Local Charities Off the Trodden Path

Kiona & De'Marco (Kate Sam).
Kiona & De’Marco are just one example of how charities help locals. (Kate Sam)

Living in a cramped public housing complex in South Baltimore, Kiona laid awake at night wondering how to make life better for herself and her 11 year old son De’Marco. Their apartment was ill-maintained, had poor ventilation, and was surrounded by concrete with no beauty in sight, according to Kate Sam, director of communications at the Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake.

In 2018, Habitat Chesapeake raised more than $75,000 to transform a once vacant and crumbling house in the North Baltimore neighborhood of Woodbourne-McCabe into a beautiful, fully-restored home for Kiona and De’Marco.

Habitat Cheasapeake is just one local lesser-known charities you might consider when deciding where to contribute financial and other donations. Here is more info about this charity and two others that might be flying under your radar but do important work:

Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake

Habitat Chesapeake is a nonprofit organization that helps families build and improve places to call home. Habitat Chesapeake is one of 1,400 Habitat for Humanity affiliates around the world operating and fundraising independently,” according to its website. It is located on Commerce Drive in Baltimore.

Habitat Chesapeake (Kate Sam).
Habitat Chesapeake (Kate Sam).

“The biggest misconception is that Habitat gives away homes to families living in severe poverty. In fact, Habitat Chesapeake serves hardworking, low-to-moderate income families who don’t qualify for traditional bank loans but deserve the opportunity to achieve the dream of homeownership,” said Kate Sam, director of communications. Once accepted into the program, every homebuyers gives at least 250 hours building their home and taking classes to ensure that they are successful and responsible homeowners. Ultimately, they pay a mortgage, maintain their home, and become a neighbor like any other. The only difference is that they receive a zero-percent interest loan to ensure that payments are affordable and are part of the Habitat family, able to ask for advice and guidance.

“People think we give away homes. The truth is that we are working with people who are everyday people. They are hardworking, normal professionals who don’t qualify for a normal home loan,” said Sam.

“They receive a hand up, not a handout. The way we keep the mortgage affordable is that it’s a zero percent interest mortgage, and the payments go back to help build houses for other families.”

The greatest need at Habitat Chesapeake is funds. It takes a lot of resources to build homes, according to Sam, particularly when many are vacant and abandoned buildings in Baltimore City that are being rehabilitated from the ground up. Beyond building materials, it requires supervisors to guide thousands of volunteers in the building process, and skilled tradespeople to do things like electrical work and roofing, financial donations, provide homebuyer education, and manage cases. There is also the workforce development program to train low-income individuals for careers in the construction industry, and community development efforts like street lighting, cleaner parks, playgrounds, and streetscaping.

Beyond financial donations, Habitat Chesapeake accepts in-kind donations to ReStores – retail stores that sell new and gently used furniture, appliances, lighting, building materials and more. Proceeds from the sale of these donations support its work. They also accept services such as engineering, electrical or HVAC, or building materials.

League for People with Disabilities (LPD)

LPD serves 2,000 individuals annually with multiple, physical, cognitive and neurological disabilities. Located on East Coldspring Ln. in Baltimore, it offers individuals the opportunity to gain independence, to increase self-sufficiency, and to improve quality of life. LPD is a community, too. For example, it holds a gift bazaar each year for clients to get gifts for themselves and loved ones, which has become a holiday tradition. Gift giving events are completely supported by donations.

league for disabilities
League for disabilities drive for toys. (Lisa Knauff).

Some misconceptions to be clarified about LPD is that the money it receives from the state does not cover all the costs of the services it provides. The public also is often not aware that it provides services to people across their lifespan. It serves individuals from age 5 – 105. It also offers SCALE Aphasia Program – the only one in the state, a nightclub for people with disabilities – CLUB1111, and the Camping and Recreation program for people with disabilities.

Most urgent is its need for the sensory toy drive. These benefit children in its autism program. Sensory Santa (Andy Snyder, the Board Chair and founder of the Synder Center for Aphasia Life Enhancement Program), will give out sensory toy items to children in the Autism Program Dec. 18th. LPD is collecting playdoh, Legos, fidget toys, weighted blankets, textured items, squeeze balls, large exercise balls, bean bag chairs, and related items.

league for disabilities
league for disabilities

Also, “We have a special fund set aside for participant urgent needs (coats, shoes, clothing, hygiene Items, food, medications) and cash donations to these urgent needs fund are always most appreciated. These donations come in handy especially at during the winter holiday season,” said Lisa Knauff, director of marketing and advancement at LPD. The organization’s Amazon Wish List is online at A.Co/fcZTXrX. Monetary donations are accepted as well.

Maryland School for the Blind (MSB)

MSB provides educational, residential, and outreach services to approximately 1,300 students throughout MD who are blind or visually impaired, including more than 95% who have multiple disabilities. Located in Nottingham, these programs and services are freely provided to the students, according to Dotty Raynor, MSB’s communications specialist.

MSB plays a central and critical role in meeting the federal requirement to make available a full continuum of free appropriate public education, said Raynor. This includes specialized schools, for eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation, and ensures special education and related services to those children under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

School for the blind
School for the blind (Dotty Raynor).

“A misconception is that all of our students are completely blind,” said Raynor.

“Many are totally blind, but we also serve students with any visual impairment, including those with severe and multiple disabilities. Another misconception is that we are a state school. We do receive state funding, but there is a huge gap in the amount it costs to educate and serve our student population and the amount we receive. We are a private, 501 (C) 3 non-profit organization and rely on private donations to help us meet our goals.”

MSB accepts monetary donations of any amount, according to Raynor, but they also have a vehicle donation program. The school accepts any vehicle — cars, trucks, boats with trailers — both running and non-running. The vehicles are sold at auction, and the proceeds go to MSB. The title of the vehicle must be properly assigned to the charity, according to the MVA, and the license plates must be removed from the vehicle for charities.

Short documentary featuring staff, parent and students at the Maryland School for the Blind. Produced in HD by Janelle Wallace, Nyna Toney and Sean Holmes at Towson University Electronic Media & Film Department in 2010. For more information: www.marylandschoolfortheblind.org


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