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Legg Mason pledges $1 million to Living Classrooms center in East Baltimore

Baltimore Business Journal, May 17, 2017 -- Legg Mason Inc. is providing $1 million to underwrite the next four years of programming and services at Living Classrooms Foundation's POWER House Community Center in East Baltimore.

POWER House, which stands for "providing opportunities to work, expand, and rise," has provided out-of-school programming to children and teenagers since 2012. The programs include academic support and college readiness, financial literacy classes for adults, GED prep classes and job training courses.

The center is located in the old firehouse at 316 S. Caroline Street in the Perkins Homes public housing project, just over a half mile away from Legg Mason's Harbor East headquarters.

CEO Joseph A. Sullivan said the asset manager decided to make the $1 million commitment because it sees the East Baltimore neighborhood as an extension of its own work community. In addition to the money, Legg Mason employees will spend at least 2,000 hours volunteering and mentoring the children.

The center will also be having a Halloween party at the Legg Mason tower later this year and Legg Mason (NYSE: LM) is encouraging its employees spend more time at POWER House by telecommuting from there.

"We have done a lot since this crisis, but wanted to be more thoughtful about our response since the unrest," Sullivan said, referring to the riots that ensued following the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. "We didn't want to just write a check, but also make a real difference. We want to have a presence in the community and be a part of it, not just give money to fix it."

Legg Mason is narrowing the scope of its philanthropic efforts, Sullivan said. The company will be working with fewer nonprofits overall, but spend more time and money with the nonprofits it does work with, like the Living Classrooms Foundation.

POWER House is part of Living Classrooms' target investment zone, a section of East Baltimore the nonprofit wants to revitalize through educational, recreation and workforce development programs.

People at the center may not know or understand exactly what Legg Mason does, Sullivan said, but it's important for them to see that the company wants to be a good neighbor and partner.

Sullivan took a tour of the facility and then spoke to a crowd of POWER House employees, children and Legg Mason employees. Other speakers included Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and Living Classrooms Foundation CEO James Piper Bond.

Before the event, more than 50 Legg Mason employees spent the day helping clean the neighborhood and construct planters to be distributed in the community.

Auburn R. Bell, managing director of the Legg Mason Charitable Foundation, said the process leading to the company's commitment began after the civil unrest. In addition to working with Livings Classrooms, Bell said Legg Mason is challenging its other nonprofit partners to find ways to make an impact in East Baltimore.

"Joe challenged us to look at determining something we could do to help," Bell said. "We put together a team and did a lot of white-boarding, throwing ideas around and talking to community leaders. We decided East Baltimore was the right fit because these are our neighbors."

Echoing the sentiment that she offered at the Greater Baltimore Committee's annual meeting two days earlier, Pugh thanked Legg Mason for its commitment in underwriting programs that help people with workforce development and job training.

"Every child may not go to college but every child deserves a career," Pugh said.

The mayor also encouraged Legg Mason to provide internship opportunities to some of the teens so they can get exposed to opportunities in investment banking.

Article written by Holden Wilen http://www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/news/2017/05/17/legg-mason-pledges-1-million-to-living-classrooms.html

Posted on: 24 May, 2017

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