Nurturing the Roots that Give Rise


Home is where the heart is. Without a main office, though, it sometimes feels like The ACE Project doesn’t have a home. So where do we find our heart? That’s easy: within our partners. The individuals who go above and beyond to live our mission; the organizations that share our vision to advance social and economic justice. When we first launched ACE, we worked closely with Washington Elementary School in Riverdale to recruit student participants and adult coaches, coordinate on facilities and equipment, and inform program delivery and evaluation. With our co-founder and executive director, Susan Klumpner, working as a social worker in the school, finding partners came easier because key relationships had already taken root. It is incredible how quickly progress moves when you’re able to find the right individuals and organizations; those that make their home, “our” home. It really warms your heart.

In Baltimore’s Big Break, we discussed what initiated our launch in Baltimore and the progress we have made since that time. Is it possible to be home in two places at once? We took the lessons we learned in Riverdale/Dolton and began identifying individuals and organizations in Baltimore that shared our passion and aligned with our organizational beliefs. It can be a challenge to set down new roots in established communities, like Baltimore, where there is a lot of history; however, we were excited to find welcoming collaborators through Baltimore Public Schools, the Baltimore Police Department, Coppin State University, Kids Safe Zone, and, most recently, Baltimore Children & Youth Fund (BCYF). As a result, we have never felt more at home.

When it comes to heart, we continue to see an outpouring of support and a wealth of ideas to ensure that every child has the right to grow up in a community where they are safe, supported, and valued. This is particularly evident in our relationship with BCYF, which granted us $18,333 to hire the necessary personnel for our Baltimore-based programs. BCYF was established following Freddie Gray’s death to invest in groups who have a vision to support young people and groups who are already moving critical work in support of children, youth and young adults. The fund is not only developed for young people, it is directed by young people. Many of the leaders and groups working with Associated Black Charities, the fiscal agent, are new organizations or leaders under the age of 45. The Baltimore community was heavily involved in the funding process, giving many voices an opportunity to express ideas, share concerns, or ask questions along the way. Overall, it was a transformative experience as it gave The ACE Project more direction and reinforced the belief we have in our work to effect positive change.

As we look ahead to developing more collaborative relationships in Baltimore, Riverdale/Dolton, and other potential host cities, it’s important for us to consider the example set by BCYF in bringing more voices to the table to discuss opportunities and challenges for The ACE Project. By doing so, we reveal the heart of those who share our passion to serve, helping us unite in our efforts to empower more youth. The ACE Project may be on the move; still, our inspirational partners continue to ground us and make us feel right at home.