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Schaefer's service to the poor

Much has been written about William Donald Schaefer's very public achievements. However, there was also a side of Mayor Schaefer many people do not know. He not only filled potholes and orchestrated the building of Harborplace, he also very quietly helped the less fortunate in his beloved Baltimore.

Paul's Place Outreach Center was a fledgling soup kitchen in Southwest Baltimore in the early 1990s. We had just been evicted from the church where we had been serving breakfast and lunch when the very generous Middendorf Foundation gave us money to purchase our own property.

Unfortunately, we did not have enough to rehab the existing building on the property. The architect who was designing our interior pro-bono told us we needed someone like Willard Hackerman of Whiting Turner Contracting Co. to help us with the project. But we had no idea how to convince Mr. Hackerman to assist us, since we didn't know him.

Through a friend, we managed to procure the home phone number of then "retired" Governor Schaefer, so I left a voice mail message with a brief explanation of our dilemma. Several days later, my cell phone rang and it was Governor Schaefer. It turned out he was a parishioner of Old St. Paul's Church, which owned the church in Pigtown that evicted us, and he was so upset over what had happened that he promised to arrange a meeting with for us with Mr. Hackerman, who ultimately offered to construct our building at cost.

Of course, we knew that Governor Schaefer orchestrated the entire plan, and we were eternally grateful for his help. But he did not stop there. The governor then agreed to be an honorary member of our board and showed us how to raise funds to complete our building and expand our programs.

Today, Paul's Place is a comprehensive outreach center providing not only hot lunches but after-school mentoring and summer programs for children, free clothing, a computer and job-placement center, a women's support group, a nurse's station and emergency funding for utilities and eviction prevention.

It is truly a sanctuary of hope for the neighborhood of Pigtown, and we would not be here today had it not been for the generosity and unsung heroics of William Donald Schaefer.

Jeannie D. Pohlhaus, Baltimore

The writer is a former president of the board of directors of Paul's Place Outreach Center

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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