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About Our CEO

Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr. is the Chief Executive Officer of Central Jersey Community Development Corporation and the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey. A pioneer of faith-based community development, Dr. Soaries has led the formation of many not-for-profit entities in communities throughout New Jersey, including Harvest of Hope Family Services Network, Inc., Renaissance Economic Development Corporation 1, CDC Properties, Inc. and several others.

His leadership and strategies for community revitalization and preservation of the family unit has redefined how grassroots organizations position themselves to impact at-risk communities. Dr. Soaries has been an active agent for change ever since his youth, first as a college student leading a campaign against drug use on campus, and later as a civil rights activist for the Urban League doing community organizing. He also served as National Coordinator for Operation PUSH.

Dr. Soaries served as New Jersey's 30th Secretary of State, making him the first African-American male to serve as a Constitutional officer of the State. In 2004, he was appointed by the President of the United States to serve as chairman of the United States Election Assistance Commission. This Commission was established by Congress to implement the “Help America Vote Act” of 2002.

Dr. Soaries serves as a director of the federal Home Loan Bank of New York, and is a frequent advisor to major corporations in the areas of diversity, philanthropy and community relations.

A recipient of numerous awards for his leadership and community service, he has been recognized by both houses of the New Jersey Legislature for his religious and community leadership. His work has been featured in several media outlets including the New York Times, Christianity Today, Black Enterprise, Ebony Magazine, People Magazine and Government Executive Magazine. Dr. Soaries is a popular speaker at colleges, universities, conferences and churches around the world.

Dr. Soaries earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Fordham University; a Master of Divinity Degree from Princeton Theological Seminary; and a Doctor of Ministry Degree from United Theological Seminary. He has also received six honorary Doctorate degrees from institutions of higher learning.

Born in New York and raised in New Jersey, Dr. Soaries resides in Central New Jersey with his wife, Donna and twin sons, Malcolm and Martin.