Grow Home is a 501c3 organization dedicated to building capacity with local leadership and creating employment and recreational opportunities in under-served Baltimore communities by helping turn empty and ignored green spaces into centers of neighborhood activity, exercise, and everyday use.
Since 2012, our staff have worked across southwest Baltimore organizing no-cost recreational programming and youth sports opportunities while supporting resident advocacy councils of dedicated neighbors and volunteer park stewards.
Building on models of park-centric revitalization implemented both in Baltimore and across the country, Grow Home helps residents bring unused parks back to vitality by cultivating local support and providing programming, staff, and other assistance for residents and park lovers.
Activating Parks, Gardens & Green Spaces
A wealth of studies have shown that just 15 minutes of moderate daily activity in a green outdoor space can greatly help achieve positive health outcomes both physically and mentally. In an urban setting, access to clean and well-enjoyed public parks, gardens and other green areas offer promising opportunities to improve individual health and spark community transformations.
Grow Home works inclusively to help residents looking to turn nearby blighted spaces into places for enjoyment and catalysts for community development. Working with “Friends of” citizen groups dedicated to improving and enjoying their own local public parks and gardens, Grow Home provides administrative, technical and physical resources as we connect experienced people to help residents create green transformations within and outside each public space.
Youth Sports & Community Events
Once properly improved, parks and gardens must be familiar and enjoyed regularly by neighbors and residents to create outdoor spaces where individuals feel relaxation, comfort and investment in the park or garden’s future
At Grow Home, we work with neighbors to ensure that community parks are places where children and visitors feel comfortable and welcome, building organized athletics for youth with trained and experienced coaches, and supporting innovative events, activities and celebrations that unite residents within each shared green space.
Founded in 2020 to provide youth with gateways to employment and mentored guidance while holding their first job, the Baltimore Builders program employs older teens and young adults to work in parks, community gardens and also learn how to improve buildings and outdoor amenities in communities where they live.
By empowering youth with the soft and hard skills needed for potential future careers in construction, urban farming and other professions, the Baltimore Builders unites generations to grow crops and learn new trades while improving parks, vacant lots, and distressed properties.
While parks and gardens are often prime sites to spark community change, Grow Home is also helping build capacity for passionate people who are uniting communities and helping effect positive change across the region.
Our partners include the Northern Lights Against Substance Abuse Coalition, a group of residents in northern Anne Arundel County who are uniting youth, police, residents and others to spread awareness and get help for families and people battling substance abuse and underage alcohol consumption.
We also are proud to support coalitions of civic organizations and community institutions who are working collaboratively to improve conditions and combat crime, dumping and blighted properties in the Curtis Bay/ Brooklyn communities, and also team up with other regional partners working to improve the city.
Grow Home also proudly supports the Seminoles Sports League, a year-round youth athletics league that offers affordable football, basketball, baseball and cheer league play to hundreds of children across west Baltimore, and numerous “Friends of “ park groups that are each helping people organize independent nonprofit organizations to effect change locally.
Michael F. Dorsey
Michael F. Dorsey is Grow Home’s Founder and Executive Director. Born and raised in Baltimore, Dorsey is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Social Work and awardee of Social Work Community Outreach Service’s top 25 graduates who made a difference in 25 years. Dorsey began his career in green space and community development by interning at Bon Secours, and later co-founded Docs in the Parks program Baltimore in 2011 with the Maryland Academy of Pediatrics and BCRP.
In 2015, Dorsey went on to launch a Community Initiatives Department of the former non-profit the Chesapeake Center for Youth Development (CCYD) before forming Grow Home to continue to support local park development, workforce efforts and community beautification at sites where he worked previously. Focusing on the intersections of outdoor recreation, green space, health and community development, the organization is focused on creating programming, finding funding and empowering partners to reduce barriers to better systems of community and open space development.
Michael Dorsey has worked in non-profit program management, development and growth since 2010. He has directly supervised more than 10 programs that deal with coalition building, community development, leadership training, workforce development, strategic planning, and community organizing. He brings experience and to the day-to-day performance of each program at Grow Home.
Jeff Dugan serves as Director of Community Athletics for Grow Home, where he leads the development of all youth athletics programming with our partner parks. Dugan has a Masters Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis on Psychosocial Aspects of Sport and Physical Activity. He has 15 years of experience coaching and coordinating youth sports and general youth programs.
Over the past four years, Dugan has joined more than 100 coaches and parents together in communities across the Grow Home map to offer year-round sports clinics and competitions in Carroll Park, and is working to build connections between all our sites for a greater utilization of open spaces in the entire area Grow Home serves.
Dugan’s work currently centers on reviving and re-establishing community youth athletics programming at several partner parks following the COVID-19 sutdowns, including Carroll Park, ABC Park / Seminoles Sports League and at Garrett Park in Brooklyn/Baybrook. This will include a return of Dugan’s Cross Country/Track Running team with youth in Carroll Park this autumn, when teens will practice in the park regularly and participate in organized 5k events throughout the season around the city in multiple community charity runs and races.
Workforce Development/Sports/Youth Mentor
Andre “Magic” Robinson is a longtime teacher, coach and is the primary mentor for Grow Home’s Baltimore Builders program.
“Coach Magic” has been a youth mentor and coach in Baltimore since 2004, working and volunteering at area schools, recreation centers and other sports organizations constantly to mentor youth in baseball, basketball and football. Robinson has extensive experience working in the Baltimore assembly and transportation industry, giving him a wealth of experience to draw on for workforce development.
His past achievements include the creation of the B-More Stallions, a sports league offering youth a chance to play football, basketball, baseball, lacrosse and golf at Hilton Field in the 21229 communities. Robinson assumed his role with the Builders in 2020, developing and implementing a curriculum and organizational structures for helping area youth become workforce-ready. Robinson is extremely experienced in conflict resolution and youth engagement, and will be integral to our youth workforce initiative in 2021.
Youth Case Manager
As a Youth Case Manager for Grow Home Inc. I assess, develop, implement, monitor, and modify individuals plans to identify, refer and coordinate necessary wrap around services that support our youth participants. I provides a variety of assessment and support services, such as the job readiness cohort, Workforce 101 (afterschool & over the summer). Goal being, to enhance the educational and personal development skills of participants. I use social technology platforms for recruitment connectivity, and positive community engagement.
Writer, Development Associate
Daniel Valentine is a writer and public servant who provides administrative and other development help to Grow Home.
Originally from Richmond, VA, Daniel assists with planning, writing and helps Mr. Dorsey implement Grow Home’s mission and activities. His career includes 15 years writing and reporting for newspapers across Maryland, and four years with the Prince George’s County House Delegation in the Maryland General Assembly, where he was a legislative director.
Daniel is a graduate of the University of Maryland College Park, and lives in Baltimore with his daughter.
A retired city sanitation worker, Taylor is the de facto groundskeeper for Garrett Park, and also assists in larger beautification projects with Grow Home and the Baltimore Builders, where we train first-time employees.
Grow Home aspires to engage local residents near public parks who help maintain the grounds and cleans litter each week by paying small stipends or modest part-time wages. Our organization is regularly searching for other residents like Mr. Taylor near other parks hoping to do similar work.
De’mon Phillips, 20, was part of the first graduating class of the Baltimore Builders program in September 2020. He has continued working with us to provide project leadership and supervision during both training and execution of community revitalization projects, and he has also served as our chief ambassador for peer-to-peer outreach in Brooklyn and Curtis Bay.
Phillips has served in other community leadership roles since joining us and volunteers with the Baybrook Violence Prevention Coalition, serving with two other Builders program graduates. His ability to find young men and women who are eager to enter the workforce but do not know the first step is vital, and his ability to talk about how the program has impacted him has led to a 100% success rate for all community members he’s scouted for the program.
Katie Wargo is a resident of Glen Burnie/Pasadena, who serves as leader and Coordinator for Northern Lights Against Substance Abuse coalition. Having lost two brothers to substance abuse, Wargo has committed to a great deal of voluntary professional development in prevention and harm reduction efforts.
NLASA is a community-based coalition and for the last five years, Katie has been a prominent member of substance abuse prevention efforts in Anne Arundel County’s Northern zones. This includes being a public panelist of the Not My Child series and working with Delegate Nick Kipke to expand access to mental health services.
Wargo has taken on a significant number of leadership roles in these efforts, including the logistics and planning of large awareness events such as the Haunted House of Addiction and “Overdose Awareness” vigil. In addition, Katie was the lead organizer for a benefits concert at the Baltimore SoundStage for the Lance and Ryan Fund, a relief non-profit dedicated to providing financial help to families entering addiction treatment.
Katie has a tremendous combination of experience, skills and established relationships necessary to bring success to the Northern Lights Against Substance Abuse.