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Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford Celebrates Expansion of Penn North Kids Safe Zone

Governor’s Office for Children Contributes $50K to Safe Haven for Baltimore City Children

BALTIMORE, MD – Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford; Arlene Lee, executive director of the Governor’s Office for Children; Steve McAdams, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives; and Maryland Department of Human Resources Secretary Sam Malhotra today joined with Ericka Alston, marketing director at the Penn North Community Resource Center, and representatives from the Family League of Baltimore City and Kaiser Permanente to announce the expansion of the Penn North Kids Safe Zone. A safe haven for recreation and study, as well as counseling and mentorship for children ages 5 to 17 in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of Baltimore City, the Kids Safe Zone will grow from 1,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet with the help of a $50,000 contribution from the Governor’s Office for Children.

The Governor’s Office for Children is helping to fund the expansion as well as provide new computers to the Safe Zone through a grant administered by the Family League of Baltimore City, a local agency that supports area nonprofits like Maryland Community Health Initiatives, Inc. (also known as Penn North), which operates the Kids Safe Zone, among other programs. Additional funding for the expansion came from A+E Television Networks’ Outreach Fund and Kaiser Permanente.

“This expansion will more than double the number of children the Safe Zone can serve and will benefit thousands of children in the heart of the community,” said Lt. Governor Rutherford. “The Kids Safe Zone has really come a long way in its seven months, and I am so pleased I could be here to celebrate the expansion of a place filled with friendship, fun, learning, and hope for a bright future for Baltimore youth.”

“I am proud to work for Governor Hogan, who values local partners like the Family League, which helps to direct state resources to deserving children and teens in Baltimore City,” said Arlene Lee, executive director of the Governor’s Office for Children.

“A lot of the kids in this area do not get the opportunity to just be children. The Kids Safe Zone is a place where kids can be kids and forget their troubles for a while,” said Ericka Alston, who founded the Kids Safe Zone after the Baltimore City unrest last spring. Thanks to community donations, the Penn North Community Resource Center transformed a small, 1,000-square-foot vacant laundromat into the Kids Safe Zone. The expansion being announced today will add an additional 4,000 square feet to the center.

Since its opening on June 1, just five weeks after the Baltimore unrest, the Safe Zone has provided recreation, computer and board games, arts and crafts, a computer lab, girls’ and boys’ mentoring programs, peer-led support groups, licensed counseling, field trips, a study lab, and homework assistance to nearly 2,000 children, as well as breakfast, lunch, and snacks. It is openMonday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., and on Saturday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

In addition, the Maryland Department of Human Resources today provided a $10,000 grant to support Penn North’s Supportive Housing program. The funds will be used to bring a part-time employee up to a full-time position to assist individuals recently released from incarceration fulfill their housing needs. ”As our state’s primary social service provider, the Maryland Department of Human Resources serves over 1 million people annually,” said Secretary Sam Malhotra. “We support hardworking families and individuals, many of whom may be our neighbors and friends, who are struggling and in need of assistance. Grants like the one presented today to Penn North’s Supportive Housing program in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood are one of the many ways our agency supports communities all across the state of Maryland.”

Last month, Governor Hogan also announced that every child, from infancy to age 5, in Baltimore City will be eligible to enroll, free of charge, in a new reading and book-delivery program—Governor’s Young Readers—starting later this month.

For more information on all of the Penn North programs, including the Kids Safe Zone and Supportive Housing program, please visit http://www.penn-north.com/.