Crisis to Resilience: A CNP Story
Article reposted with permission from Reginald Davis, CNP, Strong City Baltimore CEO
Reflecting on the last two years as CEO, I find it difficult to believe how much has happened with Strong City Baltimore and the world around us. I entered with excitement, hope, and trepidation. Following the retirement of a long-standing CEO, I assumed the top job for a sprawling organization with a rich history, commitment to enabling social change agents, and an opportunity to leave a mark on our work and city.
I looked forward to making a difference in my adopted city, advancing our shared vision for Baltimore and its neighborhoods, building on Strong City’s 50-plus years of service, and strengthening the organization from the inside out. However, it was difficult to predict what was ahead.
We confronted a global pandemic that upended every aspect of our lives. Our nation and Baltimore were thrust into a public reckoning on racial injustice and systemic inequality. Families attempted to navigate the ever-changing new “normal” while trying to stay in their homes, meet basic needs, learn in a virtual environment, and maintain a positive outlook as we all struggled with the worst public health and social crisis in more than a century.
Nonprofit CEOs and executive directors across the country worked overtime to help their organizations navigate this uncertain terrain and remain viable while continuing to execute their missions and serve their communities. While managing and leading Strong City Baltimore through the pandemic and intense public scrutiny, I–like many other leaders – also faced enormous personal challenges.
For me, life unfolded in unimaginable ways. When I started at Strong City, my mother received a stage 4 cancer diagnosis and immediately began chemotherapy. As a family, we mourned and celebrated six loved ones who passed in the last year – my bonus dad, brother, aunt, mother (after her valiant fight with cancer), grandmother, and niece. One of the most challenging things was losing three family members to gun violence, including my 17-year-old brother and 15-year-old niece.
My leadership and personal endurance were tested with crises at every turn. I stumbled but did not fall; I bent but did not break. And going through these tribulations, I learned a few invaluable lessons:
- the importance of self-care
- taking care of your team
- delegating and trusting your people
- taking one challenge at a time
- celebrating the wins
- clearing the noise to focus on what matters the most, and
- understanding that if you can look up, you can get up
While facing my challenges, I observed an enduring ability to never surrender with the Strong City team and beyond. This perseverance has been on full display, grounding and motivating us. In spite of the pandemic and despite the disruption it brought to our lives, we continued to build and thrive. I am proud of what we have accomplished together, serving nearly 5,000 Baltimoreans.
While some businesses and nonprofits were ceasing operations, Strong City never closed its doors. We secured more than $3.2M in new revenue to sustain us through the worst of the pandemic. Our public and private funders recognized our impact and vision by renewing support for Strong City’s programs and operations. Strong City’s board and individual donors stepped up, providing unrestricted support when we needed it the most.
Over the next year, we will continue building on our accomplishments and focus renewed energy on building the capacity of resident change agents through the Neighborhood Institute and other community leadership initiatives. We will expand our work to strengthen school-community partnerships and give our young people the best opportunity to learn and succeed. Strong City will work to increase education and work development opportunities for adults in our city. We will advocate for policy change that strengthen Baltimore neighborhoods and its residents. Understanding that people drive our work, our priority will be to take care of our team because we know they put their heart and soul into everything they do.
Thank you to the Strong City board, staff, volunteers, partners, funders, and donors who continue to labor with us to make Baltimore stronger. The last two years certainly have not been easy, but we have made enormous strides together. I am grateful for the many people at Strong City and beyond that demonstrated care and concern for me and my family. I remain in awe of how we supported each other during these trying times.
Together, we have exemplified resilience and perseverance. Our future remains bright. I look forward to what lies ahead.
Yours in service,
Reginald Davis, CNP
Chief Executive Officer, Strong City Baltimore