The Door was founded in 1984 by Joe Ehrmann, a former NFL defensive lineman who played eight years for the Baltimore Colts. From its conception, it was established to be a community-based urban ministry which addressed individual and family needs and promoted equity in education, social justice, racial reconciliation, and economic development.
After Joe Ehrmann stepped down, James ‘Jim’ Davenport, a technology entrepreneur and community leader, made it his goal to make sure that The Door would continue to have a positive impact in the community. The Door became Davenport’s life-long passion and he was fully committed to The Door for over 35 years.
Today, The Door and its closely-knit board and partners serve thousands of people in Baltimore City through its diverse outreach, array of programming and its spiritual and holistic “hand-on” approach to the community needs.
Celebrating the Life of James ‘Jim’ Davenport
Posted at 6:31 PM, Dec 21, 2021
BALTIMORE — Helping East Baltimore families with housing, free food, and childcare are just a few ways the late co-founder of The Door impacted his community for decades.
WMAR-2 News is remembering the philanthropic pioneer and his blueprint that will improve the lives of families for years to come.
It’s a legacy you can see before you even step foot inside of The Door.
Week in and week out the food distribution operation on North Chester Street extends meals beyond the block it serves.
“Today we probably gave out anywhere between 1200 and 1500 boxes along with other canned goods and meats and vegetables and things of that nature,” said Tehma Smith Wilson, the COO of the Door.
She says this site is an extension of Mr. Jim Davenport’s vision to serve.
“The Door started in 1984 and at least for the last 30 or 35 years we’ve had food distribution in terms of a pantry,” Smith Wilson shared.
That service evolved during the pandemic.
“One of the most important things to him was to serve and to match people with resources and this is how he would want it to be,” said Michelle Davenport, his daughter.
Michelle Davenport, his daughter, described him as businessman, and servant leveraging his success to connect East Baltimore residents to resources like food, childcare, health information and community service initiatives.
“He truly believed in African American people he believed in inner city African American people and he wanted to give them every opportunity they could as individuals and through their families to grow achieve and become who they wanted to become,” Smith Wilson said.
Mr. Davenport ran the door and unlocked many others throughout the community…including the one Cynthia Gross walked through.
“When care community association started in 2004, as you know most associations don’t have a place to meet. Mr. Davenport being a part of the community understood that and he just opened up the doors to the door and said to the community association here’s a key. Consider this home. Meet when you want to meet for whatever you need and never charged a dime so for almost 20 years this has been a part of cares home. With the support of Mr. Davenport,” said Cynthia Gross, the Care Community Association’s current president.
The Door became Mr. Davenport and his family’s home away from home where they spent days at a time working with children.
“We had bunch of kids. We were able to provide lunch time. We had some tutoring and we also had a lot of fun at the door. It was definitely one of the best jobs I’ve ever had,” said Davenport.
Deshawn Batson was one of those kids.
“We would come and receive spiritual foundation but also receive bikes just so many opportunities that took place on that Saturday but after school Monday through Friday when the after school program was here many of us would leave Commodore John Rogers and walk directly down to the next block and come to The Door,” Batson said.
Batson is now an assistant to Baltimore Councilman Antonio Glover and he still remembers the moments he and his peers shared with Davenport as children.
“He was always hands on, always encouraging, always willing to just lend a helping hand and supportive with whatever you needed done,” shared Batson.
And well after his passing his life’s motto is the key still unlocking opportunities in the community of East Baltimore where he grew up.
“In the end probably only what you do for other people is the thing that lasts,” Davenport said.