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Baltimore Sun’s Best: Readers’ Choice 2021 activities & arts

Best 2021

The Baltimore Sun’s readers have voted on what’s the best in the region, from antiques to urgent care. This year’s winners include people and businesses recognized for outstanding service and customer satisfaction over the last year. Several businesses stood out from the crowd despite the downturn in commerce due to the pandemic.

Winners of the Readers’ Choice ballot were selected by readers in May.

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For more categories, go to baltimoresun.com/best.

Lynn Selby, left, is the executive director of the Caroline Center, which trains unemployed and underemployed women for better-paying jobs in health services. The center has been named Best Charity for 2021.
Lynn Selby, left, is the executive director of the Caroline Center, which trains unemployed and underemployed women for better-paying jobs in health services. The center has been named Best Charity for 2021. (Kenneth K. Lam)

Best Charity

Caroline Center

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This charity doesn’t dole out food, clothing or shelter. What it does offer is knowledge, unity and hope. A nonprofit work training program for women ages 20 to 50, Caroline Center helps struggling Baltimore City residents become certified nursing assistants and pharmacy technicians though a 15-week, tuition-free program. En route, the women — from unemployed single moms to those stuck in dead-end jobs — learn trades in burgeoning health fields, hone essential work skills and forge bonds that can last a lifetime.

“We are the runway for their future,” Executive Director Lynn Selby says of her clients. “Many come, desperate, saying this is their last stop. We do away with all of the negative self-talk and embolden them to advocate for themselves. They become a sisterhood and are Caroline Center women for life.”

In its 25th year, the center is sponsored by the School Sisters of Notre Dame and graduates about 150 women a year (80%) at a cost of $4,500 per student (financed via grants, government contracts and donations). The center’s staff of 29 includes instructors, a counselor and a social worker who shepherd the women through the program while boosting their self-esteem.

“A lot come in discouraged and with trust issues,” said Selby, 57, a Morgan State graduate who earned an M.B.A. “Incrementally, you can see these women turn themselves around. And those who finish the program will come back and tell the new class, ‘Don’t mess this up.’ They are very protective of their family.”

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Alumni find employment at places like Johns Hopkins Hospital, Stella Maris, Keswick Multi-Care Center and CVS Pharmacy.

“We don’t want to be an organization in the community but of the community,” Selby said.

For some, the center is a springboard to better lives.

“People assume that unemployment equates to being unsuccessful in a learning environment,” she said. “Many women come to us and really flourish. One woman was just accepted at Brown University; another graduated with honors from Baltimore City Community College. Another called to say she’d just bought her first house.”

More than once at graduation, she said, mothers have clutched their diplomas and exclaimed, “Now I can show my children that I am a success.” — Mike Klingaman

900 Somerset St., Oldtown. 410-563-1303. caroline-center.org


Bowling: Patterson Bowling Center

Honorable mention:

Forest Hill Lanes

Casino: Horseshoe Casino Baltimore

Honorable mention:

Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland

Charity/nonprofit: Caroline Center

Honorable mentions:

Reading Partners Baltimore

Maryland New Directions Inc.

St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore

College/university: Towson University

Honorable mentions:

Johns Hopkins University

Coppin State University

Goucher College

Golf course: Bulle Rock Golf Course

Honorable mention:

Baltimore Country Club

Museum/gallery: American Visionary Art Museum

Honorable mentions:

Baltimore Museum of Art

Katsea Gallery, Towson

Park: Druid Hill Park

Honorable mentions:

Canton Waterfront Park

Cylburn Arboretum

Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods

Private school: Calvert Hall College High School

Honorable mentions:

Immaculate Conception School

The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland

The John Carroll School

Suburb: Towson

Honorable mention:

Owings Mill

Theater company: Highwire Improv

Honorable mentions:

Baltimore Center Stage

Hippodrome Theatre

Everyman Theatre

Tourist attraction: American Visionary Art Museum

Honorable mention:

The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum

Trail: Oregon Ridge Park & Nature Center

Honorable mentions:

Grist Mill Trail at Patapsco Valley State Park

Barn Quilts of Harford

Wedding venue: Baltimore Museum of Industry

Honorable mentions:

Liriodendron

Rockfield Manor

Hidden View Farm: Private Manor House & Gardens

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