Investing in Baltimore neighborhoods since 1972

August 12, 2019

Former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer stands with four men and one woman in a community garden in Johnston Square, Baltimore, in 2007.

{Image description: Former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer (center, dressed in a suit) tours a community garden in Johnston Square, Baltimore, in 2007. Mayor Schaefer was touring the garden and learning about BCF's Neighborhood Grants Program. Pictured with him are, from left, Dion Cartwright, Scott Berzofsky, Brian Mac McMillion, Nicholas Wisinewski, and Dane Nester.}

NOTE: Baltimore has been in the news recently. Our CEO, Shanaysha Sauls, recently spoke out about the strengths of Baltimore. We encourage you to read that statement

We believe in Baltimore. BCF donors and grant recipients are fierce supporters and advocates for the region. We strive to work at the intersection of our school communities, particularly in the West Baltimore neighborhoods like Forest Park, Howard Park, Penn North and Reservoir Hill. 

For decades, BCF has invested in neighborhoods to activate residents who want to make real change and strengthen the bonds of community. We have done this in many ways, including the Neighborhood Grants Program, which has become one of our most successful ventures. It is supported by many donors who understand the power of small grants to change communities.   

William Donald Schaefer was one of those donors. Many remember him as the longtime “Do it now!” mayor who loved all things Baltimore. In 2008, he established a fund at BCF to support quality-of-life projects that make local communities healthier and more appealing. In 2012, $1.4 million in assets from his estate were transferred to the William Donald Schaefer Civic Fund at BCF, securing his charitable legacy. The Fund honors and perpetuates his lifelong support for the city’s neighborhoods. Its permanent endowment supports BCF’s successful Neighborhood Grants program. 

A colorful, committed public servant

During his tenure, Mayor Schaefer would roam the Baltimore’s streets, taking copious notes about items that required attention. Then he would pass the notes to aides with the admonition: “Do it now!” He knew that small improvements had a disproportionate impact on the residents’ daily lives, and he had no patience for poor maintenance.

Mayor Schaefer waged a war on potholes and garbage-strewn streets. He championed revitalizing the Inner Harbor an engine of economic growth. He promoted Baltimore as home of a National Aquarium. His boosterism knew no end: To win a bet, he famously jumped into the aquarium’s seal pool wearing an old-fashioned swimsuit and a rubber ducky tucked under his arm. 

His civic passion, however, was neighborhood improvement.  

Schaefer established a Civic Fund and created an advisory board to respond to requests for small but significant neighborhood projects—a flagpole, perhaps, or paint for a community center or plants for an urban garden in an empty lot. The grants never exceeded $1,000, but they all had potential for positive impact, and he would doggedly follow up to make certain that the work had been completed to his satisfaction. 

The Schaefer legacy: Neighborhood grants 

When Schaefer established his Fund at BCF in 2008, he seeded it with leftover campaign funds as well as money from his original Civic Fund. Eventually, he donated his rowhouse to BCF so that proceeds from the sale could help increase the Fund. He was delighted to designate the income from his Fund to help sustain BCF’s highly regarded Neighborhood Grants Program, which provides support for the same kinds of improvements that he had long championed.  Over the years, NGP has distributed millions to scores of neighborhoods that are working to make their communities stronger, more cohesive, and more beautiful. 

“As mayor, Schaefer made it a priority to help residents complete community projects to make their neighborhoods stronger,” said Tom Wilcox, former BCF President & CEO, in 2012. “BCF is proud to carry on the legacy of Governor Schaefer through our Neighborhood Grants Program, which for more than 25 years has helped neighborhoods in Baltimore City and County tackle projects that make their environments better for families and businesses.”

A lasting impression

BCF will always remember William Donald Schaefer’s generous inclination to help Baltimore neighborhoods. While his notable eccentricities are fading from memory now, his endowed BCF fund continues to ignite the passions of neighbors who work together to get things done.

Like Mayor Schaefer, BCF continues to be a champion of neighborhoods. The urgency to support Baltimore neighborhoods, particularly those on the city’s west side, has never been greater. How can we do that more effectively? One way is to support BCF’s Fund for Neighborhoods. A gift to the fund will help support resident-led projects (including NGP) throughout Baltimore City and County, including those in West Baltimore. Supporting resident-led small projects goes a long way. 

And, as Mayor Schaefer might have said – “Do it now!”

Contact Information

2 East Read Street, 9th Floor | Baltimore, MD 21202 | Directions
P: (410) 332-4171 | Email Us

Connect with Us

Subscribe to e-news

Sign up for
our E-Newsletter