BALTIMORE — "When you come into Sisters Saving the City, it's home away from home."
They may not all be related, but the people who make up the non-profit Sisters Saving the City in Park Heights feel like one big family. And at the head of this family is a woman affectionately known as "Mama Kathryn" or "Auntie Kathryn."
"This is like a sanctuary. You don’t mess with Sisters Saving the City," said Kathryn Cooper-Nicholas.
She is the founder of the group, which works with youth in the city to make a meaningful and positive impact on their community, while also providing them a safe space.
"Its not just that they come here for programming. They know they’re going to get a meal, they know they are going to be safe."
Part of the motivation to start Sisters Saving the City was her son Andre. She said he was attacked by two teens at a bus stop in Baltimore in 2007 and stabbed more than a dozen times. He survived that only be to be murdered seven years later.
"He was really the kind of person that wanted to make a difference but didn't want anybody to know," she said. "I got to a point where I just thought about Andre and what he stood for and its like I can’t give up. Even though he’s gone, I have to continue his work."
She continues his work with the help of other organizations, like Excellence and Ambition. Sisters Saving the City provides the space so others can provide the programs for kids. They offer things such as after-school activities, entrepreneurship workshops, dance troupes, and culinary classes.
"[The youth] come back every time, every day they want to come back. It became a family because people trusted us because they know we care about them and they can come here," said Yamaudi Pinder, Director of the Youth Entrepreneurship Program.
"I know I'm not the only person in this community that wants to aspire to do good things. The Youth Village, her vision for everything, that's what will bring all those visions to life in this community," said Tyric Byer, who runs the Youth Build Community program.
The Youth Village is Cooper-Nicholas' ultimate dream project for children in Baltimore. She even had blueprints drawn up of the space, which she says would be a one-stop shop of resources and activities for kids of all ages.
But like many non-profits, she said their biggest hurdle is finding the funding to not only make the Youth Village happen, but to keep their lights on and the doors open to the facility they have now.
"We have these struggling non-profits that want to do wonderful things in the community but we’re not getting support," she said.
The funding is lacking a times but Cooper-Nicholas' dedication to the kids she serves is steadfast. She knows there is a guiding light shining the way for her.
"Andre’s helping. I know Andre is in here sometimes," she said with a smile. "We are trying to show our young people a better way and that we care about them."
To make a donation to Sisters Saving the City send a check made out to Sisters Saving the City to 4236 Pimlico Road, Baltimore MD 21215.