Shell Game: Progress has been slow on the old Carver Theater facade.
Shell Game: Progress has been slow on the old Carver Theater facade. Credit: Darrow Montgomery/File Photo

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This was going to be a big fundraising week for the Good Samaritan Foundation, with both a celebrity gala and another celebrity golf tournament scheduled.

So I went by the old Carver Theater in Anacostia over the weekend to see if it’s a job training site yet.

It’s not. It’s still a construction site. There’s a roof on the building, which looks pretty new. But the front entrance is bricked-over, the south side of the property is overgrown again, and the place is nowhere near ready for occupancy.

Anybody who has followed the saga of the old movie house in the last several years should find that amazing. Long past amazing, actually.

The Good Samaritan Foundation owns the building, which is located on Martin Luther King Avenue SE. That’s a charity run by Art Monk and Charles Mann, who have been pledging for almost a decade that they’d open a job training site for Anacostia’s underprivileged kids on that site.

The heroic ex-Redskins attended meetings with Anacostia’s regular folks and leaders beginning in 1999, at which they promised to bring positivity to a block that was fairly blighted at the time. Those pledges and the players’ god-like status in this region enabled the Good Samaritan Foundation to acquire the abandoned theater from the city and to raise millions of dollars for their charity.

A brief and wholly incomplete cataloguing of the money that’s come the group’s way to build the youth center:

In a newsletter from the Good Samaritan Foundation from October 2000, Monk and Mann wrote they’d received a donation of $1 million to go toward the construction from a group led by Andersen Consulting. With that money, the ex-players announced, the Anacostia center would be opened within a year, and then they’d build similar faith-based “safe havens” for young people “in every ward” in the city. A Sports Business Journal report from that same year said the Good Samaritan Foundation raised $350,000 in a golf tournament. A Washington Business Report piece from 2001, after one of the ground-breaking ceremonies at the Carver Theater site—there have been at least three such public events orchestrated over the years by the Good Samaritan Foundation—said that the group had “70 percent” of the funding in hand.

And more was to come. In a review of “religious earmarks,” the New York Times reported that the Good Samaritan Foundation had been given another $500,000 from Congress in 2003 “to buy and renovate a building to serve youth in Washington, D.C.” The Congressional Record for 2004 indicates the feds kicked in another $275,000 for the center through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

All the inactivity and delays were supposed to be over.

In December 2007, the Good Samaritan Foundation informed a White House group that promotes faith-based organizations that the job training site would open by spring. Then in February, mere weeks after the White House filing, an official with RAB Management, which is listed as the project manager in the Good Samaritan Foundation’s tax filings, said the project would not encounter any more hold-ups (“Playing Catch-Up,” 2/6).

In that 2000 newsletter announcing the $1 million donation, Monk and Mann sealed their pledge for their new center with a line of scripture, from Proverbs 13:12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

If so, a lot of Anacostians should probably get an EKG real soon.

Community activist Philip Pannell personally guided Monk and Mann on a tour of the neighborhood in 1999 when they first asked residents to accept their plan. In the spring of 2006, Pannell told me he was beginning to think D.C. might have statehood before the Good Samaritan Foundation actually built its long-promised center (“Slow to Develop,” April 28, 2006).

With development and businesses coming in around the Anacostia Metro station, just down the street from the Carver Theater, the neighborhood isn’t nearly as blighted as it was when Monk and Mann first stopped by to relate their grand vision. So the property that the Good Samaritan Foundation owns is a lot more valuable than it was when they got it.

Last winter, Arrington Dixon, an Anacostia native and civic leader, said folks were starting to worry that the delays meant the Good Samaritan Foundation was merely sitting on a real estate investment and would never really put in a training center.

In an interview with City Paper in 2006, Mann blamed the years of missed deadlines on the District bureaucracy but apologized for letting down the locals who had believed in him and Monk. He pledged to make

them believe in the Good Samaritan Foundation again.

That probably hasn’t happened yet. The Good Samaritan Foundation’s fundraising continues in earnest, however. Monk was to be guest of honor, along with Darrell Green, at a gala scheduled for this Saturday at the new Gaylord National Harbor Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill. (The gala was suddenly postponed Sunday night, though no reason has yet been announced.)

The event was billed as the “Route 281 Super Gala,” a reference to Green and Monk’s jersey numbers (28 and 81) and “the road to Canton.” It was to benefit the Hilaron Foundation, another nonprofit started last spring by Monk in hopes of turning publicity from his and Green’s joint Hall of Fame inductions into fundraising clout.

Monk told the Washington Times while announcing the Hilaron’s founding that he hoped to raise $5 million from a series of fundraising events with Green. Monk’s portion of the Hilaron funds would go to the Good Samaritan Foundation, according to the Hilaron Web site.

Incidentally, Monk and Green named Brett Fuller as chair of the Hilaron board of directors. Along with being Monk’s and Mann’s pastor and the Redskins’ chaplain, Fuller once successfully lobbied Congress in 2003 to be named the federally designated fundraiser for something called the National Slave Memorial. The memorial, according to the language in the bill, was to be built in D.C. No such monument has been erected.

Dan Snyder announced he had given $200,000 to Hilaron and was the primary sponsor of the canceled soiree. Mary Matalin and James Carville were advertised as MCs. Michael Irvin, Dan Snyder, Sonny Jurgensen, Tony Dorsett, and Eric Dickerson were promoted as VIP guests. Tickets were on sale from $500 to $2,500. Autographs cost extra.

Despite the gala’s postponement, the Good Samaritan Foundation is going ahead with a celebrity golf outing at Raspberry Falls Golf & Hunt Club in Leesburg on Monday, with the hopes of raising $100,000. Entries cost from $275 to $25,000.

Neither Monk nor Mann returned phone messages. Lawrence Dark, executive director of the Good Samaritan Foundation, says “construction problems” have kept the organization from meeting its previously announced opening dates.

But, Dark says, the renovations will be finished and the center will open “in the next six to eight weeks.”

For real?

“If it doesn’t rain,” he says.