The Abell Foundation has awarded a grant of $180,000 to the William E. Smith, Jr. Outreach Center, the community service center operated by the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The money is to be used for the center’s expansion of facilities from its present location at 1301 Druid Hill Avenue into a new building at 1429 McCulloh Street.
The total cost of the project, including purchasing and renovating, is estimated to be $700,000; completion is scheduled for fall of 1990.
Bethel A.M.E. founded its Community Outreach Center in 1979 to provide, out of funds contributed by congregation members, clothing, canned food and emergency financial services to the needy within its own community. Since that time, as the numbers of those applying for the services has increased, and federal and state support for social programs has contracted, the center has grown to become a major provider for comprehensive services to approximately 2,000 persons every week throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area. Such services address il literacy, unemployment, hunger, homelessness and adolescent pregnancy. Many are referred to the center by the Department of Social Services, the Maryland Food Committee, and other churches and ser vice programs.
Bethel traces its beginnings to 1785, when a group of free blacks organized a prayer group that began to meet regularly in the homes of members. By 1797 this group had grown into an organized congregation, purchasing a building on Saratoga Street, which it used as its church, and designating a minister. In 1810 the institution founded a free school, teaching reading, writing, mathematics and religion. The original school is still functioning.