MALT halfway home

The Mt. Airy Learning Tree (MALT) is almost halfway done raising the $230,000 it needs to purchase its home on Greene st.

Since 1981, the MALT has provided the neighborhood with everything from burlesque seminars to swimming classes. Though its course catalog began as a humble, folded-over sheet of paper highlighting 17 classes, the organization now boasts more than 300 classes — not to mention a glossy program that’s mailed to 90,000 households.

In 1999, MALT moved into its current building, an early-century brick structure that was once a bookstore, and before that, a pharmacy. “There are still old wooden pharmacy cabinets and filing drawers inside,” said associate director Kevin Schueller. “They’re constantly reminding us of its rich history.”

Early this year, following the death of the original owner, the organization took out a loan to purchase the building. Now it’s seeking to own it fully with the help of a capital campaign, which has already raised $100,000. If the organization can get $130,000 more, it’s theirs.

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The campaign coincides with a boom in the organization’s budget. Since 1995, its income has tripled, with $110,000 going to community teachers and entrepreneurs, and $25,000 more to local churches and organizations for rental fees. MALT hopes that by purchasing its home, it will help spur the area’s economic development even more.

“We’ve always been a social engine for the community,” said Schueller. “But I think we’ve recently become an economic engine, too.”

Indeed, with the exception of one ghastly winter, the number of registrations has grown each year. Asked how they’ve been so successful amidst an economic downturn, Schueller points to the MALT’s longtime presence in the neighborhood.

“Everyone knows about us,” he said. “We get a lot of people walking in off the street, allowing us to function as a community center for people looking to connect with neighbors and businesses. It’s our community roots, really.”

With a little help, those roots will grow even deeper.

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