On February 12, 1969, a joint meeting of the Harford Road and Belair Road Ministeriums was held at the Lauraville Methodist Church. The purpose of the meeting was to form an interfaith clergy and lay the Steering Committee charged with the responsibility to determine the need and responsibility of establishing an area wide federation of neighborhood organizations which could work together for the good of the community. The Steering Committee, chaired by Father E. Huesman, met weekly and consulted with various urban church leaders and university professors. In May, a set of goals were adopted, and by June, the group had pronounced the "HARBEL proposal "a document outlining community problems, and suggesting a concept and budget for a professionally directed community organization. Using this proposal, the Committee spent 14 months (June 1969 to August 1970) attending various meetings, explaining their proposal, and securing pledges of financial support. They also met regularly to shape and to refine the HARBEL concept by listening to suggestions from every corner of the HARBEL area.
In August 1970, the Steering Committee entered into an agreement with Lutheran Social Services of Maryland and secured the services of its program coordinator, David J. Wecht. At this time thirteen interdenominational congregations formed the Steering Committee. In September 1970, Father Huesman stepped down from the chairmanship after the 18 months of skillful leadership during the formative stages of HARBEL. Mr. William L. Clark was elected to succeed Father Huesman.
On October 1, 1970, HARBEL was incorporated in Maryland as a not-for profit corporation. The Steering Committee became the first Board of Directors of the Harford Road-Belair Road Community Services of Lutheran Social Services Program, coordinator David Wecht and the hiring of the organizations first full time secretary Regina Wirtanen (now Buker). The HARBEL Community Organization Community Services Program was off and running.
Member Groups And Services Are Added:
HARBEL began to grow as the needs of the community were identified and addressed. New programs were formed as direct providers to HARBEL area residents. In 1974, the community Mental Health Center was begun and in 1975, the Evolution Program, a youth service program now part of HARBEL Prevention and Recovery Center,was initiated. The HARBEL mayor's station was added in 1976.
The year 1977 saw the opening of the HARBEL Multi-purpose Center, now the current site of the organization. In addition to HARBEL sponsored programs, Mercy Hospital opened the Mercy/HARBEL Primary Care Clinic. When Mercy Hospital elected to close the primary Care Clinic in 1984, HARBEL programs quickly expanded into the newly available space.
In 1985, the HARBEL Alcohol Services Program was begun. It soon became apparent that there was a need in the community for a program that would treat drug abuse as well as alcohol abuse and the program expanded and became the HARBEL Substance Abuse Services Program. In the mid 1990s HARBEL youth services and adult services program combined their resources, and formed HARBEL Prevention and Recovery Center. The program currently provides out patient substance abuse treatment to adult and adolescents.
The Community Mental Health Center expanded to become an independent corporation., The Harford-Belair Community Mental Health Center, in 1987. In July of 1988, the HARBEL Mayor's Station became the Mayor's Station at HARBEL, working directly for the city. While these two programs are no longer HARBEL programs, they are still serving the community. In June of 1992, the Harford-Belair Community Mental Health Center moved to their own building at 4308 Hartford Road. The Mayor's Station is now part of the city's services at 5225 York Road in the Govans area.
In September of 1993, with the support of 12 community financial institutions, the HARBEL Housing Partnership was initiated. The Partnership provides comprehensive education and counseling services designed for the first-time home buyer. This program serves portions of Baltimore City and Baltimore County. In October of 1993, with a Community Development Block Grant from Baltimore City, The Homeowners Assistance Renovation Program was begun. This Program provided specification writing assistance to income-eligible homeowners and is a city-wide program.
HARBEL has grown from a small organization of 13 churches and two staff attempting to work on a myriad of concerns, to an organization of tremendous size and influence. There are now ninety-one member organizations, including school PTAs, business associations, civic associations, community groups, churches, two hospitals, and a mental health center. HARBEL operates eight direct service programs and continues to serve Northeast residents with a staff of 31 persons and an annual budget in excess of $810,000.