By the Community, For the Community. VLP turns 25!
Beth Tohn, VLP Board Member
Born from Community Care
In the 2500 block of St. Paul Street, sits a small, yet majestic stone building that once served as a branch of the Enoch Pratt Library. Over 25 years ago, the city decided to close this library branch; that’s when the community sprang into action to preserve this treasured resource.
Neighbors joined forces in an all-out grass roots effort resulting in a $1 per year lease from the city and a multi-faceted fundraising campaign that, as founders Phyllis and Lee Jaslow described, ultimately proved “sufficient to turn our wish into reality.” Volunteers invested thousands of hours of hard work, renovating and transforming the building and grounds into the jewel of today – an enduring testament to the vision and efforts of the neighborhood.
Community Gathering Place
From its inception, the founders envisioned this space as more than just a library. Today, the VLP fulfills that vision of a vibrant gathering place where people of all ages meet, learn, celebrate, and grow together. Whether outside in the garden, in a classroom or community space, or in collaboration with other neighborhood organizations, the Village Learning Place anchors Greater Charles Village.
Dynamic Programming and Lifelong Learning
Over the years, community members have grown to rely on the VLP’s dynamic programming. Through Tot Storytimes, LINK school-age programs, the 2nd Wednesdays series, annual favorites like Read Between the Wines and the Spaghetti Disco, Resource Fairs, COVID Vaccine Clinics, and helping individuals access valuable resources, VLP programs and events are relevant and engaging.
Lifelong Learning is not just a pillar of the Village Learning Place’s mission, it is a living principle that guides the strategic vision and purpose of the organization. Staff and community members dedicate their individual and collective energies to strive toward greater inclusivity that reflects diverse neighborhood perspectives and community needs.
Sense of Belonging
When I was asked to write this article, I reached out to individuals for their thoughts. I am new to Charles Village by Baltimore standards – an 8-year resident – and I was curious about what drew others to the VLP. Every memory or insight shares a common theme that resonates with my own experiences.
Village Learning Place is synonymous with a Culture of Belonging
In this spirit of community, everyone feels welcome. A young child visits the library to check out books. Over the years, the feeling of home and place lead the child-turned-adult to work at the VLP. A struggling neighbor knows they can walk in and be seen, be known, be supported. As a young mother, Liesje Gantert, the VLP’s executive director, brought her babies to work. Countless school children and young adults find engaging programming and a safe haven in which to grow. Volunteers work side-by-side to make the community garden a beautiful place to enjoy. Young families participate in family-fun events and their children grow up in the community. Older adults gather together for events and activities.
The VLP holds a special place in our hearts and lives – a touchpoint that defines moments, shapes memories, and creates lifetime relationships. I wish that all of my neighbors will join me to honor the VLP’s past and celebrate the future at the 25th Birthday Bash on Saturday, November 5th!
View Full Birthday Bash Schedule Here!