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.
For more categories, go to baltimoresun.com/best.
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.”
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
Forest Hill Lanes
Casino: Horseshoe Casino Baltimore
Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland
Charity/nonprofit: Caroline Center
Reading Partners Baltimore
Maryland New Directions Inc.
St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore
College/university: Towson University
Johns Hopkins University
Coppin State University
Golf course: Bulle Rock Golf Course
Baltimore Country Club
Museum/gallery: American Visionary Art Museum
Baltimore Museum of Art
Katsea Gallery, Towson
Park: Druid Hill Park
Canton Waterfront Park
Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods
Private school: Calvert Hall College High School
Immaculate Conception School
The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland
The John Carroll School
Theater company: Highwire Improv
Baltimore Center Stage
Tourist attraction: American Visionary Art Museum
The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum
Trail: Oregon Ridge Park & Nature Center
Grist Mill Trail at Patapsco Valley State Park
Barn Quilts of Harford
Wedding venue: Baltimore Museum of Industry
Hidden View Farm: Private Manor House & Gardens