91-year-old Episcopal charity closes, transfers services to other organizations

A 91-year-old Episcopal nonprofit has shut its doors and transferred the child care programs it operated to two other organizations.

The Rev. Charlie Barton, president of the board for Episcopal Community Services of Maryland, said closing the charity was the best way to ensure continuity for the children and employees at The Ark preschool and The Club at Collington Square amid financial challenges.

St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore took over The Ark in Northwest Baltimore for homeless children. Strong City Baltimore now runs The Club, an East Baltimore after-school and summer school program.

“Our children and our staff deserved more stability,” Barton wrote in an open letter about the board’s decision last spring. “Now they have it.”

Barton said closing the charity was a last resort after years of declining revenue and staff attrition. In selecting the nonprofits to take over the programs, Barton said Episcopal Community Services avoided laying off any of its 25 full- and part-time staff members.

None of the children being served were displaced, he said. Under the Episcopal program, the Ark served roughly 50 children; about 90 attended The Club during the school year and 150 over the summer.

The board is in the final stages of closing the charity, including the planned sale of its Mura Street property near Collington Avenue to Strong City so the club can continue to operate out of its four modified rowhouses, Barton said. Whatever money remains after the charity’s obligations are settled will be divided between The Ark and The Club, he said.

Barton said Strong City and St. Vincent de Paul have secure budgets, strong administrative staffs and steady future fundraising opportunities. He said a website — ecsm-goodbye.squarespace.com — was created for people who want to share memories of Episcopal Community Services.

Karen DeCamp, Strong City’s director of community programs, said: “We were able to continue offering services without interruption when we assumed operations of The Club at Collington Square one year ago, around the corner from Strong City's planned future home at the Hoen Lithographic Building.

“Providing this essential after-school and summer enrichment program fits our mission of building and strengthening neighborhoods and people. It is a privilege to work with the wonderful families of The Club and its outstanding staff, including Director Vanessa Williams.”

John Schiavone, president of St. Vincent, said the organization was well-suited to serving children in homeless families because of the other services it provides. St. Vincent took over the Ark in July 2017, and it was integrated into Head Start Center at Pimlico Arts Center.

“We wanted to make sure that these vital services were continued,” he said. “Our focus for the children in our Ark classrooms, and across our Head Start program, is to ensure that children are ready for school and prepared for a lifetime of learning, breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty.”

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