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Celebrating 35 years

Charlestown’s culture continues to enrich people’s lives

Created date

May 8th, 2018
Our Lady of the Angels Chapel on Charlestown's campus is a gathering place for faith-based services and special concerts throughout the year.

Our Lady of the Angels Chapel on Charlestown's campus is a gathering place for faith-based services and special concerts throughout the year.

They say time flies when you’re having fun, which explains why the last 35 years have gone by in a flash for people who live at Charlestown

Since the Catonsville, Md., community opened its doors in 1983, Charlestown has grown to more than 2,300 residents, with 1,200 full- and part-time employees. Charlestown is the first of 19 communities across the nation.

Although times have changed, Charlestown continues to revolutionize retirement for people age 60-plus.

Phyllis Lansing is one of those people. Fifteen years ago, Phyllis and her late husband John sold their house in Towson, Md., and moved to Charlestown. She’s still as confident as ever that it was the best decision they ever made.

“Charlestown is such a friendly community, and the beauty of the campus is just phenomenal,” says the retired librarian. “The [Our Lady of the Angels] Chapel is without comparison, and the proximity to Baltimore is so good! You can be at Center Stage or the symphony in virtually 20 minutes.”

The college-like campus features six restaurants, a fitness center, indoor pool and spa, an on-site medical center and pharmacy, bank, library, hair salon, computer lab, creative arts studio, and a woodwork and hobby shop. Outdoor features include bocce ball courts, a putting green, a lake, community gardens, and a nature trail. Charlestown even has its own television station and polling precinct.

Engelina Van Opstal was one of the very first people to move to Charlestown when it opened more than three decades ago. She remains in the same apartment home she shared with her late husband Jacob in the very first residence building built on the 110-acre property.

“At that time, we weren’t familiar at all with Catonsville. We were living in Mount Washington,” says Engelina, a retired supervisor of food services for Baltimore schools. “One of the things that attracted us to Charlestown was the beautiful surroundings. We also liked that it is maintenance-free and safe.”

Here to help

In addition to the positive reviews from residents, Charlestown Community Resources Manager Mary Evans will tell you Charlestown isn’t just a great place to live, it’s also a great place to work.

“I love the culture of this community,” says Evans.

Evans and her team provide support to new resident-run groups, helping them get off the ground.

“One of the greatest joys of working here is the opportunity to be involved with so many fascinating and incredible people,” she says. “I get a great deal of pleasure watching residents shine and develop relationships and learn from one another.”

Over the span of her 24-year career, Evans has watched a list of 50 resident-run clubs grow to more than 300.

“It’s hard to believe, but even with 300 groups already on campus, there are still some hobbies out there that we haven’t tapped into yet,” says Evans. “Our philosophy is: if you don’t see your hobby or interest represented here in the community, take charge and start your own club. We are here to help.”

As the community welcomes new generations, one thing remains the same for Evans: “Charlestown is filled with hundreds of accomplished, interesting, caring people,” she says. “Each of these unique individuals brings their own experiences, passions, and gifts, and the result is the inspiring, dynamic community Charlestown is today.”

Over the last 35 years, Charlestown residents have contributed more than $4 million to the community’s Scholars' Fund, which was distributed to more than 1,500 students.

Charlestown volunteers logged over 5 million hours of service for their peers and worthy causes in Baltimore and around the world.

And they’ve participated in thousands of worship services in the Our Lady of the Angels Chapel, created hundreds of social and service clubs, and enjoyed many meals together.

To honor the community’s 35th anniversary, Evans and her team are planning a variety of different events throughout the upcoming year.

“Working here feels like home,” says Evans. “There is a sense of family and teamwork here in the community. That’s something I appreciate and value. Not everyone gets the opportunity to do something meaningful that they love. I love being part of this community. I can’t imagine working anywhere else. I look forward to the day when I can move in myself.”