On May 18, over 100 community leaders celebrated the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Carroll Nonprofit Center. After five years of planning and discussion, the center was first dedicated with great fanfare by Maryland's then-first lady, Kendel Ehrlich, on May 16, 2006.

The $4 million, 40,000-square-foot, three-story brick building was constructed on a 3.15-acre parcel at 255 Clifton Boulevard in 2004 to 2006 in north Westminster on the old Englar Farm which had been developed into the Englar Business Park.


The lot was purchased for $690,000 in 2003 and the building broke ground in November 2004. It welcomed the first of its initial 19 tenants in January 2006.

The center was built by Anverse Inc., a Cartersville, Ga., private nonprofit created by the family that owned the local Prestige cable company. Anverse was mostly funded by proceeds of the $700 million July 2000 sale of Prestige Communications of NC Inc., a company that held the cable franchise for Carroll County for 16 years.

Days after the 2000 sale, a series of quiet informal discussions began about reinvesting a portion of the proceeds of the sale into the local community. The first of a series of organized face-to-face meetings took place in the Westminster mayor's office on Aug. 27, 2001, between this writer, who served as the mayor of Westminster at the time, and former cable officials including Mark Krider, Cathy Lee Eckert and Marty Sonenshine. Audrey S. Cimino, who is an attorney, financial expert and the executive director of the Community Foundation of Carroll County, was quickly brought into the confidential deliberations.

The discussions were delicate and complicated because at the time, it was a new concept in non-profits — a multi-tenant nonprofit center. In an article by this writer in the Westminster Eagle in May 2006, it was reported that Sonenshine called the project "our guinea pig." The concept seemed simple enough; however, multi-tenant nonprofit centers were a new concept and there were reportedly only one or two other such centers in the country at the time.

Indeed, at the 10th anniversary event, Kati Townsley, the executive director of the Carroll Technology Council, an original tenant observed, "This Center is the only nonprofit center of this kind in the state of Maryland. Other communities have tried to duplicate it, however have not been successful ... ."

In 2002, the Anverse operating foundation had already begun very quietly and anonymously helping some folks in the community who had fallen on hard times.

Things changed on Oct. 5, 2003 when the Baltimore Sun broke the story, "A publicity-shy charity headquartered hundreds of miles from Maryland is quietly working on plans to build an office building in Carroll County … . The Georgia-based foundation has for several months met behind the scenes with Carroll charitable groups and government officials… ."

Moving forward, by mid-February 2004, a site plan was submitted. After an April 4, 2004, meeting in the mayor's office, plans were developed to navigate the project through the maze of city, county and state rules, regulations, and bureaucracies, all the while Cimino, Krider and myself, continued to discuss the project with a number of nonprofits in the community.

Several community leaders quickly got involved. Several of the key players that were so helpful in the beginning, such as Sister Nancy Stiles, then-county Head Start director; Pam Zappardino then-Carroll County United Way Director; Carroll County NAACP leaders Chuck and Virginia Harrison and Jean and John Lewis were in attendance at the 10th anniversary celebration, as were musicians Rob Caswell and Walt Michael, who is the Executive Director of Common Ground on the Hill and who played at the 2006 dedication.