids and adults alike.

Jump for Joy is much more than a jump roping program, it’s a joyous story about community. It all began when Kim Landes, a Charles Village resident, got a knock on her door one sunny summer’s afternoon last year. Who was at the door? Four Barclay Elementary students who were selling canned goods to make money for after school snacks. Kim offered them a snack and got to know a bit about them on her front porch. After a few weeks of the students returning to her house, Kim decided to do something constructive and bought some jump ropes for them to play with. Before she knew it there was a full blow jump roping club happening at her house.

Recognizing how excited these kids were about jumping rope, Kim set out to find a jump rope club to connect them with. Though she couldn’t find anything in Baltimore, Kim discovered Kangaroo Kids in Ellicot City, a competition jump rope club for kids age 5-18 which has been serving Howard County for 35 years. After learning more about the program in Howard County, Kim decided to start one of her own right in her neighborhood.IMG_3984

As the program took off, Kim and her students needed a space to build a team. Though she didn’t know much about the 29th Street Community Center, the Barclay students had spent time there after school and told her about its great space. It didn’t take long for Kim to connect with center director Hannah Gardi, and the two of them began to work together to create Jump for Joy: an innovative jump roping program that teaches leadership skills and nurtures self esteem.

IMG_4092Jump for Joy meets on Saturdays from 11-12pm and has already served more than a dozen kids. We have volunteers from JHU and Kangaroo Kids that come out each week to work with our jumpers. This last weekend, seven jumpers participated in a tri-state jump rope festival hosted by the Kangaroo Kids. Man, oh, man, were our kids inspired! Watching kids of all ages perform jumps, flips, and spins at advanced levels has moved them to learn more and keep on training.

The spring programming season at the 29th Street Community Center starts on Monday. Click here to see a full list of classes and to register.

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Barclay Greening Efforts in Full Gear

If you didn’t know before, hear us now – Barclay has a green team! A green team is a group of committed residents who are working to beautify their neighborhood, making improvements to existing projects and transforming vacant and forgotten properties into gardens and green spaces. Barclay has good reason to be proud of their greening efforts, and thanks to some recent grant funding and the hard work of dedicated community members, there is a lot of evidence to show it.

  • Neighborhood Resident Miss Grace Comer submitted a proposal and received funding from the Parks and People Foundation for upgrades to the garden at the corner of 20th and Guilford.
  • The Homewood House gardeners also received funding from the Parks and People Foundation for experiments with soil enrichments.
  • Another community group adopted a lot and received funding to transform a vacant lot into a vegetable garden.
  • Residents also came together and created a vision that would establish gateways to our neighborhood and submitted a proposal for funding.

barclay green 1 barclay green 2Come visit our neighborhood and see the buddings of spring throughout our community greening projects!

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Neighborhood Institute Sponsor Spotlight: Telesis Corp.

Catherine Stokes is the Senior Project Manager and Director of Telesis’ Baltimore Office. We caught up with her to talk about her work and the Redevelopment of the Barclay/Midway/Old Goucher neighborhoods. 



Tell us a bit more about your organization. What is Telesis, and how did you come to operate in Barclay?

Telesis is a real-estate development company that plans, finances, and builds urban communities that are livable, beautiful, and safe. Telesis has been working in the Barclay/Midway/Old Goucher (BMOG) community since 2006. At that time, Telesis was selected by the Housing Authority and members of the BMOG community to be the master planner and developer in charge of the revitalization of the BMOG neighborhoods. A primary goal of the resulting BMOG Plan is to transform the neighborhood into a stable, healthy, safe, equitable, and livable neighborhood with quality open spaces, community facilities, and employment opportunities.

You have done a lot of work redeveloping housing in Barclay, what are some of the positive outcomes you have already seen in the neighborhood?

In addition to the transformative impact of the over 175 new households who have, or are in the process of, moving into the neighborhood through the Redevelopment, so far one of the greatest results we have seen is these new residents’ involvement in the community. As they become more invested in their own homes, residents have begun to take on leadership roles in the community at large.

In what ways do you partner with community associations and Greater Homewood?

The main forum is the Barclay/Midway/Old Goucher Coalition (BMOG), which serves as an umbrella for the stakeholder organizations (neighborhood organizations, local developers, neighborhood social service providers, and city officials). Telesis works closely with Greater Homewood on community development and resident services. Telesis also partners with GHCC’s Workforce Development program in its efforts to employ neighborhood residents in the Redevleopment. Thus far, over 70 local residents have been employed in construction jobs.

Why is it important to you to sponsor the Neighborhood Institute?

Telesis believes that physical and community development are inseparable and our partnership with GHCC is very important to our work in BMOG. Telesis supports GHCC and its work in the community.  In particular, the Neighborhood Institute is a wonderful way to cultivate emerging leaders throughout Greater Homewood. We encourage residents of the BMOG community to take advantage of this wonderful resource.

  • There are some affordable and green homeownership and rental opportunities currently available in Barclay/Old Goucher! To find out more about homeownership opportunities please visit and for rental opportunities please visit
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Neighborhood Institute Sponsor Spotlight: Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance

DBFA_primary_logoPropelled by the belief that thriving, connected families are the key to vibrant communities, the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance fosters and promotes family life in Baltimore’s city center. DBFA and GHCC have partnered to support vibrant urban life, specifically in supporting public schools, for a number of years, and we were thrilled to have their support in making this year’s Neighborhood Institute a huge success. 

Tell us a bit more about DBFA, what was the motivation behind founding the organization?

The organization was started to connect and give a voice to parents who wanted to expand options for family life in Baltimore.   Core to our original concept was to market the city as a great place to live and raise a family.

In what ways do you work with business to help make a more family friendly Baltimore?

We show family-oriented businesses that there is a strong market here in Baltimore city. Our belief is that you do not need to drive to the suburbs to find family friendly adventures and events.  We hope that businesses will continue to choose Baltimore, and in doing so, help enrich the opportunities and possibilities for families.

Why were you excited to partner with Greater Homewood for this year’s neighborhood Institute?

One of the key areas that DBFA focuses on is education. We value the opportunity for parents and neighbors to come together and share information on how to support local schools. GHCC’s Neighborhood Institute provides an excellent opportunity for this type of networking.

What do you love about living in Baltimore?

I love the vibrancy of the city and the mixture of people. The many cultural assets from the museums to the universities to libraries are a real treat.  Plus, I enjoy the diversity of landscape. Baltimore is the type of city where you can enjoy an exciting urban core but also have access to great parks and nature.

Tell us about a hidden gem in the downtown area?

Although this is not technically located downtown, my family and I enjoy Leakin Park in West Baltimore. Every time we go back, there are new and exciting things to discover. One of our favorite activities is to go on hikes and pick blackberries. The kids also enjoy the small railroad train they can ride on.

What has DBFA accomplished that you are most proud of?

The organization has moved at an amazing pace and accomplished a lot.  Because education is so important to me, one thing that stands out is the Annual School and Youth Programming Fair and The Parents for Public Schools Summit.  These two events have been successful in presenting some of the great education options available to the families of Baltimore city.

Substantive questions: How can families get involved with DBFA?

The best way for families to get involved is to attend events or join our mailing list. We have two upcoming events:

1) Meet the Big Kids’ Parents – Apr 9, 2014 at 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm

2) DBFA’s Eggcellent Day at the Park (A family field-day adventure) – Apr 12, 2014 at 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

More information can be found at:

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