Living Well's community meeting draws a good crowd

"We can make something happen," Karen Griffin wrote on one of several pieces of blank paper taped to a wall in The Living Wellyoga studio in south Charles Village.

Griffin, director of resource development at the nearby St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center and a student in The Living Well's Tai chi classes, was among more than 30 people who came to a community meeting organized by Living Well, a so-called living arts studio, whose director and founder, Maurissa Stone, also is focusing on community-building. Stone said her goal is to link the studio's living arts classes, includingPilates andyoga, to more community-oriented programs, ranging from drumming circles to a support group for women professionals.

The blank paper was part of an exercise by Stone to generate "a community conversation" and get people thinking about what she called "opportunities and challenges" in Charles Village, a close-knit community unsettled of late by violent crime and the advent of a shopping center to be anchored by Walmart and Lowe's in nearby Remington.

"It's going to change the topography of the community," said Stone, citing as one of the area's "hot topics."

Food was provided by Terra Cafe down the street and Stone made what she called "Kool-aid lemonade."

The community meeting — part bonding session, part call to action and part networking event — was worth it, just for "the idea of having a conversation, supporting Maurissa and being part of the neighborhood," Griffin said.

"We all want stakeholders to be more involved in the community, said Leroy Graefe, representing the Greater Homewood Community Corp., a resource organization for about 40 area community groups.

The meeting, in the Old Goucher community, drew the kind of people that don't normally go to meetings of established groups such as the Charles Village Civic Association and the Charles Village Civic Association. But it also drew representatives of those groups.

Nobody was more impressed by the turnout than Jeanne Knight, president of the Old Goucher Community Association, which came to the Living Well meeting in lieu of the association's regularly scheduled monthly meeting.

"I haven't seen this many people show up for an Old Goucher meeting ever," Knight said.

Association vice president Peter Duvall was glad to see The Living Well take an interest in the community.

"I wanted to see a different cross-section of people, people who wouldn't normally come to these meetings," Duvall said.

"We go to community association (meetings), but it's always the same people," said Griffin, of Waverly. "This is a chance for other people to come together in a less structured environment."

A potpourri of thoughts and ideas filled about five large pieces of paper on the wall.

"Accountability," said one musing.

"Shared respect and motivation," said another.

"Talk to children, play with them, jump rope, play catch and share your experiences," said yet another. "One comment, one idea can improve a child for life."

Some comments called for living wages and more community involvement, while others bemoaned public intoxication, littering, loitering, rats, trash and prostitution, the latter involving transgender people, a topic that has had south Charles Village residents buzzing in recent months.

One person wrote simply, "Many trees," and drew a smiley face next to the words.

Pam Corkran, owner of the consignment boutique shop Too Good To Be Thru, said the meeting was important for the business community as well, because participants would realize, "It's not just about residents."

Several 12th District political candidates showed up, too, including Baltimore City Councilman Carl Stokes and City Council hopeful Odette Ramos.

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