Abell Salutes: “The Door”

March 1994 / Salutes / Education

For young people in East Baltimore, a school away from school, a home away from home–and for many, a family where there is no family.

“To equip and empower individuals and organizations, both Christian and secular, to fulfill the Biblical call to reconciliation, justice and renewal…”

Mission Statement, “The Door”

The edifice at 219 N. Chester St. in the heart of old East Baltimore was once the Friedens Evangelical Lutheran church. It is not that any­ more; the original congregants have long abandoned the sanctuary and moved on. It now houses “The Door,” a community service agency carry­ing out the ancient mission of the old church in a way that surely would have pleased its founders: “Helping those,” Door founder and President Joe Ehrmann puts it, “who need help.” Here, over the course of the year, more than 350 neighborhood young people from ages six through 21 enjoy a school away from school and a home away from home; and for many, a family where there is no family.

A Purpose In Common:

The Door offers a variety of pro­ grams under at least five names. In­cluded: “Dooring the Week,” “Com munity Anchor,” “Family Matters,” and S.T.O.M.P. (Skill-building Teen Occupational Mentoring Program). The varied programs have a purpose in common. Simply put, it is to provide young people of the neighborhood with the support they need to make it in the world. That means support for education; for enrichment and stability of peer, parenting and family relationships; for preparation for a place in the job market. It is a tall order, but by any measure, The Door is filling it.

Results are both soft and hard...

The Door does it creatively and lovingly in classrooms and assem­bly areas, through volunteer and paid teachers and mentors, through the involvement of parents, professional counselors and community leaders. Results are both soft and hard.

For example, in a program designed to improve the reading skills of the students in the neighborhood elementary school (Commodore John Rogers Elementary, P.S. 27), The Door formed a partnership with AL­PHA (literacy specialists), the school, and The Abell Foundation. Earlier, The Door had experimented with the effectiveness of ALPHA’s learning methods with 28 students in a sum­mer program. At the end of the nine week period the children had gained an average of one year in reading ability, with 40 percent making even greater strides. Results were so en­couraging that, in the spring of 1994, with funding by The Abell Foundation, The Door undertook to provide the program in P.S. 27. This fall the program will be expanded to reach more than 40 children.

Attitudes, hopes, dreams…

“The Abell grant,” Ms. Elaine Kindler, director of development, says, “is enormously important to us. It allows us to take The Door beyond these walls into the world outside. It will give us the opportunity to help so many more young people.”

But beyond the facts are the in­ tangibles: the attitudes, hopes and dreams of the students and their teachers who area part of The Door family. Here is seven-year-old Tysheka: “I really like the tutoring in reading and arithmetic. If I weren’t here at The Door, I would beg to get in!”

And 10-year old Michael “I like that when we have a problem, we can talk. Instead of fighting.”

“The Door made learning interesting”

A persuasive case is made by 15-year old Tamisha. She was a student at The Door and is now back as part of the Junior Staff. She is a sophomore at Merganthaler Tech, and has a report card showing that she is carrying six major subjects and that her grades range from 100 to no lower than 89. She will graduate as an L.P.N. and plans to go on to medical school.

“The Door made learning inter­esting for me,” she says. It’s the way the work is taught here. I was led to stick with a problem until I solved it.” And then there is Door student Ke-Nena: “I like to work the computers, but I like, too, to be able to talk with my friends about serious things. Things like drugs, and teen age pregnancy — there’s a lot wrong in this world and I like to think what I learn at The Door will help me help people with these problems.”

Ke-Nena is 10 years old.