Revitalizing Communities

One of the things people see here every day is the emptiness, the abandonment. It never ceases to overwhelm me that the Jewish community got it, that they understood our responsibility.
—Reverend Keene

Bend the Arc helps revitalize communities by taking our lead from the people who live there. One of the important guidelines we use in choosing these investments is to first determine that a project has the support of local residents. This ensures that we are investing strategically while furthering a community’s ability to determine its own future. This is part of our mission of organizing the Jewish community to help hold America to its promise.

In the Oliver neighborhood of East Baltimore almost half the property has long been abandoned. Calvin Keene grew up in the neighborhood, attending Memorial Baptist Church. As an adult he remained involved with the church, serving as a lay minister until 1996, when he left a career in the computer industry to lead Memorial Baptist as its full-time pastor. 

Reverend Keene and five other Oliver pastors started talking about what it would take to reverse the decades-long trend of neighborhood abandonment. Together they slowly raised $1.2 million from weekly church collections with a goal of buying up the area’s vacant houses and replacing them with new homes.

Bend the Arc matched these savings, investing $1.2 million to help buy abandoned properties, tear down vacant buildings and build 440 units of new housing over ten years.  

And, as Pastor Keene put it, because these homes are affordable, “The people who move in will be able to invest in other things, whether music lessons for their kids, or taking care of their health. Things that other people only dream about, they’ll actually be able to do.”

Learn more:
Investing With Bend the Arc
Community Banking
What’s Jewish About Community Investing?