Five minutes with Dana Stein, executive director of Civic Works

Dana Stein is executive director and co-founder of the Baltimore nonprofit Civic Works.
Dana Stein is executive director and co-founder of the Baltimore nonprofit Civic Works. (HANDOUT)

As a youth, Dana Stein spent summers working a variety of jobs — cashier, busboy and typist, just to name a few.

"What it taught me was the importance of showing up on time and working with others," he said, adding that those skills are needed for any job.


Today as executive director and founder of the Baltimore nonprofit Civic Works, he said he tries to convey those skills and many others to area youths.

The organization works with several hundred young people every year in mainly Baltimore-based service projects, such as building low-income housing, improving seniors' homes or growing produce at a local farm, Stein said.


"Young people want to have the opportunity to make a difference in communities, to improve the lives of neighbors as well as improve their own skills," he said. "So if you can create an opportunity where they can do both — both give back and improve their own skills — young people are excited to do that."

Because youths are completing projects in their own communities, they get to see the impact they make.

"The satisfaction that comes from being able to see the tangible outcome of one's work is great," he said.

Civic Works opened its doors in 1993. Since then, Stein has developed a taste for politics. He's a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, representing District 11 in Baltimore County.

Stein said he thinks the best way to address broader issues is through legislation.

"Working at Civic Works allowed me to see that some of the challenges that communities face are systemic in nature," he said, such as education, health care and housing issues.

Through Civic Work's YouthBuild program, Stein hopes to solve one of those problems with the production of tiny homes. Last year, the group built a 200-square-foot tiny-house prototype. Now, the organization is renting warehouse space at 300 W. 24th St. in Remington, aiming to ramp up construction.

Stein said he saw this as an opportunity to provide workforce training. Participants learn all the aspects of building a house — even if it's a small one.

The program also could offer an affordable living option for those who can't afford a typical house. He said Civic Works is in talks with groups that providing transitional housing for the homeless and for young people aging out of foster care.

Baltimore's housing and building codes currently prohibit people from living in a tiny house. But Stein said discussions are being held about changing the code either for a pilot program or on a permanent basis. He also said some of the groups that have expressed an interest operate outside Baltimore.

It takes about two months for the program to produce a tiny house, Stein said. In about a half a year, his goal is to have two to three in production at any given time.

As for whether he would ever live in one:


"Once I retire. ... I have young kids, but once they're grown, then sure."


Dana Stein

Executive director and founder of Civic Works

Age: 58

Hometown: Millford Mill area in Baltimore County

Residence: Pikesville

Education: Bachelor's degree in government from Harvard University, law degree from Columbia Law School and master's in public affairs from Princeton University

Family: Wife and three children, also a dog and cat.

Hobbies: Spending time with his family, gardening and watching the Orioles — he's been a fan since he was 5

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