Victories & History

BUILD Victories and History

Whether fighting for a living wage, building affordable housing, or highlighting the needs of youth, BUILD knows that all victories begin with listening to and then organizing people to press for change. Here are highlights from BUILD’s work of more than 30 years:

BUILD Begins: Rev. Vernon Dobson of Union Baptist Church, the late Rev. Wendell Phillips of the Heritage United Church of Christ and the late Msgr. Clare O’Dwyer of St. Matthews Catholic Church assembled the first 10 churches and initial money to form a Sponsoring Committee to start BUILD in 1977. The committee contracted with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), the oldest and largest network of community organizations in the country. In those early days, BUILD focused on neighborhood issues such as obtaining better police protection, arson controls, improving housing and rat eradication. BUILD held its first City-Wide Convention in 1979 with 1,000 delegates representing 20 institutions.


BUILD Defeats Redlining: BUILD began a successful campaign against bank redlining in 1980, leading to negotiated agreements with Baltimore banks and savings and loans to use the Maryland Housing Fund. More than 500 low-income families acquired home mortgages as the result of these agreements.

Fair Auto Insurance: In the fall of 1981, BUILD held its second convention of 1,300 delegates from 25 churches. BUILD led the fight against auto insurance discrimination by working out an agreement with the Home Insurance Company to base rates for city residents on driving records, saving 1,000 families money on their insurance premiums.

Creation of the Commonwealth Agreement: At its third convention in 1984, attended by 1,700 delegates from 33 member churches, BUILD announced its campaign to reorganize the school system and the establishment of employment for everyone wishing to work, soon to become the Commonwealth Agreement.

Voter Drive: In 1983, BUILD conducted the largest single organization voter registration and turnout drive in Baltimore City in the last 20 years.

BGE Rate Cuts: BUILD forced BGE to cut its drive for a dramatic rate increase in half and halt its effort to form a holding company.


BUILD Municipal Agenda: At its fifth Delegates Convention in November 1985, with 2,500 delegates representing 46 units, BUILD announced its candidate for the Mayor of Baltimore – the BUILD Municipal Agenda. The Agenda focused on housing, education, employment, city services and health care.

Voter Drive: To elect the BUILD candidate, BUILD signed up 75,000 residents during its petition drive. In the fall of 1987, BUILD held its 10th Anniversary Delegates Convention,attended by nearly 2,700 people. The Municipal Agenda was proclaimed the vision for Baltimore by city, state, and federal leaders.

CollegeBound Foundation: By the winter of 1988, Mayor Kurt Schmoke and the Greater Baltimore Committee announced the creation of the Baltimore Commonwealth, a major expansion of the Commonwealth Agreement. As part of the agreement, BUILD created the CollegeBound Foundation by leveraging $15 million from the corporate community for college preparatory activities and scholarships. As of today, The CollegeBound Foundation has assisted thousands of city public school students and provided millions in scholarship dollars.

Nursing Homes Reform: In 1989, one year after 1,000 delegates kicked off an organizing drive to reform the nursing home industry, BUILD successfully championed the passage of a City Council ordinance mandating nursing homes have more patient care equipment and establishing 81 degrees as the maximum temperature allowed in a nursing home.

Ban of Saturday Night Specials: BUILD conducted a successful effort to uphold the state law banning “Saturday Night Special” handguns. BUILD carried its precincts by 10 percent, more than any other organization in the state.

Neighborhood Reinvestment: BUILD and IAF’s efforts resulted in the U.S. Congress passing the Nehemiah Bill in 1987, providing for reinvestment in housing and home ownership in distressed areas.

Nehemiah Homes: Mayor Schmoke, Governor William Donald Schaefer, U.S. Senators Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski, Congressmen Benjamin Cardin and Kweise Mfume, Archbishop William Donald Borders, scores of other religious and lay leaders, and 800 BUILD delegates attended a historic meeting in March 1988 at St. Peter Claver Church on the edge of Sandtown-Winchester. BUILD announced that it had raised $2.25 million toward the development of 300 homes for low and moderate-income families. Seven months later, Senators Sarbanes and Mikulski announced that more than $4.2 million had been awarded to the Nehemiah partnership by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. With its partner Enterprise Homes, BUILD is the largest non-profit developer of lower-income owner-occupied housing in the city. As of today, BUILD and Enterprise have helped to develop more than 767 Nehemiah homes. Nehemiah has enabled families to develop millions of dollars’ worth of equity and helped to make their neighborhoods much more safe.


School Reform and Equal Opportunity Funding: BUILD chaired a pilot effort to restructure 14 schools – a move toward school-based management. BUILD called on Governor Schaefer, Mayor Schmoke, and other leaders to ensure all students an equal opportunity for high-quality education. The Child First campaign worked to protect APEX funding, a critical resource for additional funding for low-income districts.

Nehemiah: Residents moved into more than 300 Nehemiah homes in Penn North and Sandtown-Winchester.

Community Policing: Mayor Schmoke and Police Commissioner Ed Woods embraced community policing in response to BUILD. The Baltimore City Police Department implemented the strategy in five communities in collaboration with church and neighborhood leadership.

Privatization: BUILD challenged Mayor Schmoke’s privatization scheme as a dangerous quick-fix for school change.

The Beginning of the Living Wage: BUILD announced a campaign for a New Social Compact in Baltimore in June 1993. Citing the explosion of low-wage, no-benefit, temporary and seasonal employment, BUILD called for more full-time work with benefits and a living wage and demanded Mayor Schmoke cut off new subsidies to downtown employers until employers signed on with a plan for improving wages.

1994 -1997

Living Wage: With the signing of Living Wage legislation in 1994, BUILD and Baltimore began what has become a national and international movement. BUILD leaders decided to take on the issue of work and wages in 1992 and hired Jonathan Lange, an experienced labor and IAF organizer, to develop research actions and house meetings. The result: BUILD discovered that many of the people using social services offered by BUILD churches were low-wage workers in service jobs, and that many low-wage workers were employed by contractors doing business with the city. That led to BUILD’s demand that the city include “Living Wage” standards in all its service contracts. A living wage was defined as a wage that could bring a family of four above the poverty line. After a series of large actions with Mayor Schmoke and City Council President Mary Pat Clark, terms of a bill were negotiated and passed in 1994. BUILD continued the campaign, winning regulations protecting contract workers from discrimination for organizing activity, protecting them from contract changes, creating access to benefits, and developing the first worker-owned temporary employment agency in the country. Today, because of BUILD’s efforts, no politician can talk about jobs without using the term “living wage.”

Nehemiah: Twenty-eight families move into a third Nehemiah site in Cherry Hill in 1996.

Child First and the Child First Authority: Child First grew out of conversations with thousands of parents, youth, and educators during BUILD’s organizing campaign for the 1995 Mayoral Election. BUILD leaders heard many stories reinforcing that the time after school was the most dangerous for young people. In response, BUILD created the Child First Authority, with the underlying premise that if the state could create an authority to build stadiums, it could create an authority to help children. At the BUILD Convention for the 1995 Mayoral Election, attended by 1,000 BUILD members at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, both leading mayoral candidates, Mayor Schmoke and Council President Clarke, endorsed the Child First Authority. After his victory, Mayor Schmoke recommitted to Child First and Delegate Howard “Pete” Rawlings led the charge to create the Authority. Within six months after the election, the state passed legislation authorizing the Child First Authority. Since its inception, Child First has grown from seven to 13 schools, providing academic, cultural and recreational enrichment to more than a thousand students each year. During its history, Child First has leveraged $10 million for after-school programs and has become the leading recipient of city after-school funds. BUILD has organized parents to secure nearly $500,000 in state funding every year since 1998.

Nehemiah: The first 24 of 80 additional Nehemiah homes are rehabilitated in Sandtown-Winchester. BUILD Enterprise Partnership wins a HUD grant to build more than 300 new homes in Sandtown-Winchester in 1997.


Joseph Plan: In June 1998, BUILD held a 1,000-delegate convention to announce its platform for the gubernatorial election, including funding for parks and playgrounds, recovery programs, and after-school initiatives, and counting college as a welfare activity. During this time of economic prosperity, the signature piece of the agenda was the creation of a Joseph Plan which mandated setting aside a portion of state surplus funds to be used during times of fiscal crisis.

Increased Voter Turnout: During the 1998 election, BUILD’s non-partisan “Get Out the Vote” campaign increased voter turnout by 12 percent in BUILD precincts. Maryland Secretary of State John Willis recognized that this was the largest increase in voter turnout in almost 20 years. In 2002, BUILD maintained this level of voting.

College as a Welfare to Work Activity: BUILD, Governor Parris Glendening and the Department of Human Resources worked to have college count as a valid welfare option in Baltimore. The state selected Baltimore City Community College as a pilot site, keeping hundreds of mothers in college to pursue their degrees (many in nursing) and their dreams of moving in to meaningful work.

Drug Treatment on Demand: During the 1999 Mayoral race, BUILD led the charge to provide drug treatment on demand.

$75 Million for Baltimore: Working with Governor Glendening and other allies from 1998-2002, BUILD delivered an estimated $75 million to the city to fund school construction, Child First after-school programs, long-term drug treatment, Head Start, homeownership and the Joseph Fund. As part of this funding, Head Start received the first state funding ever, totaling $5.5 million, and a $10 million fund was created to develop playgrounds around the state, including five at Child First schools.

Payday Lending: BUILD worked with Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. and other allies to ensure that lenders charged only 33 percent APR instead of the 300 to 600 percent rate they had been charging.

BUILD Fellowship: Affiliated with three BUILD congregations – Immaculate Conception Catholic, Union Baptist and Koinonia Baptist – BUILD Fellowship provided transitional living and recovery programs for people in drug rehabilitation and ex-offenders returning from prison. BUILD Fellowship continues today, assisting in the recovery of scores of men and women each year.

Save Our Youth, Save Our City Campaign: In response to the crisis of youth violence in the city, every major candidate running for Mayor and City Council President in 2007 endorsed BUILD’s Save our Youth, Save our City Campaign at a BUILD convention attended by 1,000 members.   BUILD signed up 10,000 voters to support its agenda which grew out of conversations with more than 500 young people. On the agenda: To create 30 fully staffed, high-quality recreation centers, to double the number of summer jobs for youth, to provide an additional 2,000 young people with after-school opportunities, and to create a $100 million fund to rebuild blighted city neighborhoods. BUILD continues to work to make sure these promises are kept.

BUILD Youth Team: After engaging young people in its Save Our Youth, Save Our City campaign, BUILD founded the BUILD Youth Team, composed of 25 youth leaders. The team is conducting neighborhood canvasses throughout the city, creating a video about the need for more recreation opportunities, and is helping design a new recreation center planned for Lake Clifton park. The BUILD Youth Team has participated in all of BUILD’s major actions and negotiations and has helped lead several of them.

Lake Clifton Recreation Center: The state of Maryland delivered $1.2 million to the city for the planned recreation center. Building is expected to begin in late 2010.

Neighborhood Improvements: BUILD organized residents in South Clifton Park, Darley Park, Broadway East and the Oliver Community to work with the city to conduct large-scale clean-up efforts, on strategic demolition of vacant housing, and on allocation of police foot patrols to begin to eradicate neighborhood blight and improve families’ quality of living. BUILD also began a membership recruitment drive in west and southwest Baltimore and launched anti-gang efforts in those communities. In addition, BUILD engaged Baltimore Development Corporation to clear and predevelop a site for a new full service supermarket in Howard Park.

TRF Development Partners and Preston Place: BUILD worked with its partner The Reinvestment Fund and Tony Deering, chairman of the Rouse Company Foundation, to secure $10 million in private investment to fully fund TRF Development Partners, a 501(c)(3) partnership between BUILD, TRF and the Rouse Company Foundation. Mayor Sheila Dixon awarded 155 properties near Memorial Baptist Church, providing TRF Development Partners a critical mass of land to begin constructing Preston Place, a development with 122 new and rehabbed affordable homes. The first 25 homes have now been built and TRF will build additional homes over the next three to five years.

A Push for School Repairs: BUILD supported Child First by helping organize a campaign to challenge Dr. Andres Alonso, Baltimore Schools CEO, to make desperately needed repairs to Child First schools. Dr. Alonso stepped up and met the challenge by allocating $2.8 million for school repairs. As a result, classes that had not had heat in 10 years were finally warm.

School Intervention Initiative: With Child First, BUILD co-founded High Expectations, a youth intervention initiative that works in two schools to help provide students a safe, stable, nurturing environment in school. The first year results show dramatic reductions in expulsions and suspensions.

YouthWorks Campaign: BUILD raised $60,000 to help the YouthWorks Campaign to provide an additional thousand young people with summer employment.

Westport Revitalization Plan: More than 100 residents, Westport Academy parents, and members from Bethany Baptist Church and Mt. Winans Baptist Church invited TRF and BUILD to assist them in creating a neighborhood revitalization and implementation plan.

Greenmount Housing: TRF Development Partners secured $2 million in tax credits to support the development of 70 lofts in Greenmount.

City Gardens: BUILD partnered with Civic Works and other allies to create community gardens in Darley Park and Oliver communities.

School Improvement: BUILD cofounded the Baltimore Education Coalition with New Leaders for New Schools, ACLU, Maryland Charter Schools, and Advocates for Children and Youth which grew into a movement of 30 organizations that organized in Annapolis to help prevent a $32 million state cut to Baltimore City public schools.

10 Percent Is Enough Campaign: BUILD joined Metro IAF to launch an anti-usury campaign to cap interest rates at 10 percent.

2010 Gubernatorial Election: BUILD joined our sister organizations, AIM in Montgomery County and PATH in Howard County, as Maryland IAF to conduct a non partisan get out the vote effort. BUILD signed up thousands of voters to support out agenda and secured Gov. Martin 0’ Malley’s commitment to support the Maryland Dream Act which would allow undocumented immigrant students to pay in-state tuition to Maryland colleges and universities, to fully fund education, and to spend at least $250 million on school construction.

Keeping Recreation Centers Open: In response to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s proposal to close half of the recreation centers, BUILD led the fight at City Hall to keep them open. After turning out hundreds of youth, parents, and residents throughout the City budget hearings, BUILD joined the Mayor and City Council members to support passing a 2 cent bottle tax to fund the recreation centers and keep them open.

Perlman Place: BUILD organized with residents of South Clifton Park and Baltimore Housing and Community Development to clear 60 vacant homes located along Perlman Place, Baltimore’s most abandoned streets. BUILD is working with residents, North Avenue CDC and Baltimore Development Corporation to create a redevelop the area.

Preston Place: BUILD continued its partnership with TRF DP to rebuild the Oliver Community completing an additional 10 new homes and starting construction on another 10 rehabs.

City Arts Apartments: BUILD partnered with TRF DP, Jubilee Baltimore, and Homes for America to construct the City Arts Apartments located 440 E. Oliver Street. Chances are you don’t envision spacious new apartments with handsome kitchens in a modern building wired for high-speed Internet. City Arts Apartments offers these amenities and more as Baltimore’s first purpose-built housing development for artists. It takes advantage of a federal program that allows developers to receive low-income tax credits while creating rental housing with a preference for artists.

State Funding for Education: BUILD organized with MD IAF and the Baltimore Education Coalition (BEC) to restore $18 million in state funding for Baltimore schools and $94 million state-wide. BUILD joined BEC to meet with legislators in Annapolis, testify at hearings, make phone calls and emails, and helped turnout 2000 parents, students, and teachers on a rainy night to call for restoring the cuts. This was the largest turnout in Annapolis from Baltimore since the Thornton rally.

MD Dream Act: BUILD joined MD IAF and Casa De Maryland to pass the historic MD Dream Act which allows immigrant students who attend Maryland schools and parents pay income taxes to attend community college for 2 years at in-state tuition and then have the opportunity to attend Maryland universities.

Child First PlaySmart Sports: BUILD helped lead Child First’s efforts to launch a new sports program starting with Rokkball, a dynamic baseball program that makes the sport fun, concentrating on learning fundamentals and working hard while playing to rock-n-roll music.

Making Darley Park Safe: In response to the tragic murder of 12-year old Sean Johnson, BUILD acted quickly to call on Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to allocated a permanent police foot patrol to keep the neighborhood safe. BUILD is working with Major Melvin Russell, Eastern District Police Commander, and the Mayor to improve public safety and provide opportunities for neighborhood youth.

BUILD Wins 375 New Community Health Care Worker Jobs

After the unrest in Baltimore, BUILD organized with the largest private employer in the state, Johns Hopkins, and other area hospitals to put Baltimore back to work. BUILD stood up to the largest insurer in the state (CareFirst) to win 375 new jobs in distressed ZIP codes across Baltimore. BUILD leaders marched to demand a meeting with the CEO of CareFirst, packed three commission hearings and testified with personal stories and expertise. Read more here.


One quarter to BUILD One Baltimore from kindall rende on Vimeo.

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