April 12, 2024

Pastor Karen Curry Helps Reshape Her Neighborhood

3 min read

By: Hilary Tetenbaum, Contributor

Pastor Karen Tooley Curry grew up in an environment where much of her community’s history was hidden from her. Though she recognized its effects on her small, historically Black community, she realized that she wanted to do something to change the world around her and help improve lives.

After leaving for Florida A&M in 1987 and completing her studies, Curry returned to her hometown of Mims, Florida in 2011, which she described as though she was “in a time warp.” She felt that little in her community had changed except for her. With newfound experience in public housing and other professional environments, she was determined to help make a difference in her community. 

In 2020, while working from home as a Communications and Strategic Planning Analyst, Curry took a leave of absence to care for her ailing mother, Pastor Earlean Tooley, who died from congestive heart failure in March 2020. She also completed her fourth book, Standing on the Precipice, which explored not only her experience growing up with a lack of awareness about the history around her, but also the Black history journey through theology and other disciplines that she sought to help fill that void. 

“I’d like to think that, as we pass the baton to the next generation, we will find folks who don’t want to see this happen anymore in the future and are ready to take charge,” Curry stated upon describing her deep pride in her culture and the importance of her heritage.

In a leap of faith, Curry resigned from her job to start a non-profit. By using her skills in housing, grant writing, communications, strategy, and management, she aimed to challenge the systematic problems that existed within her community. She believed that events of the recent past had affected her community and trapped it within a “time warp,” thus contributing to many of the problems she saw flourishing there.

Over the past three years, her non-profit, the Tooley Community Development Group, has been awarded nearly $650,000 to provide STEM education services, case management services, and homeless prevention services not just to Mims, but to all of North Brevard and any residents who need their services. The Tooley Community Development Group focuses on uplifting a neighborhood—specifically Curry’s hometown—that has been devastated by decades of problems. The development group plans to begin construction on transitional housing and permanent rental housing this year, as well as to draw focus to under-represented voices through their arts, history, and culture programs. Their plans for the East Mims Learning Center’s STEM Academy help children launch themselves into STEM activities, while their workforce and economic development plans aim to assist students in developing soft and technical skills for career attainment and advancement.

Pastor Curry’s unwavering drive to help the people in her area succeed has established her as a pivotal and cherished figure in Mims, Florida. Her enduring dedication not only fosters a spirit of unity and resilience but also inspires a legacy of empowerment that promises to resonate for generations to come. Through her tireless efforts, Pastor Curry has sown seeds of hope and progress, ensuring her influence will be felt and celebrated long into the future.

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