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Baltimore Sun Op-Ed: Help select the 2019 Homecoming Heroes

May 29, 2019

The Baltimore Sun is proud to partner this year with Baltimore Homecoming to solicit nominations for its 2019 Homecoming Heroes awards. Designed to recognize Baltimore City residents who have shown exceptional dedication and success in transforming Baltimore for the better, the program will award five community leaders cash prizes to further their work and provide them with the opportunity to address a distinguished group of Baltimore alumni — people who were born, grew up, lived or worked in Baltimore and who are eager to reconnect with the city.

The Heroes program seeks to recognize people who are finding new and creative ways to make an impact on Baltimore’s most difficult problems, transforming the lives of individuals or inspiring others to action. Last year’s honorees exemplify the determination, passion and ingenuity with which so many people are seeking to improve the lives of those who call Baltimore home. They are:

Erricka Bridgeford, co-founder Baltimore Ceasefire Movement. Community mediator Erricka Bridgeford has focused the city’s attention on the human toll of violence, both on the victims and perpetrators. With a simple message of “nobody kill anybody,” Ceasefire has mobilized thousands of Baltimoreans for marches, vigils and community events around four designated weekends a year in an effort to replace a culture of violence with one of love and compassion.

Monique Brown, major, Baltimore City Police Department. As a kid, Monique Brown felt like the police officers in her East Baltimore neighborhood just looked at her and her friends as potential sources of trouble. When she became an officer, she did things differently. Rising through the ranks to command the Southern District, Major Brown has sought to heal the rifts between the police and community through her interactions with residents and mentorship of fellow officers.

Alphonso Mayo, founder and director of Mentoring Mentors. Alphonso Mayo sees Baltimore’s lack of positive African-American male role models as a crucial problem. Too many are absent or engaged in activities that tear down neighborhoods rather than build them up, he says. To make a difference, Mr. Mayo founded Mentoring Mentors as a means to develop mentors who look like and have similar experiences as their mentees.

Mr. Trash Wheel. Though inanimate, Mr. Trash Wheel has developed a massive following among people fascinated with the vast amounts of trash the anthropomorphized water wheel has collected from the Jones Falls, keeping it from the Inner Harbor. The invention of John Kellett and his company Clearwater Mills, Mr. Trash Wheel is the centerpiece of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore’s effort to engage the public in reducing the litter that clogs our waterways.

Brittany Young, Founder/CEO, B-360. West Baltimore native Brittany Young figured out a way to take two of Baltimore’s problems — a sometimes dangerous and disruptive culture of riding dirt bikes in the streets and a lack of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education among students — and turn them into a solution. She created B-360, a program that uses dirt bikes to teach young students about everything from 3-D printing to polymer making, along with lessons on how to ride dirt bikes safely and responsibly.

What do the honorees get? A $3,000 cash prize from Baltimore Homecoming, but more important, say last years honorees, are the connections. “Homecoming … allowed me to network with individuals who I would never have had the opportunity to connect with,” Mr. Mayo says. “It was life-changing.” Ms. Bridgeford says she got a new mentor out of the event, someone who can help her turn Ceasefire from a movement to a sustainable organization. Mr. Trash Wheel’s human spokesman, Healthy Harbor Initiative Director Adam Lindquist, says the event introduced Mr. Trash wheel to influential people in the media who have helped spread the word to those working to keep plastics out of the oceans worldwide. And Ms. Young says it gave the Homecoming attendees a chance to see how creatively Baltimoreans are working to solve their own problems. “It was about elevating people who are already here and doing the work,” she says.

You can nominate your own Baltimore heroes for this year’s awards through The Sun’s website, The deadline is June 30. Baltimore Homecoming will announce 10 finalists in mid-July and will narrow that down to five after a public vote. The winners will be announced at the Baltimore Homecoming on Oct. 14.

Barbara Mikulski, Duff Goldman among co-chairs for second Baltimore Homecoming

April 23, 2019

By Amanda Yeager, Baltimore Business Journal

Former U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Food Network baker Duff Goldman and actor Lance Reddick — best known as Cedric Daniels on “The Wire” — will be among the co-chairs for this year’s Baltimore Homecoming.

Plans for a second iteration of the event, which brings distinguished Charm City natives back for a weekend of networking, panels and tours, are already in the works after last year’s inaugural homecoming drew about 100 participants to the city from Oct. 3-5. This year’s homecoming is scheduled for Oct. 16-18.

Homecoming co-chairs help garner publicity for the weekend and support the event by acting as moderators, giving keynote speeches and leading breakout sessions. The seven-person group also includes “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe, SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan and local philanthropists Mark and Patricia Joseph.

Last year, actress Julie Bowen of “Modern Family,” actor Josh Charles of “Dead Poets Society,” Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and Congressman Elijah Cummings served as honorary co-chairs.

“We are thrilled to have the support of so many great co-chairs who are coming back to Baltimore to show their support for our city and raise awareness of the positive people, nonprofits and leaders who are helping to make a difference,” Baltimore Homecoming co-founder JM Schapiro said in a statement. “While most of our co-chairs have left Baltimore they still remain close to our city and we are gratified that each of them wants to help.”

Schapiro, the CEO of Continental Realty, and co-founder Nate Loewentheil, a senior associate at Camber Creek, modeled the homecoming weekend off of similar events in other cities like Detroit with the goal of sparking investment and renewed interest in Baltimore from invited “alumni.” Last year’s event led to a $6 million pledge for the local nonprofit Thread, a $10,000 gift toward a fourth trash-collecting wheel in the Gwynns Falls and a $10,000 grant for Project Jumpstart, an apprenticeship program for Baltimore residents, among other developments.

“In just five months since the inaugural Baltimore Homecoming, we’ve seen investment come in all shapes and sizes, with more donations, in-kind gifts and investments set in motion,” Loewentheil said in a statement last month. “In seeing the energy and enthusiasm after the first Homecoming and what the community can accomplish in such a short time, we have our hopes set high for the second year.”

The event also recently appointed an executive director, Dan Schochor, and wrapped up a request for proposals that gave nonprofits a chance to apply to be a stop on one of the homecoming’s field trips.

Sponsors of this year’s event include Continental Realty Corp., the Baltimore Ravens, Earl Linehan, Atapco Properties, and Pearlstone Family Fund.

With Baltimore Homecoming in the books, alumni plot how they can give back

by Amanda Yeager, Baltimore Business Journal

The inaugural Baltimore Homecoming is over, but its participants’ plans for giving back to the city are just getting started.

The three-day event, aimed at sparking investment in Baltimore from accomplished natives who have since moved away, drew some 100 ex-pats to the city from Oct. 3-5 for tours, talks and networking opportunities. Participants included actors Josh Charles (of “Dead Poets Society”) and Julie Bowen (of “Modern Family), Sony Pictures Chairman Tom Rothman and Duo Security founder Dug Song.

Since the Homecoming ended — and even as it was going — founders JM Schapiro and Nate Loewentheil said they’ve been contacted by “alumni” who are mulling ways to help their hometown. So far, they’ve heard inquiries about starting a new cybersecurity business in the city, organizing a conference on opportunity zones and launching a children’s program, among other ideas.

“I heard from a lot of people saying wow, I’m thinking of what I can do to give back, how I can get invited back,” Schapiro said.

A prerequisite for getting an invitation to next year’s homecoming is for participants to demonstrate some sort of commitment to the city — financial or otherwise — within the next year. Schapiro and Loewentheil said the parameters for what that means are flexible.

“It’s not a high bar we’re setting, but it’s a bar saying, look, we want you to do something,” said Schapiro, who is CEO of Continental Realty Corp.. “We want people to feel like they can’t just come back in a year having done nothing; committed no time, no money. I think doing that gets the right people back.”

The homecoming has already resulted in a few big announcements.

Baltimore natives Jonathan and Joanna Jacobson, the co-trustees of the Boston-based One8Foundation, pledged $6 million to Thread, a local nonprofit that supports underperforming high school students. The gift was announced at the homecoming during a panel discussion between Charles and Thread CEO Sarah Hemminger.

And the nonprofit Echoing Green — whose president, Cheryl L. Dorsey, is a Charm City native — announced it will hold the first conference for its Black Male Achievement Fellows in Baltimore next fall.

At the end of the homecoming, organizers asked participants to list the areas of need that interested them, and they plan to follow up with offers of help and connections.

“We’re really kind of facilitating and cultivating them to act on their noble impulses,” said Loewentheil, a former adviser in the Obama administration.

A “Baltimore Ambassadors” program will also keep the Baltimore Homecoming spirit alive by enlisting notable alumni to organize other Baltimore ex-pats in the cities where they live. The program’s first ambassador will be Morris Offit, the former chairman of the board of Johns Hopkins University and chairman of Offit Capital, who will corral alumni in New York.

Loewentheil and Schapiro are also looking to give the event’s “Homecoming Heroes” — a group of activists, nonprofit and community leaders working in Baltimore — more of a voice. The homecoming featured five winners in a series of presentations Thursday.

One of the winners, Baltimore Ceasefire organizer Erricka Bridgeford, called on Homecoming participants to use their platforms to amplify the voices of Baltimoreans who don’t have the same kind of access to resources.

“We have to notice when we are part of upholding those systems of social inequity, and we have to notice what we can do to fill those gaps,” Bridgeford said. “That is my challenge to you: notice who is in rooms with you and who’s not, and what you can do about that. Disrupt some stuff.”

Schapiro said he’d like to organize another event in the coming months that is focused on the Homecoming Heroes and would allow them to expound on their ideas in a public setting.

“Their presentations were like five-minute TED Talks. That’s an hour of just unbelievable content, and so we’re thinking about that,” he said.

As planning starts for year two, “I think we’ll continue to refine how we present opportunity for impact for our alumni,” Loewentheil said. “We’ll learn from our follow-up this year (about) how best to move from the passion and enthusiasm to concrete commitments and action for Baltimore.”

‘WELCOME HOME!’ First-ever Baltimore Homecoming held this week

By Jessica Gregg, Baltimore STYLE Magazine

More than 150 Baltimore alumni – men and women who were born, raised or work here – returned to the city this week for three days of panels, city tours and conversations that celebrated Baltimore and its achievements.

Inspired by a similar event in Detroit, Baltimore Homecoming drew notables such as actor Josh Charles, Sony Pictures Entertainment chair Tom Rothman, Cal Ripken Jr. and more. Alums learned about projects such as Thread, a group that helps underperforming high school students, TradePoint Atlantic, a new development in Sparrows Point, and FastForward, a technology initiative from Johns Hopkins University.

The attention has already paid off: Boston-based One8 Foundation has pledged $6 million to Thread’s program.

Baltimore Homecoming also recognized five area change makers. They are: Erricka Bridgeford, organizer of Baltimore Ceasefire; Major Monique Brown, commander of Baltimore’s Southern Police District;  Alphonso Mayo, founder of Mentoring Mentors, a program for young African-American men; Brittany Young, founder of B360 which encourages interest in STEM; and  Mr. Trash Wheel, a clean harbor project from the Waterfront Partnership.

Each of these five winners received $3,000.

City alumni were joined by locals for a well-attended gala reception on Thursday at Rye Street Tavern.  Organizers Nate Loewentheil and JM Schapiro told those gathered that the homecoming was much more than a party; it was a chance to shine light on the city’s accomplishments.

Rothman spoke about his career in Hollywood and asked the audience if they had ever wondered why so many creative people grew up in Baltimore. Then he rattled off a list of movies, such as “Slum Dog Millionaire,” “Full Monty” and the Baltimore-set “Diner” — movies with such specific stories they are universal. Baltimore is like that, he said. Specific, and full of character.

“Out of that specificity and that character, great creativity arises,” he said.

HER OWN HOMECOMING: Julie Bowen reflects on her career, a Baltimore project

by Sarah Achenbach, Baltimore STYLE Magazine

Actress and two-time Emmy winner Julie Bowen loves to toss a few “hons” around Hollywood. When she discovers a fellow Baltimorean living in Los Angeles, ever the actress, she’s right on cue. “We have to do the accent,” Bowen laughs, switching into a pitch- perfect “How ‘bout dem O’s, hon?” Recently, she met a casting director in L.A. When they discovered their mutual Maryland roots, long oooohs enthusiastically followed. The rest of the room, Bowen recalls, looked on in confusion. “When I first moved to L.A., I thought that there weren’t many of us out here, but there’s a big Baltimore community,” says Bowen who is in her 10th season of ABC’s sitcom “Modern Family.”

When HBO’s “Veep” was produced in Baltimore, Bowen grilled her friends in the cast and crew about the neighborhoods they lived in and where they were shooting in the city. Her vicarious trip down memory lane was also a chance to spread the word about her hometown. “No one knows anything about Baltimore outside of Baltimore. It has its hot flashes in the news, but it’s a great place,” she says, rattling off adjectives like “fun,” “friendly,” “laid back” (and a local favorite descriptor: “not D.C.”).

Bowen, who grew up in North Baltimore and attended Calvert School and Garrison Forest School before going to boarding school (a family tradition), elaborates, “It’s like a place out of time but modern. People are really invested in Baltimore.”

One of those people is her childhood friend, JM Schapiro, Continental Realty CEO, who co-founded the nonprofit Baltimore Homecoming with fellow Baltimore native, Nate Loewentheil. When Schapiro asked Bowen to be part of the first-ever Baltimore Homecoming, Oct. 3-5, she didn’t hesitate. “JM is so impassioned about Baltimore as an interesting city and not one for grabbing headlines for bad moments,” which, she adds, every city has.

“The goal of Baltimore Homecoming is to expose the guests to a variety of programs and people and get them excited about Baltimore,” explains Loewentheil, Baltimore Homecoming’s CEO and president. “Baltimore has been at the center of innovation for centuries, and it’s still true today. Our artists are leading the nation’s conversations about art and race. We want to make that story concrete for people and hear those stories directly.”

He and Schapiro spent 18 months planning the event and selecting innovators, entrepreneurs, artists and activists from across the region to participate alongside the accomplished alumni. While both see great potential for mentorships and ongoing connections beyond October, a key take-away is great word-of-mouth. “Our hope is that [the alumni] become brand ambassadors and spread the good word and reinvest in some way, shapeor form,” adds Schapiro, who serves as Baltimore Homecoming’s treasurer.

The organization’s definition of alumni is purposefully broad: If you were born, raised or worked in Baltimore or currently live and work here, you’re part of the city’s alumni group. Participating alumni include actor Josh Charles, SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan, author Wes Moore, Tony-winning producer and filmmaker Amanda Lipitz, Cal Ripken Jr., Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, artist and MacArthur Genius Award-winner Joyce Scott and Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Tom Rothman, among others. (For a full list, visit

With Mayor Catherine Pugh serving as honorary chair — Bowen is one of several host committee co-chairs — it’s an invite-only program of presentations, receptions and site visits to places such as the Hopkins FastForward Technology Venture Labs and Station North Arts District. Rounding out the activities are two public events — an art show reception at City Hall and an arts panel at SNF Parkway Theatre — and the inaugural Hometown Hero Awards. During Baltimore Homecoming, five inaugural Hero Award recipients, culled from Baltimore’s community and nonprofit leaders, activists, artists and innovators, will receive $3,000 each to reinvest in the city.

The idea for Baltimore Homecoming rose from one of Baltimore’s uglier chapters. Three years ago, Loewentheil, a writer and nationally recognized public policy expert, was working in the Obama White House as a special assistant to the president at the National Economic Council. In April 2015, he watched his hometown erupt in unrest following the death of Freddie Gray and was quickly tapped by President Obama to be part of the Taskforce for Baltimore City. (Coincidentally, during the unrest, a Baltimore tourism marketing campaign featuring Bowen was set to roll out, she says.)

He returned on weekends following the unrest to clean up and participate in peaceful marches and community gatherings. “I was glad to be able to put my personal time into the city. Once I took over the task force [in January 2016], I was able to throw all of my energy into something I felt could make a real difference.” he explains. The task force helped bring more than $110 million in federal funding to Baltimore for a new major jobs program, the Safe Streets program and for schools to deal with the aftermath of violence.

Schapiro, a fifth-generation Baltimorean, was equally moved: “It became clearthat I needed to be involved to help my city have a lasting impact.” When Loewentheil invited him to a White House event, one conversation led to another, and soon, they were in Detroit, another city beleaguered by headlines, to learn more about Detroit Homecoming, the first program of its kind in the country. Baltimore’s Homecoming program is the third.

“Baltimore has a real loyalty of alumni,” Loewentheil says. “When we’ve asked people [to help with Baltimore Homecoming], the response has been, ‘We’ve been waiting to be asked.’”

Bowen is excited to reconnect with all that is happening in her hometown today. “Baltimore Homecoming is putting Baltimore front and center for me,” she says. But she’s especially thrilled for a rare visit home to see parents Susie and Jack Luetkemeyer. Her father co-founded Continental Realty in 1960 with Schapiro’s dad, J. Mark Schapiro, so visits typically include her father proudly showing her various real estate projects and up-and-coming neighborhoods, or what she jokingly calls “the nostalgia tour with light drinking.” (As a former Mount Washington Tavern hostess, Bowen tries to fit in a stop by the legendary watering hole.)

Her agenda also includes soaking in as much of Maryland’s greenery as possible. “All the nature takes me back,” she says. “My dad and I will walk down the stream to Lake Roland like we did when I was growing up. It’s the same damn walk every time, and every single time, I love it.”

Though this shorter visit is solo, thanks to her boys’ school schedules, last Thanksgiving, they came East for what was the first-ever Baltimore visit for Oliver, 11, and 9-year-old twins Gus and John. “They thought Baltimore was the coolest thing ever,” Bowen says of the trip, which included grandfather-led stream walks, fall foliage at the Irvine Nature Center and a visit to the Inner Harbor. “The boys keep asking me when we are going back.”

Once in Maryland, Bowen also was able to perform a parenting task nearly impossible with young boys: getting them in the shower without a fight. “We live in a drought-ridden area in L.A., and the kids were amazed that they could take longer showers at my parents’ house.”

The close-knit Luetkemeyer family also gets together regularly in Santa Barbara, since all three Luetkemeyer sisters are California transplants. Bowen’s older sister, Molly Luetkemeyer, is an L.A.-based interior designer whose firm, M. Design Interiors, has clients around the country. Younger sister Annie Luetkemeyer is an associate professor in the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. (After graduating from Brown, Bowen moved to L.A. and put in her time waiting tables and with minor T.V. roles before her break as Adam Sandler’s love interest in “Happy Gilmore.”)

With “Modern Family” winding down — ABC recently bought Fox, and there is talk, she says, of an 11th season — Bowen is expanding her repertoire. She recently participated in TV producer Ryan Murphy’s Half initiative, which focuses on expanding the number of women and minorities behind the camera. She is directing a short for Google and will be directing a few “Modern Family” episodes.

Whatever her next adventure, she hopes her journey always circles back home, in person or in spirit. “I would love to get a job [acting] in Baltimore,” she admits. “There would be no better way to reacquaint myself and work and live there.” If the star-aligning potential behind Baltimore Homecoming and Bowen’s Charm City cheerleading have anything to do with it, it just might have a Hollywood ending.

Baltimore Homecoming kicks off, bringing ‘alumni’ like Julie Bowen and Josh Charles back to town

by Brittany Britto, The Baltimore Sun, October 4, 2018

Baltimore Homecoming, the inaugural three-day celebration that aims to reconnect accomplished Baltimore natives from around the country, kicked off this week, bringing in guests like Baltimore Ceasefire co-founder Erricka Bridgeford and “The Good Wife” actor Josh Charles to a Thursday-morning event.

“Modern Family” actress Julie Bowen, Michelle Obama portrait artist Amy Sherald and Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank were expected to attend later in the day.

“The idea of meeting people … some who are still very much involved in Baltimore, some who were just born here, everyone feeling this deep connection to the city — is very inspiring,” said Charles, who hosted a conversation with Sarah Hemminger, the CEO and co-founder of Thread, a nonprofit that supports underperforming high school students.

Hemminger announced that Boston-based One8 Foundation made a $6 million donation to help Thread reach 5 to 7 percent of incoming freshman in Baltimore high schools and 60 percent of the highest-need schools in the city by the 2021 fiscal year, according to a release.

Baltimore Homecoming seeks to highlight city’s positive work

by Nate Loewentheil & JM Schapiro, Baltimore Sun Op-Ed, May 27, 2018

Baltimore is a crucible for new ideas. Our writers and artists are shaping the national conversation on race. Researchers at our hospitals and laboratories are on the cutting edge of science. Many of the most creative national models for social change are emerging from Baltimore’s neighborhoods.

But the success stories that emerge from Baltimore represent only a fraction of our potential. We all have a story of a friend or neighbor who couldn’t find the resources they needed, of the up-and-coming artist who gave up under financial pressure, of the after-school program changing lives but short on funds, of the young entrepreneur launching a business who couldn’t find a loan. There is a mismatch in Baltimore between the energy and creativity of our citizenry and the resources available that can turn a concept into a career or a social movement.

Hard data backs this up. A recent reportfrom the Hopkins 21st Century Cities Initiative detailed the constraints on access to capital, showing that compared to other large urban markets there is limited venture and working capital available in Baltimore City. That’s one reason that 30 percent of companies launched at the city’s business incubators leave Baltimore to find investment. Meanwhile, although Baltimore is blessed with a culture of charitable giving and a number of committed foundations, we do not benefit from the scale and scope of philanthropy in peer cities like Pittsburgh.

One of the best ways to mobilize the necessary resources to realize the city’s potential is by sharing the stories of the countless individuals who are working hard — day in and day out — to build a brighter future for Baltimore. Too often the stories that reach the rest of the country about Baltimore are about crime, violence and poverty. We can’t ignore the realities of the challenges facing our city. But we are equally at fault if we ignore the dynamic work of the people all around us reshaping our Baltimore block by block, organization by organization, business by business. If we can share those stories with the rest of the country, we can start to increase venture capital and business lending, expand philanthropy and generate investment for neighborhood revitalization.

Enter Baltimore Homecoming (, a project that aims to recruit new allies for Baltimore from around the U.S. by highlighting the positive work happening here. Baltimore Homecoming begins with those who are most naturally inclined to help: people who grew up, went to school or worked in our city. In October of this year, 100 of these “alumni” will return to Baltimore for a whirlwind tour of the city’s social, economic and artistic landscape that will give them a first-hand look at the remarkable people who are making change in the city every day in their neighborhoods and in the private and nonprofit sectors. By connecting local change-makers with Baltimore alumni, new investments and philanthropy will soon follow.

To be successful, the Homecoming needs to bring to the fore untold stories of Baltimore heroes. We are asking the public to identify and nominate a cohort of “Homecoming Heroes” — artists, activists, community members and non-profit leaders who have, through their commitment and initiative, improved the life of our city. This newly launched platform will provide first-hand, real-life stories through which alumni can learn about those in our city who are dedicating their time, energy and resources to the community. This new award will be presented at the Homecoming in October 2018.

The work of building a brighter future for Baltimore is happening all around us. We can all contribute to that work by looking afresh at what’s happening in our neighborhoods and communities, recognizing the heroes who are doing groundbreaking and meaningful work, and sharing their example.

Nate Loewentheil is president of Baltimore Homecoming Inc., which he founded with J.M. Schapiro, who is CEO of Continental Realty.

Baltimore Homecoming Announces Homecoming Hero Awards

May 15, 2018, Baltimore CityBizList

To showcase the inspiring work happening in Baltimore and attract investment back to the city, Baltimore Homecoming announced today the Homecoming Hero Awards, a program that will recognize and honor outstanding local residents—community and non-profit leaders, activists, artists or other innovators—who have made a significant impact on Baltimore City. During the inaugural Homecoming event in October, five of these local residents will be recognized with the Homecoming Hero Award, which will come with a cash prize and exposure to Baltimore alumni around the country.

“The best way to mobilize new investments and philanthropy for Baltimore is by broadcasting the stories of individuals fighting to build a stronger city,” said Nate Loewentheil, president and co-founder, Baltimore Homecoming, Inc. “That’s why we launched the Hero Awards—to get the word out about the remarkable people, organizations and businesses in our hometown.”

The Homecoming Hero Awards are intended to celebrate individuals in Baltimore who, through their activism, the arts, community work or nonprofit leadership, have helped shape a brighter future for Baltimore. The award winners will be selected through a public nomination and voting process.

The Homecoming Hero Award timeline is as follows:

  • FINALISTS SELECTION: In early July, the Homecoming Host Committee will narrow down the nominees to 10 finalists.
  • VOTE: Beginning July 18, the public will vote on their top five Heroes. The voting will be open through August 18.
  • WINNERS ANNOUNCED: 10 finalists will be invited to participate in the Homecoming event and to share their stories. On Thursday, October 4, during the event, the top five winners will be announced and will receive a cash award of $3,000 each.

The 10 finalists will be selected based on evaluations of impact, inspiration and mobilization, and creativity. The Host Committee panel will consider: challenges and/or issues the nominee has sought to address and their progress in doing so; capacity to transform the lives of individuals or touch the lives of many; the geographic area of impact; how each nominee has inspired others to take action; and the potential of nominee’s work to break new ground or create a new model for change.

“We want to celebrate the community activists working to improve their neighborhoods, the innovators launching new small businesses, the artists telling powerful stories, the educators who are reshaping lives one student at a time,” said JM Schapiro, CEO of Continental Realty and co-founder of Baltimore Homecoming. “Through the Hero Awards, we’ll share these stories with Baltimore natives around the U.S. and inspire them to get involved.”

The first annual Baltimore Homecoming is poised to mobilize investment in Baltimore by bringing back accomplished Baltimore natives from around the U.S. and connecting them with the city’s remarkable leaders and doers. Over the course of the event, which will run from October 3-5, 2018, Baltimore alumni will have a whirlwind tour of Baltimore’s social, economic and artistic landscape. Homecoming will expose them to social innovators and neighborhood revitalization projects; highlight entrepreneurs and small business owners; and provide a platform for our city’s talented young people to engage with attendees.

Baltimore Homecoming Event Off To Powerful Start

April 24, 2018, Baltimore CityBizList

Notable and growing list of Baltimore alumni coming October 3rd for three-day event include SoulCycle CEO, hedge fund founder, NBA star, Former Federal Reserve executive, and more

With planning well underway, the first annual Baltimore Homecoming is poised to mobilize investment in Baltimore by bringing back accomplished Baltimore natives from around the U.S. and connecting them with the city’s remarkable leaders and doers. Since launching the effort in November 2017, the Homecoming vision has captured the interest of Baltimore’s alumni community. More than six months out, dozens of high-profile business leaders, athletes, artists and celebrities have already committed to attend and event organizers are well on their way of reaching their goal of 100 alumni attendees.

“Our vision is to build an alumni network of accomplished Baltimore natives from around the U.S. that can connect with and support our city’s remarkable community leaders, activists, artists and entrepreneurs,” said Nate Loewentheil, president and co-founder, Baltimore Homecoming, Inc. “The first step is bringing those alumni back for our first Homecoming in October and, right now, things are looking good!” Loewentheil, along with Baltimore business executive JM Schapiro (both born, raised and living in Baltimore), founded Baltimore Homecoming.

Over the course of the multi-day event, Baltimore alumni will have a whirlwind tour of Baltimore’s social, economic and artistic landscape. The Homecoming will expose them to social innovators and neighborhood revitalization projects; highlight entrepreneurs and small business owners; and provide a platform for our city’s talented young people to engage with attendees. Along the way, there will be opportunities for alumni to join these efforts by donating to social, educational and artistic organizations, helping city schools, supporting small business owners, and investing in start-ups and real estate. In addition to dedicated programming for out-of-town guests, there will be a series of receptions and events open to the public focused on the arts.

“I know first-hand what Baltimoreans can achieve. I’ve seen it every step of my life,” said Muggsy Bogues, former NBA player. “I can’t wait to attend Baltimore Homecoming and meet the city’s artists and activists and find ways to join in their work.” Added Jon Jacobson, CEO of Highfields Capital, “I love Baltimore, and I miss my hometown. Baltimore Homecoming will be a great opportunity to reconnect and re-engage. Looking forward to hearing from community leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators about both the city’s challenges AND all the exciting things currently taking place, and more importantly, how we can help.”

The Baltimore Homecoming Host Committee was organized to attract back guests and shape the programming for the October 3-5 event. The Host Committee includes Honorary Chair Mayor Catherine Pugh and nine event Co-Chairs: Emmy-winning actress Julie Bowen, BGE CEO Calvin Butler, Emmy-nominated actor Josh Charles, Congressman Elijah Cummings, Johns Hopkins University President Ron Daniels, filmmaker and Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Amanda Lipitz, author and foundation executive Wes Moore, Under Armour Founder Kevin Plank and MacArthur Fellow and award-winning sculptor/performance artist Joyce Scott, as well as over 40 other Baltimore leaders from business, religious, educational and community institutions.

Word of the event has spread quickly and some of Baltimore’s most accomplished alumni are eager to participate, including business leaders like Carl Turnipseed and Melanie Whelan:

  • Carl Turnipseed, former executive for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York: “Baltimore is a city with enormous potential. As proud Dunbar High and Morgan State alumni, my wife Joyce and I are both excited to come back and find ways to contribute.”
  • Melanie Whelan, CEO of SoulCycle: “I’m proud of my Baltimore roots and can’t wait to come back and meet some of the city’s entrepreneurs and innovators. I’ll be bringing my whole family!”

“When we began working on this idea almost 18 months ago, we hoped that Baltimore alumni around the country would be open to the concept, but we’ve been floored by the energy and enthusiasm,” said JM Schapiro, CEO of Continental Realty and co-founder of Baltimore Homecoming. “We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re confident that we’ll have a great crowd for our inaugural Homecoming.”

The progress of Baltimore Homecoming is further illustrated by the commitment of Baltimore companies and foundations to support the event. Lead sponsors for Baltimore Homecoming include Continental Realty Corporation, Whiting-Turner, M&T Bank and BGE; additional sponsors include Brown Advisory and PNC Bank.

Charm offensive: Baltimore Homecoming is looking to reconnect expats with the city

By Stephen Babcock,, November 15, 2017

The 2018 event is looking to show those who left what’s happening in Baltimore now, including the tech scene.

Baltimore city will have its own homecoming in 2018.

A new project is looking to draw accomplished folks who are originally from Baltimore or have close ties back to the city. They’ll return for a weekend called Baltimore Homecoming from Oct. 3-5, 2018.

The idea behind the event is to reconnect those who moved away with what’s happening in the city today.

That leaves an opportunity for people working in the city today to showcase their work, and the group behind the event is accepting nominations for who should be included.

“The event will showcase Baltimore’s vibrant arts and culinary scenes, expose guests to the city’s remarkable innovators and entrepreneurs, and encourage discussion about the city’s challenges – and the bright future we can build together,” its website states.

The effort is being spearheaded by a nonprofit which was cofounded by Nate Loewentheil, who worked as a liaison to Baltimore in the Obama administration, and JM Schapiro, CEO of Continental Realty. A 40-member organizing committee includes Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, Wes Moore and JHU President Ron Daniels among its members.

The organizers are looking to get the tech scene involved, both in who is invited and what they show.

“The technology scene in Baltimore will certainly be a part of what we highlight at the Homecoming, and to the extent there are tech leaders from around the U.S. that hail from Baltimore, we will be eager to bring them home!” Loewentheil told us via email.

They’re accepting nominations for who should be included:


The effort is modeled on Detroit Homecoming, which drew 230 expat attendees in its fourth year this fall, according to the Detroit News.

‘Baltimore Homecoming’ Hopes To Reconnect Charm City’s Finest With Those Still in Baltimore

By Jonathan McCall, WJZ-Baltimore, November 13, 2017

Returning to their roots. A first of it’s kind event will be honoring Baltimoreans contributions to american society.

Some of Charm City’s finest are now looking to reconnect with the city while helping leaders still here at home.

‘Baltimore Homecoming’ is expected to bring back the city’s best known sons and daughters to help reconnect with the city over three days.

Organizers of this event hope the names will not only help build new ideas, but also relationships with those still here.

They’re some of the best known names in America: Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, actor Josh Charles, and actress Julie Bowen.

And they’re all from Maryland.

“Baltimore has so many great young leaders in business, politics, and the arts,” Cummings said.

They’re now tasked with helping bring Charm City’s best and brightest – artists, journalists, athletes, experts and more – back home.

“These folks aren’t always connected to the city,” said Nate Lowentheil, with Baltimore Homecoming. “They don’t always know what’s happening in Baltimore.”

Lowentheil is now looking to be the bridge.

He is the brain behind Baltimore Homecoming, an event aimed to bring those with deep connections to Baltimore back home to reconnect and revitalize those still here at home.

“The idea of the homecoming is to engage this alumni network of accomplished Baltimore natives from around the country, and get them to meet all the amazing young leaders in Baltimore. The artists, the entrepreneurs, the activists, the community leaders. And to find ways to reconnect to the life of our city,” Lowentheil said.

Over three days, 100 accomplished Baltimore natives will take part in site visits to see firsthand the work being done, while getting a chance to meet 1-on-1 with those making a difference in the community.

“They see the opportunity… And they believe that when we tell baltimore’s story and share it with the world, that people are going to respond well,” Lowentheil said.

Click here to nominate a Baltimorean that you think is worthy of the honor.

The first Baltimore Homecoming will take place October 3-5.

Baltimore Homecoming aims to draw accomplished natives back home

by Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun, November 13, 2017

Actor Josh Charles, artist Joyce J. Scott and Under Armour founder Kevin Plank are among several dozen prominent Baltimore leaders behind a “homecoming” project designed to give the city a boost by reconnecting accomplished natives to their hometown.

The nonprofit Baltimore Homecoming Inc., being launched Monday by Baltimore natives Nate Loewentheil and JM Schapiro, aims to tap the talents and resources of Baltimore expatriates who have made a mark in their field but may have lost touch with the city.

The host group, including leaders in the city’s business, religious, educational and community circles, plans to reach out to athletes, entertainers, writers, scientists, artists, businesspeople, educators, philanthropists and others from around the United States with Baltimore roots to attend a three-day event in October.

Organizers envision offering guests tours, site visits, speaker panels, music and art presentations, and networking with local entrepreneurs, activists, artists and community leaders. Longer-term, such connections could lead to investments in the city as well as partnerships and philanthropy, organizers said.

Loewentheil, director of the White House Task Force for Baltimore City under President Barack Obama, said he was inspired by the annual Detroit Homecoming, which over four years has prompted former Detroit residents to start nonprofits, invest in businesses and buy buildings, according to news reports.He said he realized there’s “a reservoir of goodwill for Baltimore around the country that was not always fully utilized. …

“The goal here is to very much showcase the really amazing things happening in Baltimore to a group of people who, if they decide to get re-engaged with the city, could do cool and interesting things.

”Schapiro, CEO of Continental Realty Corp., had been looking for a way to do more for the city since the 2015 riots sparked by 25-year-old Freddie Gray’s death from injuries sustained in police custody.

“This felt like really a way to make a big difference in something that could have a long-term positive impact in the city, to help change the narrative here and around the country, and to reconnect people who’ve left Baltimore but who hold Baltimore close to their hearts,” Schapiro said.Long-term, he sees endless possibilities, such as help for an entrepreneur or a technology startup, investment in real estate, opening of training or community centers, donations to nonprofits or reconnecting with schools.“This is a way to create some opportunities for people who don’t have them,” Schapiro said.

Debbie Phelps, a host committee member who is executive director of the Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools and a Federal Hill resident, has suggested guests visit a needy school in hopes of inspiring help in expanding opportunities for students.“How are we going to give all students experiences to be able to be successful?” said Phelps, the mother of swimmer Michael Phelps, history’s most decorated Olympian.

“How are we going to keep them on the right path as they transition from elementary to middle to high school? … I’m hoping the homecoming helps build teams around people and gets people together.”

“I feel that people will make an effort to participate,” she added. “You hear people talk about their love for the city.”

U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, one of nine co-chairs on the host committee, said he hopes to persuade guests, who may have many choices of ways to use their talents, that Baltimore would be a good place to invest.

“If they’re going to invest their time an resources, we just want them to do it in Baltimore,” Cummings said.

“We can sit around and not do anything and hope things happen, or we can try to make them happen,” he said. “This is one of those efforts to make them happen.”Organizers hope to engage city residents in suggesting guests, and they expect to send out the first round of invitations next month. The event, planned for Oct. 3 through Oct. 5, will be funded privately by individuals, foundations and corporations.

Loewentheil, who will serve as Baltimore Homecoming’s president and CEO, said he and Schapiro began working on the idea about a year ago.

“From the beginning I felt that it would only work if it had very broad buy-in from across the city and got enough people representing enough sectors from the city in the room,” Loewentheil said. “Almost everyone we talked to thought it was a cool idea.

”More than 40 people make up the host committee, headed by nine co-chairs. Besides Charles, Scott, Plank and Cummings, co-chairs include Baltimore-born “Modern Family” actress Julie Bowen, BGE CEO Calvin G. Butler Jr., Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels, documentary filmmaker Amanda Lipitz and Wes Moore, an author, educator and CEO of the antipoverty Robin Hood Foundation.

Loewentheil described the homecoming not as a conference but as a three-day interactive event with an opening reception, visits to places that show off the city’s history, artwork and neighborhoods and possible a pitch session for local entrepreneurs.

“We want people to experience the riches of Baltimore they don’t know about if they come back and visit their mom,” he said. “There are many untold stories of great things happening in Baltimore.”