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Loyola community supports DeWees rec center bid for revitalization grant

| By Nick Alexopulos

Loyola University Maryland has joined other local partners to help the DeWees Recreation Center in North Baltimore vie for a rehabilitation grant in a national contest sponsored by Rebuilding Together and Maxwell House.

The partnership among Loyola, Rebuilding Together Baltimore, the Mid-Govans Community Association, and the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks has set a goal of transforming the dilapidated and underutilized building into a lifelong community learning and recreation center in the heart of the Govans neighborhood. Winning this contest would be a tremendous step toward reaching that goal. DeWees is one of only 10 community centers from across the country selected to take part in the contest, which will be decided by online voting open to the public. Of the 10 nominees, only the top three with the most votes will receive renovation grants of up to $50,000.

A vibrant and functional DeWees is key to the health of children and families living in the York Road community of Govans, the primary focus of Loyola’s York Road Initiative.

“We are thrilled for this opportunity to win generous funding that will transform the DeWees Recreation Center into a stronger home for the heartbeat of the Govans community,” said Erin O’Keefe, ’03, director of the York Road Initiative. “Loyola is committed to helping improve the quality of life for everyone living, working, and learning in the York Road corridor. We won’t fully reach that goal without DeWees.”

The grant, through the Rebuilding Together National Grant Program 2012 and Drops of Good: The Maxwell House Community Project, would allow DeWees to receive numerous updates and additions, including a technology center with 12 new computers and a WiFi hub for community internet access; a “community coffeehouse” that will serve as a venue for conversations, networking, and community meetings; a “Life-long Learning Center” for book clubs, financial literacy trainings, yoga classes, and other activities; exterior improvements to pathways, fresh paint, and signage, along with newly installed benches and chess boards; and  a memorial garden to honor local community members.     

If DeWees receives enough votes to be one of the three winners, the entire renovation project will be completed over four days this summer with the help of more than 250 volunteers from the community and Loyola.

“Of the many sites we considered, the rehabilitation of DeWees offers the most impact on the community and the most meaningful difference to the look and feel of the building itself,” said Bonnie Bessor, executive director of Rebuilding Together Baltimore.

DeWees and other rec centers in Baltimore have recently fallen victim to the city’s budget constraints, with some centers closing. Loyola and Govans community leaders have been working together for over a year on plans to strengthen DeWees.

Loyola encourages its students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends to vote for DeWees and to ask their colleagues to do the same. Votes can be cast online though June 8, 2012, at http://www.maxwellhousecoffee.com/drops-of-good/all-centers/dewees-recreation-center/.

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