Pastor Rod Hudson said the first time he came to Baltimore to visit Ames Memorial United Methodist Church in 2007, he was shocked by how much drug activity was going on in Sandtown-Winchester. But he felt called to work there, he said, and not only took the job at the church, but became engaged in efforts and ideas to turn the neighborhood around.

Hudson said the community petitioned to get more cameras. The church started food giveaways and preaching on corners. Slowly, he said, they started to see a change, but there was more that could be done.

Hudson credits the community, Reverend Kay Albury and Bill Adams, a member of the congregation, for the launch of Resurrection Sandtown in 2016 with a goal of redeveloping land in West Baltimore to address housing, crime and poverty issues. Over the years they’ve purchased or received donated parcels and buildings. Thursday, they announced a request for proposal for a development partner. They also talked about a new foundational partner, Dwyer Workforce Development, that Hudson believes will give the project even more momentum.

“It opened up an opportunity for us to dream outside of our small space to a bigger space. And guess who walked into our dream?” Hudson said.

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Hudson and Dwyer Workforce Development CEO Barb Clapp will talk about plans to bring the first Dwyer Scholar Healthcare Village, a resource hub for health care workers, to Sandtown-Winchester.

Resurrection Sandtown didn’t always have a sizeable footprint in West Baltimore. In 2018, the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church approved funding for Hudson’s church to buy property from private owners and Baltimore City to expand the project’s property assets.

Last year, the Cook family, owners of Northeastern Supply, donated the company’s Sandtown properties — valued at $2.2 million — to Resurrection Sandtown. Steve Cook told The Baltimore Sun last year that Hudson “had such a vision. He had his act together. He knew what he wanted.”

Hudson said the original plan for Resurrection Sandtown was to always have some type of workforce development in the area and health care wraparound services.

Dwyer Workforce Development, a nonprofit and health care training program, will fund and take the lead on the project, which will include a resource center and eventually multi-income housing and a child care center for Dwyer Scholars (the name for the program’s participants). Dwyer Workforce Development provides free certified nursing assistant training and job placement to scholars.

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The health care workforce in Maryland and elsewhere continue to have staff shortages, specifically in the nursing field, and staffing levels have been slow to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clapp said Dwyer Workforce Development gets many referrals for its scholars in East and West Baltimore from nonprofit partners. Having a hub of resources would eliminate barriers for scholars who might be “a flat tire away from homelessness,” she said. Dwyer Workforce Development partners with nonprofits and other organizations to facilitate the training for scholars who either report to those facilities or do virtual training.

“We want to put services where our scholars are,” Clapp said. “A lot of our scholars schlep strollers on the buses, and go two stops past their workplace to get child care, then they get back on the bus and go back to their workplace.”

Ashley Wilson, a Dwyer Scholar, said she was introduced to the program at one of the lowest times in her life. She and her children were in a bad car accident a couple years ago. One of her children even had to learn to walk again. She lost everything in December 2021, she said, and thanked the program for helping her find her way again.

“Don’t ever give up. When you think you can’t, you can,“ she said to a small audience on Baker Street.

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The first step in the health care village project is the renovation of the Ames Memorial United Methodist Church on North Carey Street, which will serve as the the Dwyer Scholar Resource Center. The center will provide access to computers, fax machines, printers, copiers, and support for taxes and health care insurance open enrollment— all at no cost to scholars, according to Dwyer Workforce Development.

The sun sets on Ames Memorial United Methodist Church on Wednesday, June 7, 2023. (Dylan Thiessen/The Baltimore Banner)

Scholars can meet with their case managers at the center for assistance with homework and studies, and it will also serve as a recruitment hub for those interested in the program. Dwyer Workforce Development plans to hire West Baltimore residents to work at the center and will extend its resources to local nonprofit partners.

Hudson said they are looking for a developer who “has a heart to see change” and not just in one area, but in an entire community. The developer will help them further put the pieces together and solidify their plans, he added.

“In Baltimore city, development doesn’t happen on accident. It happens when we all join hands together and work together to build something beautiful for our community,” Hudson said.

Hudson and Clapp signed an agreement after a mini, solo performance by Hudson, who sang “Stand By Me.”

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“The signing of this document signifies that hope and help is on the way,” Hudson said.

Jasmine Vaughn-Hall is a neighborhood and community reporter at the Baltimore Banner, covering the people, challenges, and solutions within West Baltimore. Have a tip about something happening in your community? Taco recommendations? Call or text Jasmine at 443-608-8983.

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