Lisa K. Budlow was recently named the chief executive officer of CHAI, or Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. An agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, CHAI operates with the mission of strengthening neighborhoods “with a significant Jewish presence by developing and enhancing housing, affecting community development, and supporting aging-in-community,” according to its website.
A Randallstown High School graduate, Budlow previously served as CHAI’s interim CEO and chief operating officer. Prior to coming to CHAI two-and-a-half years ago, Budlow served as chief program officer at the Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies and worked in the community services division of Catholic Charities of Baltimore.
After graduating in 1993 from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, she worked as a mergers and acquisitions attorney at the Miles & Stockbridge law firm.
Budlow and her husband, Paul, live in Reistertown and have five children. Budlow is a member of the board of directors at Pikesville’s Temple Oheb Shalom.
Jmore recently spoke with Budlow about her plans for CHAI.
Jmore: How do you characterize CHAI and its mission?
Budlow: CHAI is an innovative, dynamic agency. While focusing on our mission in everything we do, we are continually looking for ways to build greater impact – to serve more seniors, to connect neighbors in more meaningful ways to one another, to invest and spur others to invest in the neighborhoods we serve.
We are always seeking to build on our strengths to do more good in the community, and that is very exciting.
What are the agency’s biggest challenges?
Resource development is a big challenge and one that we need to continually meet to fulfill our mission. Public grants are increasingly competitive and often do not fund the full cost of programs. So we piece together funding support from a number of sources. We are very fortunate to be part of The Associated system, which provides generous support, as do many private foundations.
Your top priorities?
In the near-term, I am focused on continuing a smooth transition and supporting our staff in doing the great work they do every day. Together with our board, we are also planning to create a new strategic plan for the agency. Like many agencies, we are very busy doing great work every day, but are also excited to look toward the horizon and see how we can grow our impact.
Long-term, I have a few top priorities. CHAI has real expertise in housing and community development through our work in five neighborhoods of Northwest Baltimore: Glen, Fallstaff, Cross Country, Cheswolde and Mount Washington. My first priority is to bring this expertise to central Park Heights to work alongside key partners in helping to revitalize this neighborhood. I see this as a true expression of the Jewish values that underpin our agency and am honored to be part of this sacred work.
What about partnerships?
CHAI has formed a partnership with LifeBridge Health and Park Heights Renaissance, called the Northwest Baltimore Partnership, that will lead the charge on this work. We plan to engage many more partners to bring resources to cnntral Park Heights to build and strengthen that community.
Second, in the wake of the [Oct. 27 synagogue shooting] in Pittsburgh, our attention is again drawn to promoting civil discourse and creating stronger inter-cultural connections. CHAI has always been involved in supporting connections among the diverse groups that live in Northwest Baltimore. For example, a group called Diversity Dialogue, part of our Northwest Neighbors Connecting village, has been meeting monthly in the CHAI building for over six years to engage in lively and constructive conversations about current topics.
Other important services?
The [Edward A.] Myerberg Center is one key aspect of what we bring to seniors in our community. CHAI began managing the center in July 2016 and has continued to strengthen it and bring additional programming to build its value. The Myerberg has a beautiful fitness center and classes that range from gentle yoga to rock steady boxing, an exercise program designed specifically for people living with Parkinson’s Disease.
Other examples include art classes taught by top-notch instructors and beautiful works of art created by Myerberg members that are hanging on the walls of the building. We have a weekly men’s group with 140 members that livens the center every Tuesday morning.
CHAI’s Aging in Community division supports the center, and the center supports the many other aging services programs we have, and the synergy is continuing to build.
What are CHAI’s main strengths?
Our main strengths are our professional team and our community connections. CHAI’s staff of approximately 40 team members has incredible passion for the work they do. They are mission-driven to make our community a better, stronger place to live and it is an honor to work with them every day.
Similarly, our community connections are mission-focused and open the door for this agency to be where we need to be to make our greatest impact. Our collaborations with The Associated and our sister agencies, partner agencies in the community, with rabbis and synagogues, community associations and funders make our work possible.
Peter Arnold is an Olney, Md-based freelance writer.