Psalms Rojas, chief administrative officer at Marian House
Hope is often defined as having an expectation that something good can happen in the future. I’d be lying if I said that having hope is easy, because it’s not, at least not always.
Yet, I’m learning that to hope is not to pretend that the frustrations, challenges and disappointments don’t exist, but it is to acknowledge them and have hope despite, and in the midst, of them — that we can say: Yes, we grieve the lives lost to violence AND hold hope for a violence-free city through public health programs like Safe Streets Baltimore and Baltimore CeaseFire. We are frustrated by the numbers of unhoused citizens of Baltimore AND hold hope because of programs like HelpingUpMission, Project PLASE, Marian House, and many others who provide shelter for those without. We are disappointed that we are seemingly back to where we started with COVID cases surging in our city and beyond AND hold hope that one day this will be behind us and there will be relief especially for health care workers and others in the front lines. Our #city and its people are resilient. But maybe it’s too overwhelming to try to imagine a brighter future when everything around us seems hopeless — so just focus on today. Find a source of hope — be it a friend, a family member, in faith or in a faith community, or your favorite meal — find your “well” and draw from it. Wherever you find yourself today, there is hope for you.
Marian House is a transitional and permanent supportive housing program for homeless women and their children in Baltimore.
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Resident Crab Feast
The holidays are a great time to gather and this past Labor Day weekend, the residents of Marian House I, led by Geri F. and Tobina S., organized a crab feast with all the fixings. The residents pooled together their money, and along with a wonderful donation from former board chair, Tere Geckle, ordered
6 ½ bushels of crabs. In addition, they had hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, chips and more. Tere also ordered special desserts from Classic Catering and had them delivered to top off the feast.
To make the day even better, the weather was perfect! We hope you also had a wonderful Labor Day Holiday. Our sincerest thanks to Tere Geckle for helping make the celebration a success!
New Fund to Be Established
The Marian House Board of Directors recently approved a board designated fund, the Marian House Rental Assistance Fund. This fund will allow the Marian House graduates who are working low wage jobs to live in Marian House-owned properties at affordable rental rates. Rent will not exceed 30% of the tenant’s income, an amount that will be far below market rate. The fund will be used to supplement the client’s payment, when needed, and ensure that the properties have a positive cash flow.
A portion of the proceeds raised at the 40th Anniversary Event will be used to support this fund.
And the Winner Is . . .
Mark Davis is the winner of our Annual Ravens Season Ticket Raffle. Sold by our very own Scott. Mark was intrigued with the possibility of winning and brought tickets.
When he was called on July 27, 2021, and notified that he was the winner, he was thrilled. He had the option of taking the four Ravens season tickets or the $1,500 in cash and he chose the tickets without hesitation.
Thanks to Mark and to all who purchased tickets, for their support of our mission. We will offer the raffle again in the spring of 2024.
See you next your and may the odds be in your favor
Marian House is in an exciting time of growth. In July, we embarked on another exciting opportunity to expand our services by acquiring a social enterprise model from a non-profit that was closing its doors. Benevolent Baskets was a nonprofit organization that provided a workforce development program where participants, called Basket Builders, gain job experience and business skills as they design, market, and sell gift baskets.
Since workforce development has been a focus of Marian House from our founding, we believe that continuing our journey by taking on this new social enterprise model is a great fit! Four Basket Builders transitioned to receive services through Marian House, and we also acquired the basket-building inventory and equipment. Future Basket Builders will be women who complete the Marian House Job Readiness program, giving them a steppingstone before entering the workforce. The program also provides a new opportunity for volunteer engagement and has long term potential to build sustainable revenue as a social enterprise!
We have been busy making the program our own by crafting and adding a new curriculum, refreshing the logo, updating product offerings, and more. Baskets will include signature offerings like hand-etched glassware, the opportunity for custom orders and seasonal changes at price points that help us engage a diverse range of supporters. We are excited to work with local business partners to feature their products in our baskets and to provide baskets to businesses and individuals in the local community.
To learn more about the program, ways to engage or to check out our newest products, please visit marianhouse.org/benevolentbaskets.
The courtyard at Marian House headquarters is a special place for the staff and residents and the local community. The courtyard offers a tranquil water fountain, trees, flowers, benches, and a community book bank where people can donate or borrow books. In addition, the courtyard also features the four 6 ½ foot tall caryatids that are named after the four values Marian House aims to instill in all the women served: Patience, Honesty, Integrity, and Trust. Residents love to gather on the 2nd and 3rd floor balconies overlooking the courtyard, to enjoy the fresh air and tranquility near their rooms.
Marian House Chief Administrative Officer, Psalms Rojas, and resident Njeri M., got together and submitted a proposal to the Nature Sacred Foundation to request funds to purchase two picnic tables for the courtyard, and new patio furniture for the 2nd and 3rd floor balconies. The grant request was awarded, and the picnic tables and patio furniture have enhanced the courtyard and balconies for the residents to enjoy. On a nice day, you can see residents having lunch outside or just visiting with other residents or visitors.
Thank you to Nature Sacred for helping to facilitate mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation.
Ayana Andrews grew up in Baltimore. Her father was a professional football player for the Miami Dolphins and her mother was a social worker. Her childhood was wonderful until her parents separated when Ayana was 10. Their divorce left her feeling pain and anger that she then carried into adulthood.
At a young age, she turned to drugs to help her cope with life’s hardships. Ayana spent the next couple of years in and out of recovery programs and started using heroin at 30 years old. She came to Marian House in 2020, her second stay with us a decade after leaving our program the first time. She knew if she came back to Marian House that she would learn to love herself again and be supported by a caring team who will help to build her back up and regain her confidence.
Throughout the years, Ayana focused on trying to improve her life by getting trained in various occupations in the medical profession. She was a pharmacy technician for many years and then became a peer recovery specialist. Ayana now works at the Bayview Hospital emergency room as a peer recovery advisor.
“It feels so good being a peer recovery coach. It has allowed me to give back what was given to me,” Ayana stated. “It is amazing! Now I can be who I really am,” she continued.
“The Bayview ER is always overwhelming and crowded,” Ayana said. “The disease of addiction is worse than people know.” Ayana says she is doing great now and knows that Marian House offered the best opportunity for her to heal and keep the focus on her well-being. She stays in contact with her AA sponsor and has built a big network through her sobriety. Ayana stated, “You have to be responsible for your own recovery. I trust the process at Marian House. You must be honest that you have a problem and need advice. You have to be constantly on guard from temptations because addiction is for a lifetime.”
Ayana is now in our Marian House II program, which offers a more independent living environment in a community setting with other women who are striving to achieve similar goals for independent and healthy living. Her goal is to get a master’s degree in social work. Ayana said, “I want to learn and grow and be the best I can be.”
Hana is a native Bostonian and attended college at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. She moved to Baltimore in 2003 and obtained her master’s degree at the University of Baltimore. She is a single mom of 10-year-old daughter, Sydney.
Her full-time occupation is the manager of Off-Campus Housing for Johns Hopkins University. Through seminars, workshops, webinars, and in-person appointments, she educates the students on how to find off-campus housing on their own.
Hana first learned about Marian House in 2015 through Johns Hopkins, one of the major sponsors and one of the largest teams each year in the 5K event. She was recruited by a colleague to join the Hopkins team for the race. Hana said, “The Marian House 5K is one of my personal favorite 5Ks that I run. It is so inspiring to run by the Marian House headquarters on Gorsuch Avenue and have the residents cheering us on and giving us water.”
After her first Marian House race, Hana volunteered to serve on the 5K sub-committee to plan the next race. Eleanor Smith, the Advancement Committee Chair, saw that Hana was a wonderful volunteer and approached her to serve on the Advancement Committee. Hana felt like it was a natural progression to continue her support of Marian House year-round and now has been a member of the Committee for over a year. She served on the 2021 5K Race to Embrace Independence Committee and chaired the sub-committee on Marketing and Promotion.
Hana likes serving on the Advancement Committee because there is always something new and different at each meeting. “It isn’t just about the 5K race, but serving on the Advancement Committee involves outreach to the greater Baltimore community in so many ways. I appreciate the Marian House mission and hold the cause dearly,” Hana stated.
One of Hana’s favorite phrases to share with students is: Go Forth and Be Great!
She lives by that phrase and it shows in her engagement at Marian House. We are grateful to have Hana as a volunteer and donor.