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Sens. Van Hollen & Cardin encourage Brooklyn non-profits to apply for federal earmarks

From left to right: U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Baltimore City Councilmember Phylicia Porter and U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). Photo by Emily Hofstaedter/WYPR.
Emily Hofstaedter
From left to right: U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Baltimore City Councilmember Phylicia Porter and U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

Maryland U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen met with non-profit leaders from Brooklyn and Curtis Bay Wednesday morning to learn more about the communities’ challenges.

During a round-table they heard concerns about food security, housing stability and a need for youth assistance. The non-profits were not shy with their requests for federal funds — something the senators could not promise although Van Hollen, in particular, stressed the importance of applying for federal earmarks.

Mandy Memmel is the executive director and founder of The Well, a community non-profit that provides job training, wrap-around services and employment for vulnerable women. It sits in the heart of Curtis Bay. Memmel described a typical trip her clients take to get groceries.

“To get from the bus stop at The Well, to get up to top of Church Street [and Glen Ritchie Highway] just to be able to get groceries, intensive outpatient medical care, anything that's needed, it took them an hour and 20 minutes to do what it takes a car five minutes to do,” said Memmel. Now that trip is getting even longer. The nearest full-service grocery store, Lidl, shuttered its doors in July.

Brooklyn and Curtis Bay sit in the furthest south corner of Baltimore, bordering Anne Arundel County. About 33 percent of families live below the federal poverty line, according to census data.

In Brooklyn, the community that suffered a mass shooting in July, Bill Humphreys provides food through his non-profit City of Refuge. But he says housing insecurity is also growing with row houses renting for up to $1400 a month.

“I don't like it that I have to tell somebody that’s on a fixed income that their best solution is to move to rural Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania or Virginia. This is their neighborhood,” he told the senators. “This is their safety net, as unsafe as that safety net is.”

Both leaders asked for federal funding to expand their scope and services provided by their non-profits.

Senator Van Hollen could not promise increased resources but encouraged leaders to apply for earmarked congressional funding.

The process of federal earmarking was revived by Congress in 2021 for the fiscal year of 2022. Earmarks are essentially one-time congressional funds that are set aside for local projects.

Van Hollen told assembled non-profit leaders that all earmarks go through an “intensive vetting process.”

“We welcome applications with the caveat that…this is not a sure thing, it’s a process. But it is an opportunity to try to open the doors to worthy projects that otherwise get overlooked,” said Van Hollen.

The community and nonprofit leaders gathered around the table on Wednesday shared sentiments of cautious optimism; it’s painful for them that it took a mass shooting to get Brooklyn and its surrounding neighborhoods into the state and national spotlight, at the same time they see massive opportunities with the in-pouring of resources.

“That incident has kind of sparked a continued renewal and commitment to this area,” said Pastor Amin Flowers of Life Church Ministries, a Brooklyn-based church on Hanover Street.

Meanwhile, Councilmember Phylicia Porter, the Baltimore City councilmember who represents Brooklyn and Curtis Bay, also joined the round table. She spoke separately beforehand with reporters and discussed her frustrations with the progress and lack of information regarding the police investigation into the Brooklyn Homes shooting.

On Friday, police made the first arrest directly related to the shooting, although they believe multiple shooters were responsible for the devastation that killed two and injured 28 others.

“I am frustrated. I will tell you that. That's top of mind when I speak with the families,” said Porter. “But it's something that cannot hold me and it can't hold the momentum of what's happening in regards to us rebuilding and also sustaining the Brooklyn and Curtis Bay communities.”

Police have also arrested a 17 year-old who they say had a gun at the Brooklyn Day party before the shooting, but he has not been charged with firing a weapon.

Emily is a general assignment news reporter for WYPR.
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