In 2012 as I watched in amazement at the development and growth of Station North Arts and Entertainment District I found myself wondering over and over again about the tallest building in the neighborhood and what was happening inside. 11 W 20th Street has 26 floors and the awning outside says J Van Story Branch Apartments for Seniors. That’s what it was 20 years ago but today its a mixed population of Seniors and disabled of all ages. No children except for the occasional grandchild paying a visit.
I paid my first visit to meet with the building manager to find out more about the residences. I was curious what it was like for them to see the development in their neighborhood and if they had any personal connection to the creativity sprouting up all around them. My first visit was an eye opener from the front desk person who literally would not look up to acknowledge or address me through a thick (possibly bullet proof) glass, to arm officers in the lobby with guns and bullet proof vest.
I found out that day that in the state of Maryland disable includes recovering attics and unfortunately where you have recovery you also have dealers lingering to make their product readily available to anyone falling off the wagon. I also found out how vulnerable and depressing it had become for the seniors living there and how little programming they had. So I decided along with one of my dancers to do a free movement and music class for those 55 years and older. They loved it. We sang we danced we shared stories and gave hugs and afterward I went to my car and sat there and cried. It was so hard to leave because I thought, I would never want to leave my elderly mother to live out her last days in a situation like that. So I came back and I brought friends and volunteer groups and every few months for over a year I would visit the Van Branch seniors and to make music and move together.
Eventually someone caught wind of what I was up to and asked if I would like to be part of a community grant. I said yes and we won. I also say if you wait for the funding you’ll never do the good you ought to do. Trust and believe that what you do has value and eventually other people will believe as you do and put a price tag on what you already knew was worth something.