Support HCS – Your Donation Makes a Difference

We are happy to report that 2010 was a great year for Harbor City Services. We are grateful to our many customers in the Baltimore metropolitan region, large and small, and are looking forward to continuing our working relationship in the future. We appreciate your business and your referrals.

We have found it difficult to cover the cost of the supportive services needed by our workforce and to give them sufficient hours to support their families. For this reason we are again appealing for your financial support.  Please consider Harbor City Services in your end of year giving plans. If you can refer us business that would also be welcome.

Remember, every donation, large or small, directly helps to keep our talented workforce on the job.

Thanks from all of us at Harbor City Services, Inc. and Happy Holidays!

Thank You to HCS

The guys yesterday were fantastic.  Very professional, excellent teamwork, and very fast!  I will recommend Harbor City Services to all of my friends and family for their future moving needs. Thank you and Happy Holidays,
~Elizabeth W.

Job Well Done!

Recently our office has undergone some office restructuring and we have used your company on multiple occasions to help with the move. I just wanted to let you know how pleased we are with your team of men. Each time they arrived on time and did exactly what was asked of them. On many occasions, Robert was able to make suggestions to utilize our space more efficiently. Many times it required that they move the furniture around so we could test out different options and each time they were most accommodating! They were always cheerful, kind, and most willing to help. We will definitely recommend your company to others!
University of Maryland School of Medicine

Abell Foundation supports Harbor City Services

The Abell Foundation recognized Harbor City Services, Inc as a leader in the Social Enterprise movement with a gift of $25,000 to promote business growth.  HCS is a self-sustaining enterprise that employs individuals in recovery from mental illnesses and/or substance abuse in four business lines—moving, storage, records management and shredding.  Excellent work at a fair price with a terrific social return.

HCS receives thank you letter from Springfield Hospital Center

“On behalf of the administration and staff of Springfield Hospital Center, I would like to thank you and your employees for the timely and excellent work performed in moving equipment and boxes from the Administration Building to the M&S Building. We are extremely pleased with the quality of your work and the completion of the work in the time agreed upon. Again, thanks!”
~Barry Stabile
Springfield Hospital Center

District Heights, Congo city form relationship – Cities to work together in trade, cultural exchange

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Alphonse Ngoyi Kasanji, governor of the Kasai-Oriental Region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, visited the city of District Heights Saturday on behalf of Kasai and its capital city of Mbuji-Mayi to designate the areas as twin cities.

In addition to receiving a ‘‘Key to the City,” Kasanji received proclamations from County Executive Jack. B. Johnson (D) and the County Council. The designation will allow the cities to benefit each other through trade opportunities and cultural exchange.

‘‘I believe we are the same people despite being separated by oceans,” Kasanji said. ‘‘But the Earth is the same. Men are the same. And we can develop something looking in the same direction. That’s why I want to strengthen Mbuji-Mayi, so that each one can find their benefit.”

The cities’ relationship developed when District Heights Commissioner Jack Sims met Muleyke Mukoko, an executive for Avmark, an aviation consulting firm, in 2005 while working with The Atrium Group, a business development company that tried to form an airline providing direct flights from the U.S. to countries in Africa.

Although plans to develop the airline fell through, Sims and Mukoko of Hyattsville remained in touch. While attending a 2007 brunch for Maryland’s Liberia Sister State Executive Committee, she expressed interest in her native country, Congo, having a similar relationship as Liberia shares with the state.

Mukoko contacted Kasanji’s technical advisor, Ngoy Crispin Tambwe, and arranged for him to meet with Sims. In January, Sims and Tambwe discussed building a relationship between the city and the Kasai region to increase communication among Africans and African-Americans.

Keynote speaker Jim Swan, a deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs in the U.S. Department of State, said the Congo has come a long way through political conflict and finally held its first Democratic elections in 2006 which elected President Joseph Kabila and local officials like Kasanji.

Swan said the area of East Kasai is rich in natural resources such as industrial and gem quality diamonds which could be of interest to the city.

However, Swan said the country, particularly Kasai, is dealing with a population that overwhelms its infrastructure and public services. More than 4 million people live in Kasai compared to 28,000 in 1960 after it declared independence from Belgium. Kasanji said the area needs help providing quality schools, hospitals, housing and roads.

‘‘As an American that is very much interested in Africa—I’ve spent most of my professional life working on Africa, living in Africa—I’m thrilled to see these types of partnerships because a good bilateral relationship between two countries can only be deepened when those two countries come together,” Swan said.

District Heights is looking to help in part by donating surplus equipment. John Herron, CEO of Harbor City Services in Baltimore, said he met Sims about nine years ago and has since shipped off medical supplies donated from Baltimore City hospitals to countries such as Nigeria and is open to sending equipment to the Congo.

Sims also offered Kasanji opportunities for his residents to do business in District Heights on seven acres of land the city is looking to develop in the 6300 block of Marlboro Pike next to the Aldi Supermarket. Sims also offered the city’s surplus housing, which has been difficult to move lately because of a tight economy.

Opportunities for trade between the county and Africa will grow even more with the opening of the county’s first African Trade Office in Steeplechase 95 International Business Park on Ritchie Marlboro Road in Capitol Heights.

Patricia Hayes-Parker, vice president of Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation’s International Business and Administration, Foreign Trade Zone 63, said the office, opening May 1 will encourage international trading with 22 African countries. Hayes-Parker said Nigeria would be included because it is already one of the United States’ biggest trading partners in natural resources such as oil and a large Nigerian population, many who are business owners, already exists in the county.

William Welch, a 30-year District Heights resident and former executive director for the Prince George’s County Human Relations Committee, said even if an individual lives in a city, he or she is still part of the world system and should try to connect outside of the immediate area.

‘‘Africa has too long [been] ignored by Americans for the most part,” Welch said. ‘‘But certainly it’s been ignored by most people who are from there. We still have some other primitive views on what the continent is.”

E-mail Natalie McGill at

Daily Record 2008 Health Care Heroes

Profit not sole mission for Lansdowne business – Jobs part of prescription for those with mental illness

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It’s 8 a.m. and everyone has filed into the office — the moving crew and the paper shredders in matching midnight blue shirts, the office administrators who sit at the desks up front, and the boss.

A circle is formed. Hands are held and people begin to speak.

Some thank God for waking them up that morning.

Some praise everyone’s presence at work while others express insecurities over their private lives, from the need to obtain a driver’s license and a car to the strain of paying child support.

Ten minutes pass, the meeting called “Morning Wake” ends and employees of Harbor City Services begin to work.

The storage, shredding and moving business on Alco Place in Lansdowne is a warehouse with a mission: to employ individuals who suffer from mental illness and addiction and to improve the community while doing so.

Brivett James, 38, came to Harbor City four months ago.

After a life “lived on the other side of society,” Harbor City is James’ first job.

“This is the longest I’ve worked. I’ve worked here four months, and that’s the longest I’ve worked consistently. Four months,” said James, 38.

It was difficult for James to adjust to Harbor City — “getting up in the mornings, being to work on time” — but “it’s a job and it’s a check. And you know, it helps. It definitely helps me. Because otherwise, ain’t no telling what I would be trying to do,” James said.

“This was my introduction to getting a paycheck, and I want to get a paycheck for the rest of my life,” James said.

A progressive outlook toward mental health care inspired Harbor City’s inception in 1987, when social worker turned CEO John Herron found himself at the helm of a Baltimore-based rehabilitation program striving to create a richer life for the mentally ill through sustainable employment in a society that so often stigmatizes Harbor City’s work force.

The nonprofit rests on the theory of social enterprise, which holds that it is possible to achieve a social mission through a business.

“Good business improves civilization,” Herron said. “There’s nothing counter to … using good business practices to achieve” a social goal.

But caring has a cost.

It’s the cost of a Morning Wake, an on-the-clock event.

It’s the cost of cross-training an unskilled work force to ensure that a job can get done when the warehouse is short staffed.

It’s the cost of workers lost to relapse.

“That mission-related work … is something that we have absorbed financially, and it’s hurt our competitiveness,” Herron said.

In the last 18 months, Harbor City has, for the first time, had to look for financial support from grants, donations and foundations.

But Herron still sees social enterprise as a necessary investment. Employing those with mental illness or problems with substance abuse can reduce money spent on social services and criminal justice costs.

“We have to figure out ways of engaging them in our society. We’re losing too much talent,” Herron said.

Herron believes that social enterprise is “a movement whose time has come. We have seen the failure of excessive capitalism. And we have also seen the failure of a social system based exclusively on charity, (which) has made peasants of those that choose to work in social service agencies,” he said.

In calling for the closure of the rift that exists between nonprofit and for-profit business philosophies, Herron said he hopes to “make the world work for people with chronic illnesses,” such as the schizophrenia, depression or addiction that afflict much of Harbor City’s work force.

Although Herron insists that Harbor City is a workplace rather than a treatment center, the warehouse plays an important part in the recovery of its employees.

From helping workers open a bank account or establish credit to scheduling shifts around treatment meetings, Harbor City provides its employees with services that “help people to deal with the business of life,” Herron said.

Harbor City also acknowledges relapse as an unavoidable part of recovery, as it might be for other chronic illnesses like diabetes or hypertension.

So a Harbor City employee who relapses isn’t fired because of his relapse.

Many Harbor City employees have been unable to find such an accommodating work environment elsewhere, outside of this place where “nobody judges you. Nobody looks down on you. Everybody is sensitive to everybody’s needs,” said Marietta Smith, Harbor City’s office administrator.

Before coming to Harbor City in the late 1990s, Smith, 53, worked as a secretary for employers who knew she had been diagnosed with depression but remained ignorant of how to work with her.

“It was like everybody was working around me. Like they were scared to give me certain tasks,” Smith said.

Smith copied, collated and answered phones — “and I have too many skills for that.”

“A lot of times, people are not educated about mental illness,” Smith said. “And that’s what I think was my problem in the past.”

Office manager Kathleen Reese, whom several Harbor City employees have nicknamed Ms. Kat, had similar experiences working in the corporate world.

“I have never, ever seen anything like this whatsoever,” said Reese, 51, who has also been diagnosed with depression.

“I absolutely know, without a shadow of a doubt, if I was working somewhere else, I would not be working right now. I just would not be capable of performing under that kind of environment,” Reese said.

Reese has worked at Harbor City for seven years, and has the freedom to shut her office door or work from home when she needs to cope with the ups and downs of her illness.

Her job at Harbor City has “allowed me to set the pace that I needed to as I was recovering. I was very raw, didn’t have any confidence, hadn’t worked in nine months. So it allowed me to recognize that I still had skills I could tap into,” Reese said.

“We are functional,” said Smith. “Even though we have this illness, we still can function in society.”

By Catherine Krikstan
Capital News Service

‘A Business With a Mission’ – US Nonprofit Accepts No Donations

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Finding a job can be extremely difficult for those who are psychologically disabled or recovering from addictions.  An unusual business in the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore makes a special effort to offer employment to people on society’s edges.  Harbor City Services calls itself “a business on a mission.”  As VOA’s June Soh reports, the company seeks no special treatment as it tries to build opportunity for the employees by earning its way in the marketplace.  Amy Katz narrates the story.

“I like working here.  It is all right.  It is not too hard, it is not too easy,” says Adrian Brinkley, who has been working for Harbor City Services for six months. “It is something that fits the time in my life right now. It is like God’s plan for me to be here.”

Adrian has a mental illness, for which he receives medication.  So does Joseph McPherson, who started working at Harbor City six years ago.

“Some (people) were surprised.  Some didn’t think I would be able to work.  I am really proud (of myself) because (previously) I didn’t think I would be able to work this long…”

Harbor City Services, based in a warehouse in Baltimore, works for other businesses — managing documents, shredding paper copies that are no longer needed, offering commercial moving and delivery services.

The company does not seem very different from other firms that perform such business services.  But one part of Harbor City is unusual — its work force.  Everyone — more than 50 people, including those who work part-time — has a psychiatric disability or is a recovering drug abuser.

John Herron, a former university professor and a licensed social worker who also has a master’s degree in business, founded the company 20 years ago.  He is its chief executive officer.

“A job doesn’t cure mental illness and it doesn’t cure substance abuses, but it is really hard to recover from those things if you don’t have a job,” he says. “A job gives people not just money; it gives them purpose.  It captures their need for social life.  I think that a job really becomes a necessary part of recovery from any illness.”

Harbor City is a “social enterprise” — a nonprofit business with a social purpose that operates on income it earns, rather than relying on donations, gifts or government grants.  The company is committed to hiring people with disabilities, and the only benefit it receives is exemption from taxes.

“Why we don’t seek out donations?  My answer to people is, ‘Don’t just give me your money.  Give me your business, so I can hire more people and grow the scale.’  We need to provide this kind of opportunity to a lot more people,” Herron told us.

Harbor City faces an extra challenge as an employer, says Herron.  In addition to competing for business, the chief executive has to remain attentive to his workers’ needs; in particular, their “relapse potential” — the possibility of a setback in their recovery from addiction.

Such problems can come to light during the morning group meditation, an important part of each workday at Harbor City Services.

“A lot of societies look on relapse and going to the hospital as failure.  We don’t [think that way] here.  That’s the, I think, fundamental difference in the way we operate.  We take away the fact that if you get sick, you lose your job.  We say, if you get sick, take off for a while and come back to work when you are able.”

Sometimes Harbor City’s employees are hired away by its customers.  That means their talent and stability have been noticed.  Herron calls it a success.

Michael Freeman, who was a drug addict, calls himself a success, too.  He earned enough trust while working on shed-building projects at Harbor City that he has formed his own business, operating as a subcontractor for Harbor City.

“When you come out from jail, you are marked as a felon.  It is very hard to get a job out there in society marked as a felon, because a lot of employers don’t want to give you a chance,” explains Freeman. “So I am very grateful to have the job.”

Like many other Harbor City Services workers, Freeman says his plan is to be a productive member of society and provide for his family.