Loyola University Maryland’s York Road Initiative

Loyola University Maryland borders two main streets that bisect Baltimore. To the west is Charles Street, a quaint avenue lined with stately historic homes, many upwards of several million dollars. To the east lies York Road, a street where students know not to walk alone after dark. The stark contrast of living wedged between the wealthy and the poor has been a Loyola reality for a long time. Several years ago, the university took a major step in reaching out to its eastside neighbors. In 2010, the York Road Initiative was conceived, a program that got the Loyola community involved with the York Road community, collaborating to produce positive change.

Working to advance the education and development of young people was a key component in the initiative. Loyola’s MBA program created a business plan for the DeWees Recreation Center just off York Road north of campus, and with help from the university and other community officials, raised the needed money for renovations that helped keep the center open. Programs at the DeWees Center include after-school activities, education, and recreational programming. Loyola’s Athletic Department also reached out to draw members of the York Road community to attend free basketball games and other campus events.

 
Loyola University Maryland’s FreshCrate program brings fresh produce into a part of the city lacking healthy grocery options.
Most recently, the York Road Initiative recognized a particular need prevalent in many poorer neighborhoods throughout America: the lack of healthy groceries for those without reliable transportation. Too many people who cannot afford cars are forced to grocery shop at convenience stores and other places where fresh produce is often not an option. Through the York Road Initiative’s new FreshCrate program, neighborhood corner stores can more easily purchase fresh, seasonal produce from Loyola’s dining vendor, for direct resale to customers out of crates located in their store. It is proving to be another great example of the simple collaborative efforts Loyola uses to join the hands of campus vendors and leaders to those of their eastside neighbors and business owners.

The coming months and years look equally exciting and bright for the York Road Initiative and the Baltimore community it benefits. The city has approved plans to move forward with a full-development project that will add some much-needed economic growth to the area. Over the next 10 years, Loyola University will play a key role in bringing some major infrastructure and transportation improvements to this part of town that for so long has been forgotten by city planners. The hope is to build a business district that will establish improved commercial management capacity along this stretch of York Road.


Having guided the York Road Initiative since its inception, Loyola University Maryland alum Erin O’Keefe is now director of the university’s Center for Community Service and Justice.
 
Erin O’Keefe, a 2003 graduate of Loyola University, has led the York Road Initiative since its inception, and was recently named director of Loyola’s Center for Community Service and Justice. “We have a tremendous opportunity to deepen our commitment as a Jesuit institution and to meaningfully address inequities in our world,” said O’Keefe. “I am honored to seek new ways for community voices to inform our work as we engage Loyola students, faculty, staff, and administrators in learning and leadership through service, and to collaborate with neighbors and partners on a broad range of essential service initiatives along York Road and throughout Baltimore.”

The initiative certainly seems to be on the right path. Hopefully in the not-sodistant future, the differences between Loyola’s eastside and westside neighborhoods won’t be so discernable to students, residents and the city at large.

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