By Ed Waters Jr.
The Frederick News-Post, Md.
Lori Duke was named Rookie of the Year by the Frederick County Association of Realtors. While that award focused on her achievements in just a short time in the real estate field, Duke’s service helping divorced women move on with their lives and her work in boosting her community are just as recognizable.
A native of New England, Duke, 56, felt there was a need for a publication dedicated to women’s issues in the 1980s. She was at the launch of Woman magazine, published by Thomson Newspapers, which looked at the daily and professional lives of women in the Connecticut region.
“There were only about 10 publications out there on women’s issues. I worked in ad sales and other things. At the age of 24, I became publisher of Woman. It really was a voice for women on the hot-button issues such as the glass ceiling, health, the changing place for women in the community,” Duke said.
When her children were born, now teenagers, she left the publishing world and moved with her family, initially to Frederick in 2000, and then to Baltimore.
She separated from her husband in 2010 and moved with the children back to Frederick.
“There is no better place to raise children than Frederick, the schools, a walkable community, I just love Frederick,” she said. “I thought, what better way to make Frederick my home than to help other people find real estate here, so I became a Realtor.”
It was a perfect match, Duke said, with her experience in marketing, and being a people person who loves the community.
Her life experience sparked her and two other women to form the Mohini Project.
“It is my way of giving back to those who helped me,” Duke said. “There are unique things women need after leaving a family home.”
The project is named for a tiger at the National Zoo who chose the known security of a space it had been living in to the unknown of a beautiful rain forest-theme area completed by the zoo.
The Mohini Project sets up seminars and other programs to help women with financial planning for their future and in some cases brings the man and woman together to consult on how to end the marriage in a way that can be a compromise for both of them and lessen the animosity of the breakup.
Duke is also vice president of the Uptown Coalition.
“We want people to know there is life above Fourth Street,” Duke said. She lives on East Sixth Street and said while that community is vibrant, most people think only of the major downtown area and she wanted to be a voice for her neighborhood.
“You can walk downtown, have a good house, wonderful neighbors. Frederick is a wonderful mix of friends who have been here for years and new people. It is a great place to meet people,” Duke said.
Duke works for Bach & Associates, where she said the owners, Bob and Lettie Golden, share her love of Frederick and the agents provide that mix of experience and new real estate professionals.
Jeremy Polling of NFM Lending, who coordinates the informal Real Estate Coffee Connection for those in that field, says Duke’s dynamic personality and her love of the community comes out when participants network.
“She is a different sort of Realtor. She also helps divorced women and works with the Uptown Coalition to make the city better. She doesn’t just talk about something, but really spends a lot of hours helping others,” Polling said.
What makes a good Realtor? Duke said it takes honesty, integrity, a incredible work ethic and a love of the community.
“If you don’t love it (community), how can you be an ambassador for it? Sometimes you have to be the ‘shock absorber’ for the folks buying or selling a home as it can be a stressful but rewarding part of their lives.”
In presenting the award to Duke in April, Michael Kurtianyk, president of the Frederick County Association of Realtors, said Duke represented all that was good in the real estate industry. The award, presented to someone who has been in the profession a relatively short time, noted that Duke sold more than $1 million in sales her first year (2013), completed multiple real estate continuing education courses and reflects true professionalism, business accomplishment and community activism.