Then and now
Dwayne Hess spent his fellowship turning Clay Pots … A Place to Grow into a southwest Baltimore venue for both spiritual and practical empowerment. The coffeehouse, once known as the Neighborhood Spiritual Center, now offers adult literacy classes, holistic health and wellness services, and other workshops and events. As an alumni fellow, Hess has expanded the GED classes and added classes in Spanish, knitting, photography, computer literacy and art. Narcotics Anonymous currently uses the space for occasional meetings, as does the Baltimore Free Store, the brainchild of an alumni fellow Matt Warfield.
“Individuals have been able to find community at Clay Pots, peace of mind and personal nurturing,” Hess says. “That’s something that’s been a part of our goal.”
Challenge of sustainability
“Finding financial support is always something to work on,” Hess says. “It’s never something we can just forget about—it’s always in the forefront of my mind. We’re always working hard to make sure we have the resources to keep going.”
OSI-Baltimore has helped
“The Community Fellowship was my first grant,” Hess says, proudly. “Since then, there’ve been a number of other foundations that have contributed money to Clay Pots. It’s been a fantastic boost. Having the backing of OSI has helped bring in the support of other people and institutions.”
In addition, Hess says he has made tremendous use of the network of fellows, such as Jason Reed, who has played music at the coffeehouse as well as arranged for other musicians to showcase their talents there. Hess also has taken advantage of OSI-Baltimore’s knowledgeable and helpful staff.
“Just knowing that they’re there and available to answer questions or to try to make connections for you has been really great for me,” Hess says.
Hess says the center is at a point where it can benefit greatly from a strategic plan, a fundraising plan and an evaluation tool to assess its services. One goal is to identify and add or strengthen services that can help to meet the personal and spiritual needs of members of marginalized west Baltimore communities.
“This grant will allow our board to do strategic planning and devote more time to fundraising with clear goals in mind,” he says.
“Our next big project is to install a peace garden so that we have our first outdoor space,” Hess says. “The courtyard will be useful for all of our different programs. Our GED class, for example, might be able to do some plant growing and a meditation group could meet outdoors.”
“It will just be one more space where people can make connections that foster community growth and increase the chances for harmony,” Hess adds. “One more place for us to let people know what’s going on in our community and what ways we’re all working together to make Baltimore a better place.”
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