A passion to change lives and make an impact on at-risk communities drove Denise Shelton’s transition from Department of Corrections warden to CEO.
Shelton retired from the Washington, D.C., Department of Corrections in 2002 and formed Community Bridge, Inc (CBI). Her company was built “with the goal of empowering and rehabilitating local residents by providing viable, progressive employment and trade skills development.” Community Bridge is now a full-service facility management company that employs 200 people and services six wards in the District of Columbia.
Starting a business that could serve as a legacy was critical to Shelton. Not only as something she could pass down to her daughter and grandchildren, but to have a lasting effect by empowering, teaching and supporting others. As a second-chance employer, Community Bridge is changing lives.
Shelton is CEO of CBI with her daughter, Shawn Nance, serving as President. Her grandson already has goals to continue the legacy by being Community Bridge’s CEO when he grows up.
Family has been the basis of CBI from the beginning. When Denise’s daughter joined the business early on, and after she gave birth to her second child, CBI had to get creative with their office space. And as such, the first CBI office was a “mommy van” that allowed Denise and her daughter to drive her children around while still having the ability to discuss the business and have meetings with one another.
Working with her mother has been amazing, says Nance.
“Denise Shelton to me is unstoppable. At the end of the day, she is my No. 1 partner. She has changed the course of her life to make sure I was okay.”
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Title: Denise Shelton, Founder & CEO, Community Bridge, Inc.
[Denise Shelton] Starting Community Bridge, it has been part of our mission to make sure that we change lives. We wanted to do something more than just open a business. We would hire directly from the jail to the community, so that's how we started out. Whoever we hired, we wanted to make an impact.
[Denise Shelton] Community Bridge is a full service facility management company, and we do snow removal, landscaping, and janitorial.
Title: Shawn Nance, President, Community Bridge, Inc.
[Shawn Nance] It started off with a parking space and a mommy van where we had meetings, because we didn't have a building. At that point, we had no roof, two lawnmowers and two contracts. We went having one truck and a trailer to going down to purchase four or five more trucks the next day, and all of a sudden, we, we had a business.
[Shawn Nance]Bank of America for Community Bridge started day one, that was part of the foundation.
[Denise Shelton] As a small business owner, it's very important that I have a bank that supports me, and Bank of America made that walk with us, and made it easier.
[Shawn Nance] The same people that gave us the opportunity when we didn't have anything are the same ones that are our partners today.
[Denise Shelton] I'm passing down this family business to my daughter, who's then going to pass it down to my grandsons.
[Shawn Nance] That's a huge responsibility, but it's one that she's prepared me for.
[Denise Shelton] When I see how she has grown, and her commitment and dedication to Community Bridge, it reminds me why we went in the business, and what's important.
[Shawn Nance] To see her as a woman, to see her as a business owner has been one of my joys in life.
[Denise Shelton] When we talk about a legacy, for me, something that's going to empower other people, and teach other people, and support other people, and I hope that it continues down through my legacy in generations. I have the power to build a legacy for my family.
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