Deb Byrd ’98 leads new foundation serving Delmarva’s Christian community
Commitment and passion – that’s what Deb Byrd remembers most when she reflects on her experience as a member of Leadership Maryland’s Class of 1998. Even though she’d always considered herself a broad thinker – her 30-year career in local government on Maryland’s Eastern Shore had taught her to evaluate issues and potential impacts from every possible angle – she was still blown away by how much new perspective she gained from everyone she met in the program.
“As we traveled across the state, we met people from all walks of life, and what has stayed with me the most is everyone we spoke to – whether they focused on poverty, or education, or the environment, etc. – was absolutely, totally committed to what they do,” she says. “Everyone had a real passion for what they could offer, and we were constantly surrounded by a youthful energy and enthusiasm that many people tend to lose over the years. It was a reminder that the minute you lose your passion for what you do, it becomes just a job.”
Months after completing Leadership Maryland, Deb recalled that youthful passion and enthusiasm when she found herself deciding on the next chapter of her career. After a partisan turnover in local government forced her to resign her position as Dorchester County’s first county administrator, she landed a new job as general manager of a radio ministry that reached audiences throughout the Delmarva region on air and beyond online. Deb had immersed herself in spiritual studies in recent years – reading spiritual books and literature and enrolling in a local bible college (she would ultimately earn a master’s degree in Theology), and this new position allowed her to apply both her business/government acumen and her current interests. There she developed an outreach mission to connect community needs to helpful resources.
As the years passed, the media landscape evolved, and Deb’s ministry recognized their need to change with it. In 2015, the decision was made to sell off the radio station and its print assets. However, the corporate entity remained in existence under a new identity – the Christian Leadership & Community Foundation – and Deb stayed on as the organization’s president and executive director to further its mission to serve people on the Shore.
“Our ministry’s transition from radio/print outlet to community service organization was inspired both by my life experience and all I had experienced in Leadership Maryland,” says Deb. “We saw so much good stuff and it really emphasized why every person needs to decide what is meaningful to them. My life is all about helping people – finding even the smallest way to make a long-term difference in someone else’s life. Our radio station had been reaching and helping people every single day for the past 40 years, and I realized that we could combine my public service background with our ministry and create something that could make a significant impact here on the Shore.”
Since 2015, the Christian Leadership & Community Foundation (CLCF) has been committed to building leadership and support within the Christian community by providing guidance, mediation and assistance to local Christian ministries, para-ministries and non-profit organizations. Offering a wide array of workshops and seminars covering everything from grief and loss to grant writing; conflict management to family budgeting; and board/staff relations to organizational accounting, CLCF helps these organizations find the funds, counseling and guidance they need to reach their goals. In just five years, CLCF has served organizations all over the Delmarva region and accumulated a diverse and impressive collection of success stories, including:
Deb is the only full-time CLCF employee, along with a large network of part-time workers and volunteers. She is the primary grant writer, calling in other experts as needed depending on the challenge of the day – whether it be homelessness, hunger, addiction, education or any other community need. She considers her workplace to be anywhere but her desk – making meaningful connections everywhere she goes – and she approaches each day with the same energy and enthusiasm she remembers from her Leadership Maryland sessions.
“Leadership Maryland exposed me to people who had the bravery to move something forward that they believed in, without letting the naysayers get to them,” she says. “It definitely helped me recognize that you have to have passion for what you do – and when it’s gone, it’s time to move on. If you really love what you do, it’s never ‘just a job’, you never get lazy, and you never get tired of it.”
To learn more about the Christian Leadership & Community Foundation, please visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/clcf.maranatha/.