Paul’s Place Women’s Group Striving to Empower Themselves and Their Community

| September 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

By The Women’s Group at Paul’s Place

10379009_10203011351019707_5655851742511677158_nBaltimoreans are familiar with the southern corridor of Martin Luther King Boulevard, which quickly ushers drivers out of the city. However, if you slow down and take a right onto Washington Boulevard instead of racing toward the interstate, you will find yourself facing the building-sized mural welcoming you to Historic Pigtown. The neighborhood, sandwiched between M&T Bank stadium and Camden Yards to the East, and Carroll Park to the West, is a vibrant, diverse city neighborhood. Continue down Washington Boulevard and you’ll pass many locally owned businesses including a coffee shop, clothing stores, and an array of diverse restaurants.

Tucked away on Ward Street in the center of the neighborhood is Paul’s Place, a community outreach organization focused on improving the quality of life throughout the Southwest Baltimore region. Each year Paul’s Place serves over 70,000 hot lunches; provides clothing to 7,000 visitors, and assists over 500 individuals who come in for a variety of needs ranging from having their clothes washed to helping prevent eviction. One of the central programs at Paul’s Place is the Ambassador Program, a leadership development course whose participants serve as the backbone of many of Paul’s Place programs; they instruct and assist volunteers, fold laundry, serve meals, welcome guests, and keep the neighborhood trash-free.

Each Tuesday afternoon at Paul’s Place women congregate in a second-floor meeting room for a Women’s Group. The group, grounded in an art therapy model, is comprised of several dozen women who range in age from their early twenties to their eighties. Activities in the Women’s Group vary, one week the women can be found making bracelets, the next week they’ll be quilting, and the next working together to plant seeds, cook a meal, or create center pieces for the Paul’s Place cafeteria. Though their hands are busy crafting, the conversation flows, and unique friendships are formed.

The women begin each meeting by sharing stories, difficulties and thoughts from their week, sometimes offering prayer or advice, other times a hug, or simply an understanding nod. Many participants of the group, though very diverse in race, age, and socio-economic background, cite the group as the highlight of their week, saying it provides a pause in their busy schedules and often-chaotic lives. The women who make up the group are teachers, seamstresses, cooks, artists, caregivers, gardeners, mothers, volunteers, business owners, and community leaders.

For those unfamiliar with the neighborhood, it can be easy to focus on the challenges often associated with Pigtown including the many who struggle with the effects of poverty and joblessness, or the litter that dots the street corners. However, in the Women’s Group, the women see their neighborhood as one filled with potential and each individual rooted in a support system that makes them strong and connects them to values that bring meaning: community, friendship, service, and hope.  The group and Paul’s Place as an organization creates a small sampling of what the world could look like if more people of different backgrounds came together to share their lives and forge friendships across lines of race, class, and education.

For more information about Paul’s Place and the Women’s Group, please visit www.paulsplaceoutreach.org

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