On May 11, 2015, Rev. Dr. John R. “Jack” Sharp, much-loved husband of Joanne F. “Dotty” Sharp, loving father of Jody, John and Bryan Sharp; devoted brother of Stephen Sharp and Robert Sharp. He is also survived by a loving extended family.
For more than thirty years, Rev. John R. (Jack) Sharp has served the Baltimore community as a visionary leader and a diligent activist wholly dedicated to helping those in need. Jack’s leadership and creative efforts have been distinguished by three main qualities: the boldness of his vision, his absolute tenacity, and his ability to unite diverse people for a common goal. His steadfast commitment to people who are poor and vulnerable, under girded by his idealism, perseverance and coalition-building, have led to a remarkable record of accomplishments. Though Jack would modestly and correctly point out that many people played leading roles in these projects, most would say that his dedication and determination were the keys to these successes.
Jack Sharp was the founding President of GEDCO (Govans Ecumenical Development Corporation) in 1991 and has served as a GEDCO board member since that time. Prior to GEDCO’s incorporation, he initiated two community housing projects in the Govans section of North Baltimore in the 1980s, along with other clergy and neighborhood leaders whom he drew into a coalition that became GEDCO. These early projects were Epiphany House, a congregate care residence for low income seniors, and Ascension Homes, community housing for people with mental illness.
Working with GEDCO’s volunteers and staff, he built the organization’s capacity over the years
so that it is now one of Baltimore’s most dynamic and accomplished nonprofit developers of housing and supportive services. In addition to Epiphany House and Ascension Homes, GEDCO projects also include Harford House and Micah House serving men and women who were homeless; the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Senior Housing at Gallagher Mansion serving low income elderly people; the Stadium Place retirement community; CARES, a food pantry that also offers financial support and job development mentoring for people with economic crises; and two senior centers providing social, wellness and nutrition services: the Senior Netowrk of North Baltimore and the Harford Senior Center, the latter also housing the North East Food Pantry. All of these programs are due in large part to Jack’s eagerness to see opportunities – such as a vacant, deteriorating Gallagher Mansion or the availability of the Memorial Stadium site – where others see only the obstacles.
Jack is the founding and, at his passing, current President of Stadium Place, Inc., a GEDCO-affiliated organization responsible for the redevelopment of the Memorial Stadium site into a mixed income retirement community with special emphasis on serving seniors who cannot afford traditional retirement communities. To date, Stadium Place, Inc. has developed four independent living buildings with 340 apartments for low and moderate income senior citizens, Heritage Run, a market rate apartment community and an innovative model of long-term care called the GREEN HO– USE® Residences at Stadium Place. His grand vision for Stadium Place, as an intergenerational, diverse community is becoming reality through the inclusion of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Y, a community-built playground, an interfaith entry plaza called ThanksGiving Place. Future components will include and a retail/office Village Center that will serve the entire community.
Rev. Sharp accomplished much of the above while serving as Pastor of the Govans Presbyterian Church from which he retired in 2004, after 27 years of service. In addition, in the recent past he has served as President of the Board of Community Housing Associates of the Baltimore Mental Health Systems, Inc., and as President of the Glen Meadows Retirement Community and Treasurer of the Baltimore Interfaith Hospitality Network. At his death, Rev. Sharp also was the Treasurer of the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council. In 2008 he was honored with the Governor’s Leadership in Aging Award and the NFL (Ravens ) Community Quarterback Award (Community Service).
Over the years Jack has faced many challenges in his work – neighborhood residents who were afraid of those with mental illness moving into their neighborhoods; community leaders worried about the effect of housing for people who are homeless on neighborhood stability; funders concerned whether a small organization like GEDCO could succeed at big projects. Jack’s absolute integrity, his willingness to listen to people’s concerns and craft solutions, and his unwavering commitment to serving people with special needs, have overcome the obstacles and allowed him and the organizations he has led to achieve great things. The lives of thousands of citizens of Baltimore and Maryland are better because of his service.
Jack, you are missed.
I am extremely saddened to hear of the sudden passing of my friend and mentor, Rev. Jack Sharp. For more than thirty years, Jack has served the Baltimore community as a visionary leader and a diligent activist wholly dedicated to helping those in need. Jack was the founding President of GEDCO in 1991 and has served as a GEDCO board member since that time. I now have the privilege of continuing his legacy of building caring and compassionate communities as the current President of the Board. It is a sad time for our GEDCO family, but we know that the lives of thousands of citizens of Baltimore and Maryland are better because of him.
Perry P. Savoy
GEDCO President and Board Chair
The passing of Jack has left a void that may never be filled. Not only have we loss our founder, but we have lost a dear friend. Like all who knew him, I had my own personal relationship with Jack that was both unique and inspiring. Besides being a calming spirit in the midst of chaos, he was extremely instrumental in helping me refine my purpose. It was he that told me “Whenever you are doing good, God will make a way”. We all were extremely blessed to know this extraordinary man and I shall forever be grateful to Jack for his lessons on leadership, his unwavering confidence in my abilities, and his constant support. I will miss him terribly.