Abell Salutes: “New Song”

July 1996 / Salutes / Education, Health and Human Services

Energy, hope, promise…and answered prayers.

At first glance, the social problems prevailing within the 72 or so blocks that make up the Sandtown neighbor­ hood in West Baltimore are depress­ingly familiar: median income below the poverty level; infant mortality at 27 percent (three times the national aver­ age); unemployment exceeding 50 percent; the crime rate one of the highest in Baltimore City. But a second, deeper understanding of this same community reveals something extraordinary going on within it: “New Song Urban Ministries”– an island of energy, hope, and promise in the heart of it, centered in a corner rowhouse at Gilmor and Presstman Streets. Although the name is an umbrella for a community church, Habitat For Humanity, Community Learning Center, Family Health Ser­vices, and Eden Jobs, all are functions of the ministry of a neighborhood­ based staff of almost 50.

This complex of human services did not spring full-blown from a plan­ners blueprint. It came about incrementally, with much struggle, as answers to Susan and Allan Tibbels and Rev. Mark Gornik’s resolve to make their lives spiritually meaningful. “We wanted to love God,” Mr. Tibbels says, “and love our neighbors as ourselves.” With that credo, in 1986 Mr. Tibbels and his wife Susan sold their rancher in leafy-green Columbia, and with their two daughters, joining the Rev. Gornik, moved into one of the most distressed areas of the inner city.

Out of this extraordinary commit­ment, the development programs that define New Song have taken root in Sandtown, and are growing in reach and influence.

Here are answered prayers:

  • Through Habitat For Humanity 60 homes have been rehabilitated, 15 more are in process; 27 new homes are being built and all are slated for completion by June of 1997.
  • In The Learning Center, the pre­school programs accommodate 24 three and four year old children; the “After Three (o’clock) Club” offers educational enrichment to 64 children, kin­dergarten through high school.
  • The Academy provides a full­ day middle school program for 19 chil­dren, along with a scholarship program, summer camp and parent education support.
  • The Family Health Services, a cooperative arrangement with Mercy Medical Center, provides complete primary care for infants, children and adults and is expected to serve as many as 2,000 Sandtown residents in 1996-1997.
  • EDEN Jobs is a job search and placement service for unemployed community residents. Its goal is to find jobs for 100 residents each year. It has made 160 job placements to date.
  • Sandtown Records is a community arts and media development center. It supports a childrens’ choir (which has recorded Voices of Hope and Chatter With the Angels) and provides concerts and celebrations for the neighborhood.

Abell Salutes “New Song Urban Ministries” — for providing energy, setting up hope, and delivering on its promise in Sandtown.