Detroit Mercy Law alumna set up 'Buy Back' program for Detroit Land Bank Authority

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by Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Charity Dean earned her law degree from Detroit Mercy Law School because she wanted to make a difference in the community.

“I want to advocate for the voiceless,” she says.    

She achieves that mission in her role as Sales/Programs Manager for the Detroit Land Bank Authority, where she manages Auctions, Direct Sales, Side Lots, and Occupied Properties.

“When I was in law school, I never thought I would use property law again – now, it’s an integral part of my work,” she says.

In the Occupied Properties program, properties coming to the Land Bank are usually from tax foreclosure. Dean designed and implemented a sustainable program for occupants in DLBA-owned homes, resulting in a “Buy Back” pilot program.

“It’s fairly new, but it allows occupants – many whom are renters and their landlord lost the home – to purchase the property from the land bank on the condition they make monthly payments for taxes and participate in workshops and home preservation counseling with a nonprofit agency,” she explains.

“It seems simple but a lot of hard work went into coming to a model that we think may be successful. It’s only a pilot. Last week we had two pre-closings. Great things lie ahead for this program.

Dean – whose motto is “Be the change you wish to see in the world” – has been “advocating for the voiceless” since the age of 14 when she participated in the Detroit Youthworks Summer Job Program.

“It was my first job – and I’ve been involved in the organization ever since,” she says. “Now, I’m a proud board member happy to do my part in the great work they are doing in the city.”

She earned her undergrad degree in political science at Oakland University, where she was involved in the Gospel Choir, Student Congress, Student Activities Funding Board, One Body Campus Ministries, and Association of Black Students.

“When I first enrolled I was interested in pursuing a degree in music – but I’ve always been interested in government, and I took Political Science 101 and fell in love,” she says.

After graduation, Dean spent 14 months as Program Coordinator/ Conference Assistant For Envision, EMI, an education company that creates, markets and runs a number of youth leadership programs; and served as a community advocate at the Chadsey Condon Community Organization, launched in 2006 with the goal of transforming the lives of children in local neighborhoods. The community is one of six in Detroit selected to be part of the Skillman Foundation’s Good Neighborhoods Initiative, a 10-year, $100-million program.

“We worked hard to identify and secure resources for the residents,” Dean says. “One highlight was organizing a heath fair, where residents where able to receive free medical screenings and dental services.”

She started at Detroit Mercy Law in 2012, graduating with her juris doctorate last year.  “I loved being at a school that was committed to service,” she says. “It also reminded me of Oakland University – small enough for me to matter and big enough for me to make a difference.”

Last March, Dean was selected as a Fellow of the Michigan Political Leadership Program, founded in 1992 to expand training opportunities for people of all political backgrounds at every level of public service.

“I applied at the last minute and when I found out I was selected, I was thrilled,” she says. “Participating in MPLP was one of the best decisions of my life. I learned so much about policy and Michigan and made some life long relationships on both sides of the aisle.”

She also won a service award for the yearlong “Law and Leadership” program she created as vice president of the law school’s Black Law Students Association, recruiting students and lawyers to teach the Saturday morning classes to Detroit high school students. The participants learned about criminal law, criminal procedure, and oral advocacy, and the program culminated with a mock trial where the winning team won a scholarship.

The Detroit native still makes her home there. She enjoys time with her husband Erik, Dean of Academics at Cornerstone Charter Schools, son Elijah, 6, and daughter Lauren, 4; and also enjoys reading and  Zumba.

She is a member of the Detroit Women’s Leadership Network that has held events since 2014 and has more than 1,000 members on Facebook.

“We’re a group of diverse women who live work or play in Detroit and are passionate about uplifting other women and empowering them to be great,” she says. “We’re really just getting started. The steering/advisory committee is working to establish DWLN’s complete mission and strategic plan for the future.”

Dean founded her own organization, Far Above Rubies, a couple of years ago, with the goal of empowering young women to love God and love others, to serve God and serve others.

“We held girls’ retreats, mentoring at the mall events and more,” she says. “It has been on pause for the past couple of years. I work with the youth at my church and have done most events lately through that venue.”

She is a passionate supporter of the Big D. 

“Detroit is my home,” she says. “Detroit is often underestimated but it never disappoints.”