Who We Are
SLYC is a network of people working to ensure that every child has safe, healthy, supportive, and loving experiences- the kind all children need to thrive.
Our Way of Love
SLYC is a collaborative of West Baltimore families working together with friends, neighbors, and partners to provide youth with critical resources, life-enriching experiences, and a safety-net of support.
In 2015, SLYC formed out of the community programming that had been taking place at St. Luke’s Church, Baltimore for decades. Working in collaboration with the local Elementary/Middle School, SLYC developed an arts and literacy integrated summer camp to meet the needs of children in the area.
As authentic relationships of love and support developed among the youth, their families, the community, partner churches, and parishioners throughout the Diocese, SLYC began hosting weekly community dinners in 2016. Until Covid-19, these dinners brought people together every Wednesday to break bread and share in the joys of fellowship.
This network of people, all celebrating community and youth, grew stronger and the need to provide a safe, loving environment after school became apparent. SLYC met that need with enthusiasm. In January of 2017, SLYC Afterschool began. With a focus on social emotional learning and leadership, children ages 7 to 17 came to St. Luke’s each day for a community meeting, followed by healthy snacks, homework support, and fun.
When SLYC became an independent nonprofit in August 2019, several SLYC Kids formed a youth advisory board. They successfully planned and hosted a Thanksgiving Celebration to show their gratitude to over 150 guests. They also began a “junk food store” to raise money for field trips and visited partner churches to share their experiences and the value of our SLYC family in their lives.
As the leadership of SLYC Kids grew, so did the engagement and leadership of their families. In order for all programming to remain free to participants, SLYC families developed a cooperative model in which they began donating their time, talent, or treasure each month. One of our SLYC fathers was hired to support efforts to keep the property in safe condition for programming to continue. A SLYC mother was hired to manage administrative tasks. And, a grandmother was hired to keep on top of the kids, checking with teachers and supervising homework.
In September 2019, a SLYC parent and leader, began to open the church during the weekday as a coworking, “Connections Cafe”. During Cafe hours, anyone in the community could use the space to hold meetings, work on the computer, print documents, and enjoy a free cup of coffee. The Poppleton Community Association and its members began using the space to host meetings. Parents would stop by to chat and enjoy one another’s company. And, the Cafe’ began to get some “regulars” stopping in to research jobs and print documents.
When March of 2020 came and we found ourselves isolated, alone, and scared due to Covid-19, our SLYC family activated once again to collectively meet the needs of one another. SLYC had already distributed refurbished computers as part of a program called Laptops for Learning, started the previous year by one of our partner church’s parishioners. Many partners, churches, organizations, and individuals donated covid-relief funds which were then used to meet the needs of our families- providing food, personal protective equipment, transportation, and care packages. All the while, SLYC continued the afterschool program virtually and then hosted a 5-week, summer program following a virtual and in-person model.
Our mission of empowering youth through the strength of community has effectively empowered all members of our beloved community. When asked, “What words represent SLYC to you?” the responses from our children, parents, staff, members of partner churches, and neighbors proclaim the dream and the commitments we make to one another every day- Together, we are a loving family, committed, connected, supportive, dedicated, and strong. We are a purposeful community of leaders.
SLYC’s intention has never been to uncover truths or reconcile injustices. We did not set out to repair relationships or break down the walls between historically segregated communities. We did not endeavor to find Christ in ourselves or in one another. We simply intended to come together to provide the children of West Baltimore with what they need and deserve. What happened as a result of that mission was transformative.
Today, I write this, agonizing over the words that will effectively express the significance of this beautiful seed that has been planted in the basement of an old, dying episcopal church in West Baltimore. SLYC is a seed that is literally underground, being watered by the rain that leaks down from the ceilings and buried by the dirt that crumbles from its walls. I have no doubt that this seed will continue to grow because of the strength of its foundation, its people. It does not need to be replanted or contained. It needs to be allowed to continue its path towards the light.
I have hope that, coming together in love and purpose, building on the strengths of each person in our communities is the way towards healing and growth.