After overseeing Strong City Baltimore’s move to the Hoen Building in East Baltimore and its yearlong 50th anniversary celebration, Karen D. Stokes is stepping down as CEO after nearly 14 years at the helm. Her last day will be April 10, 2020, when current Chief of Staff Reginald Davis will take over as Interim CEO.
During Ms. Stokes’ tenure, Strong City became a fiscally sponsoring organization that now supports 100 community-based initiatives and leaders. Ms. Stokes founded Strong City’s annual Neighborhood Institute and grew it into Baltimore’s premier conference for community activists and neighborhood leaders. In 2015, she successfully pushed to change the organization’s name from Greater Homewood Community Corporation to one that better reflects its citywide stature and ambition.
Ms. Stokes’ capstone achievement was shepherding Strong City’s relocation from its longtime home in Charles Village to a rehabilitated factory building in the Collington Square/Broadway East section of East Baltimore. The Hoen Building renovation was a $34 million, four-year effort requiring financing from 17 separate city, state, federal, and private sources. The project rescued a beautiful, abandoned printing plant and has breathed new life into a community challenged by decades of disinvestment and neglect.
“Karen’s leadership of Strong City has been a remarkable story of adaptation to changing circumstances and needs,” said Georgia Smith, Chair of Strong City’s Board of Directors. “The move to the Hoen Building exemplifies Karen’s vision. She sees possibilities that are not always readily apparent to others – whether in a neglected community center in Harwood, an abandoned factory in Collington Square, or an annual conference bringing together neighborhood leaders from all over Baltimore.”
Before coming to Strong City, Ms. Stokes directed New York City’s first Emergency Food Program as well as its Emergency Housing Program for Homeless Families. She was Executive Director of the national Coalition for Low Income Community Development for 13 years. In Baltimore, she has served on numerous boards, graduated from the Greater Baltimore Committee’s LEADership class, and was twice named one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women by The Daily Record.
The Board has formed an Executive Transition Committee which will conduct a search for a new permanent CEO to lead the organization through the challenges of the post-COVID-19 environment. As Ms. Stokes determines what is next for her professionally, the Board has asked her to continue serving in an advisory capacity during this leadership transition.
Strong City’s Interim CEO, Reginald Davis, holds a degree in political science and a certification in nonprofit leadership and management from the University of the District of Columbia, and is an M.A. candidate in Public Management at the Johns Hopkins University. Before joining Strong City in 2019, he served as policy director for the National Human Services Assembly, overseeing policy research and advocacy efforts on the federal level. At the National Minority AIDS Council, he managed a national capacity building program meeting the organizational and leadership development needs of government and nonprofits on the front lines of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“Mr.Davis is a proven leader with a deep commitment to Baltimore and to Strong City’s mission of building and strengthening neighborhoods and people,” Ms. Smith said. “The Board has complete confidence in Reggie’s ability to lead Strong City through this period of transition.”