EAST BALTIMORE — To a stranger walking down North Avenue, the new Roberta's House looks like a large, shiny, well-constructed building, spanning an entire block.
To its president and co-founder Annette March-Grier, the building is an opportunity to help even more people who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
"Roberta’s House will definitely bring a shift, I believe, in how the community chooses to address their grief and loss. I don’t think there’s a more welcoming space than Roberta’s House," she said.
The new Roberta's House, named after March-Grier's mother, sits on the original site of her family's business, March Funeral Homes. They started the non-profit in 2007 after noticing a serious gap in services.
"There was no resource available here in Baltimore, or Maryland for that sake, in helping children and families adjust to loss and death," she said.
March-Grier said Roberta's House is the first center of its kind in the country to be founded by and serve people of color. With the new space and all of its new amenities, she said they'll be able to help double the amount of kids, adults and families in Baltimore.
"We can accommodate several programs now going on simultaneously, whereas prior to having this center, we could only have one program a night."
The new center has a theater for presentations and graduations. It has big, colorful activity rooms for kids of all ages plus a nursery for adults to drop off their infants and toddlers while they go to a session.
There is also what they call the "expression room", a padded room with a boxing bag and gloves so kids can work out their anger and frustration.
March-Grier said families living in Baltimore City have a higher rate of mortality, be it sudden death, traumatic deaths or premature deaths. And in a time when the city not only continues to deal with record-high homicide rates year after year but also the loss of life from COVID-19, a safe place to grieve, heal and move forward is greatly needed.
"We have a great space that brings comfort, brings warmth and a spirit of love and healing that the community can embrace," she said.
Roberta's House is still doing all of its programs virtually. March-Grier said once more people are vaccinated, they'll re-start in-person programs and services. For information on how to sign up for one of their free programs, click here.