“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
JOSEPH T. JONES, JR.
President & CEO
Joseph T. Jones, Jr. is founder/CEO of the Center for Urban Families (CFUF), a Baltimore, Maryland nonprofit service organization established to empower low-income families by enhancing both the ability of women and men to contribute to their families as wage earners and of men to fulfill their roles as fathers.
Prior to founding CFUF, Joe developed and directed the Men’s Services program for the federally funded Baltimore Healthy Start initiative and replicated the Baltimore affiliate of the nationally recognized STRIVE employment services program.
His ability to engage and provide hands-on services to fathers garnered him the reputation of trailblazer in the field. Joe is now a national leader in workforce development, fatherhood and family services programming, and through his professional and civic involvement influences policy direction nationwide.
Joe has received numerous awards and honors for his leadership and programming including the Johns Hopkins University Leadership Development Program’s Distinguished Leadership Award, an honorary Doctorate in Public Service from Morgan State University, the Walter Sondheim Public Service Award, the White House Champion of Change, and was a 2013 CNN Hero.
Joe is a Weinberg Fellow and a graduate of the University of Maryland Baltimore County. He is happily married and has three children.
BRIAN S. LYGHT
Chief Operating Officer
Brian Lyght is a business development and strategy professional with over 25 years of combined private, public and philanthropic sector experience helping organizations improve their operational performance and fulfill their mission. Reporting to the Founder, President & CEO of the Center for Urban Families, Brian has led all internal operations since joining CFUF in 2017. Brian manages the organization’s senior staff who have responsibilities for programs, finance and administration, human resources, and research and evaluation. He provides a strong day-to-day leadership presence to achieve CFUF’s mission to strengthen urban communities by helping fathers and families achieve stability and economic success.
Between 2013 and 2017, Brian served in dual roles: as Director of Knowledge Management at Casey Family Programs, and as Executive-on-Loan to the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. While at the U.S. Department of Labor, Brian contributed to the implementation of an integrated national workforce investment system that supports economic growth; provides employers with skilled workers; and supports disadvantaged youth to obtain skills and good paying jobs with career pathways.
Prior to joining Casey Family Programs, Brian served as a Senior Associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation from 2002 to 2013, where he coordinated strategic grant making and cross-foundation collaboration to improve outcomes for youth in foster care. Brian also served as a Program Director for Economic Opportunity Programs at the Enterprise Foundation from 1997 to 2002. In earlier career positions – as Assistant Vice President for Corporate Community Development at CoreStates Bank, and as Special Assistant to the President of the Massachusetts Community Development Finance Corporation – Brian supported the development and expansion of small, minority-owned, and community-based businesses. Brian began his career in 1986 as an investment banker at PaineWebber where he structured tax-exempt bond financings to support the development of affordable housing.
Brian holds an MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurial Management from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
MARILYN M. AKLIN, D.P.A.
Director of Development
Marilyn has 30 years of experience in fundraising, community development, TRIO Programs, Title I parental involvement policy and advocacy, international relief, and higher education.
Marilyn currently serves as the Director of Development for the nationally recognized Center for Urban Families (CFUF)) and reports directly to the President and CEO. Founded in 1999, CFUF has as its mission to strengthen urban communities by helping fathers and families achieve stability. Since its founding, CFUF has provided fatherhood, family strengthening, and workforce development support to more than 27,000 individuals seeking better lives for themselves and their children.
Before joining the CFUF family, Marilyn was the Director of Development for Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC), an award-winning nonprofit affordable housing development corporation dedicated to creating vibrant communities by developing affordable housing communities supported by research-based and continuously evaluated resident programs. In her role, Marilyn secured funding to support the extensive community building work of CPDC, conducted partner fundraising, and guided the design, implementation, and evaluation of multiple CPDC resident services programs.
Marilyn earned the Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and the Master of Public Administration degrees from the University of South Carolina; the Doctor of Public Administration degree from the University of Baltimore; and the Master of Theological Studies from the Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC. While at Wesley, she was a Presidential Scholar. Marilyn is an itinerant elder and pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
In the mid-1990s, Marilyn served as the Executive Director of the National Coalition of Title I/Chapter 1 Parents in Washington, DC. She went on to serve as the Executive Director of Payne Memorial Outreach (PMO) (Baltimore, MD) under the leadership of Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie from 1996 to 2001. Marilyn led PMO to join the welfare-reform effort, helping more 700 TANF recipients enter-and stay in-the workforce. She also guided the renovation of PMO’s five-story 32,000-sq. ft. NIMROD Center at a cost of $2 million. The NIMROD Economic Development Center included a senior adult daycare center, computer technology center, business incubator, adult basic education classes and job training services.
Marilyn is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Women of Color in Community Development, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and a fellow of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference’s Micah Institute and Excellence Fund.
WENDY CAMILLA BLACKWELL
Director of the Practitioners Leadership Institute
Wendy Camilla Blackwell’s eclectic career started at the U. S. Department of Transportation and Metro-North Commuter Railroad at Grand Central Terminal (GCT). Wendy also credits GCT as the grand dame that started her love affair with artful community spaces. Prior to becoming the Director of the Practitioner’s Leadership Institute (PLI) at the Center for Urban Families, Blackwell was the Executive Director at National Children’s Museum where she began as the Director of Education. During her decade of service, she grew the education and programs departments, developed education initiatives, and shaped the Center for Learning and Innovation. Wendy championed community collaborations that produced replication-model child and caregiver learning together programs.
At the Center for Urban Families, Wendy leads the Practitioners Leadership Institute where she finds joy in developing capacity-building relationships and collaborations with individuals and community. Wendy enjoys the intersection of family, literacy, and art and brings this passion to CFUF with the Family Reading Circle and other two-generation efforts.
Wendy is the author of Family Literacy Projects on a Budget Toolkit®, which teaches how to create engaging experiences with children’s literature. She is also a contributing author for A Life in Museums: Managing Your Museum Career, edited by Wendy Luke and Greg Stevens for the American Association of Museums, as well as Children’s Services Partnerships for Success, edited by Betsy Diamant-Cohen. Wendy’s museum-school collaboration won a Promising Practice recognition from the Association of Children’s Museum for her work at Port Discovery Children’s Museum. Wendy and her staff were honored with the Judith P. Hoyer Award for Outstanding Service to Children by the Prince Georges County Early Childhood Interagency.
In addition to writing, Wendy is a mother of two who enjoys being a textile artist and leading programs with children in her spare time. She is also an award-winning teacher. Wendy and her eighth grade students received the Daily Point of Light of the Nation from President George H. Bush at the U.S. White House. Wendy is a 2016 BaltimoreCorp Elevation Award winner for her ART POWER project where she offers art activities to children ages 5-12 in West Baltimore.
ZACHARY B. JEFFERS, CPA
Director of Finance & Administration
Zachary B. Jeffers (Bryant) is a skilled and strategic finance professional. He has served organizations in both the for-profit and not-for-profit industries for approximately 20 years. He has worked seamlessly with internal and external stakeholders to provide Financial Reporting to help navigate their journey toward meeting goals and adapting to changing financial dynamics.
During the early part of his career, he worked as an Accountant in the Financial Reporting and Operations Division of T. Rowe Price. After leaving T. Rowe Price to pursue opportunities in Real Estate Accounting, he ultimately became the Vice President of Accounting for KLNB Management, a regional commercial property management company where he worked for five years. After a successful season at KLNB, he was a Property Accounting Manager and Controller for General Growth Properties, where he was responsible for the oversight of a portfolio of regional malls and office properties whose aggregate annual revenue was over $200 million.
Prior to joining the Center for Urban Families as its Director of Finance and Administration, Bryant most recently served as the Controller for the Baltimore Community Foundation (which manages approximately $130 million in Net Assets).
Bryant is a seasoned financial professional who has a passion for people. Bryant has served the Baltimore Community for the majority of his life. He mentors and coaches young men, serves as the Vice President of his family’s non-profit, which continues his father’s legacy of assisting families in need and has a long track record of mentoring and enhancing the professional climate at the various organizations he has been part of.
Bryant is a graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
CATHERINE PITCHFORD, LMSW
Director of Programs
Catherine (Cathy) Pitchford is the Director of Programs at CFUF, where she is a member of the senior leadership team providing leadership, direction, and management of CFUF’s core programs.
Before becoming the Director of Programs, Cathy was most recently the Senior Director of Economic Success programs, and after serving successfully in more progressively responsible positions in the Supportive Services and Economic Success departments where she established strategic initiatives and procedures that have propelled our comprehensive approach to helping CFUF members find, keep, and succeed in living-wage jobs. Cathy skillfully leads the staff, comprised of several trainers, case managers, and career coaches who each bring their strengths to support the hundreds of members who access CFUF programs annually.
Cathy holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from University of Maryland, Baltimore, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services Administration from University of Baltimore. Cathy is a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW).