Area donors save center that assists needy kids; Gifts enable program to pay overdue BGE bill


Getting a jump on the holidays, dozens of Baltimore-area residents rushed to the rescue of a northeast Baltimore children's after-school program yesterday, paying the overdue $3,000 electric bill that threatened to close it.

By midmorning, an anonymous donor had paid Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. for the five-month overdue bill after reading an account in The Sun yesterday about the fiscal woes of the Destiny of Hope center, which operates in an old warehouse off Harford Road.

Residents ranging from advertising company owners to gun lobbyists pledged further financial aid to the center at 1700 Friendship St. Other businesses hope to provide managerial expertise so the owners can get on better fiscal footing.

"Baltimore has a heart that just reaches out," said City Councilman-elect Kenneth N. Harris, who spearheaded a task force to help aid the center. "I'm very much pleased with the outpouring of support."

BGE threatened to turn off the power at the sprawling former industrial site.

Beverly Woodland and her husband, Robert, opened the center a year ago as an after-school center for poor children in their neighborhood. In addition to offering a computer learning center, the couple provides musical instruments and video games to keep these children off the streets and out of the line of fire in the area, which has a lot of crime and drug traffic.

BGE had repeatedly extended the deadline for the Woodlands, but it said that yesterday was the shut-off date.

Harris formed a task force this fall of area leaders that helped the Woodlands raise $1,000 to pay the bill. On Wednesday, the group sold raffle tickets to raise the rest of the money.

The Woodlands were contacted early yesterday with the news that an anonymous donor had stepped forward.

"I thank them so much," a jubilant Beverly Woodland said. "The long term is facing us, and whatever comes in will keep our insurance together and help us create an escrow account to pay BGE in the future."

Among the people and groups stepping up to help was the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore. The group holds a 50-50 raffle throughout the year and donates the proceeds to charities in December. After reading about the Woodlands, John Josselyn, the group's vice president, said he intends to ask the 4,000 members to consider giving to Destiny of Hope.

"God, is this society great or what?" Josselyn said when told about the anonymous donor. "For all the bad things you hear."

Joan Denny agreed. The Falls Road retiree called to help the couple and was overjoyed to learn that an anonymous donor had stepped in.

"It just warms your heart," Denny said.

Others, such as Colleen and William F. Mulroney, offered assistance to the operation, which provides a haven for about 65 children in the neighborhood, which is just north of North Avenue.

The Mulroneys, members of Baltimore's Ashcroft and Gerel law firm, contacted BGE yesterday and arranged to pay the center's electric bill for the next six months.

"Everybody needs a place to go," Colleen Mulroney said. "We need to keep our youth together and give our kids a safe place."

Susan Brennan of Roy Kirby and Sons contractors also is pledging help. "This is kind of putting a Band-Aid on the problem," Brennan said of the financial woes. "They need much more."

Woodland said the group took in an additional $1,100 by midday yesterday, including donations from Howard County.

"I'm not surprised that somebody beat me to it," said David Pivec, a Baltimore advertising company owner who called to help. "I love stuff like that."

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