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Karen Kollias Spotlight, PCG Board Update

Karen Kollias is a trailblazer where she's worked for more than 50 years to create a cohesive and thorough connection between financial institutions, community developers, and local communities around the country. Karen Kollias, the outgoing Board Chair of the PCG Board of Directors, will be leaving her CDFI leadership at NCALL and stepping down from PCG’s Board. Karen impacted the entire CDFI Industry with her passion for local communities and her efforts to diversify bank products and services. 

Karen is the founder of NCALL Loan Fund in Dover, DE, and has held the position of Loan Fund Director for NCALL Research Inc. since 2004. NCALL Loan Fund is a certified CDFI and CDE lender primarily serving the rural communities of Delmarva, where it provides loans to qualified non-profit organizations and local governments. 

Karen Kollias started in finance in Washington, D.C. where she realized the opportunity banks and financial institutions had to create financing options to promote development in underfunded and excluded communities. Karen’s first experience with the CDFI Industry came before the industry had a name. In the Eighties, Karen and colleagues would reserve dorms and classrooms at local universities to meet and discuss plans for how to further embed financial investments into communities that needed it the most. Karen’s efforts to connect bankers, community developers, turned into a lifelong career that today is recognized as the Community Development Financial Institution Industry. Far before OFN conferences and CDFI Fund Annual Conferences, Karen and other colleagues sought to train and educate lenders from across the country on the untapped potential in their collaboration between banks and community development. 

In the midst of Karen’s career, she met and worked with a 21-year-old intern at American Security Bank who today is the Chief Executive Officer of Partners for the Common Good and Community Development Bankers Association, Jeannine Jackockes. Karen focused on how to collaborate with others in the industry including how to train up more women to be involved and in positions of leadership in the industry. To this day, Karen and Jeannine enjoy a supportive relationship. Karen believes that we must continue to usher and steward women, especially women of color. When asked about the importance of mentoring women,  Karen added, “I look forward to seeing more women and women of color not only in servicing positions but in leadership positions.”

As the industry continues to grow, Karen continues to dream of the future of CDFIs. When asked what she hopes to see in the CDFI Industry future, Karen said “I’m looking forward to when young people will be attracted to the industry, more young people working in community development -- bringing their passions and creativity -- could further transform the industry.” Karen also highlighted the importance of being intentionally connected to the communities; although national organizations can support developments virtually anywhere, it's the connection to local communities that positions CDFIs as the financial first responders for the country. 

As Karen transitions into her next adventures, she hopes that CDFIs continue to push the boundaries of what is possible similar to how she did in starting the community development investment network. We are sure that this is not the end of Karen’s contributions to the community and CDFI Industry.  Karen Kollias inspires us all to continue strategizing the redistribution of wealth and creating opportunity through investment.