Helen Derry Martien, who helped establish a soup kitchen and clinic in Southwest Baltimore, died Thursday of complications of cancer at her North Baltimore residence. She was 57.
In 1982, Mrs. Martien, a communicant of St. John's Episcopal Church in Glyndon, called the pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Episcopal Church in Pigtown and express an interest in helping establish a soup kitchen in the working-class neighborhood.
Within three months, she and other volunteers began serving meals at Paul's Place on Washington Boulevard.
The soup kitchen now serves about 70,000 meals a year. It also operates several outreach programs for women and children and the Open Gates Nurse-Managed Health Center, a clinic that opened in 1993 for the homeless and area residents who don't qualify for federal medical insurance.
"Helen has always had a deep social conscience as many at St. John's do," said the Rev. Philip B. Roulette, rector of the church.
"It was her idea to establish a holistic center for the poor and needy but at the same time offer pastoral help, legal help and a shelter. But these things all evolved from her desire to feed a few people. Very exciting things have happened to Washington Village and Pigtown because of her vision," Father Roulette said.
Winkie Hopkins, acting director of Paul's Place, said, "She planted a seed and from that seed grew the programs that helped all types of people in need. When she saw the need of a safe haven for children away from guns, street violence and drugs, she established Kid's Place. That's the kind of person she was.
"She believed in breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and despair through self-help programs that could create a sense of hope."
Said Father Roulette, "She left a great deal of love throughout the community."
Born and raised in Atlanta, the former Helen Derry learned of social activism at an early age when her mother participated in the civil rights movement.
She earned a bachelor's degree at Bryn Mawr College in 1960. After graduation, she worked as a journalist for several years for the Atlanta Constitution and Journal before marrying James Carey Martien in 1962 and moving to Baltimore.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. John's Episcopal Church, 3738 Butler Road.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by two sons, William D. Martien of Rodgers Forge and Frank B. Martien of Charlottesville, Va.; a brother, William R. Derry of Richmond, Va.; and two grandchildren.