This is the perfect opportunity to reflect on my one year anniversary at Community Housing Initiatives. I officially started working here one year ago today. Here is what I wrote back in May 2013 when I got hired. Oh, the joy I had and still have. Something to note about any sort of accomplishment I have seen throughout the time I’ve been at CHI – I could not do it without the support of my staff, community and key partners. This isn’t a “let’s brag about how awesome I am” – so don’t even begin to think it! 😉
I started in August 2013 as a neighborhood engagement coordinator. It was a brand new position in our company, let alone in this city. While we primarily provide affordable housing rental units across the state, I was hired to focus on under-served neighborhoods in Des Moines. By asking a million questions to whoever would sit down with me, I was able to work closely with a neighborhood planner, the lovely Amber Lynch, who was doing neighborhood revitalization plans on the east side. I started coming to meetings to see if I could have a role and I went from always introducing myself to residents back in September to now, project managing three neighborhood revitalization plans. The three neighborhoods are focusing efforts on housing, youth programs, marketing, infrastructure and several other factors that make their neighborhoods great places to live, work and play.
Here are some reflections:
1. I have an awesome crew over in the East Village. My work space, my coworkers, our location, the view we have, the insanity of our neighbors – it all makes me really excited to get up and going so I can be present in such a great environment. I have been extremely supported by my supervisor, who loves when I shoot ideas her way and allows me the freedom to embrace community building.
2. I’ve had the experience of writing grants and being both rejected and granted funding. To date, I have contributed/written six grants, was denied three, received two and one is pending. We’ve hired interns, had service-learning students, managed hundreds of volunteers and are in the process of securing a “community coach” – an additional person in the neighborhood who finds grants and focuses on beautification projects, while also building capacity of residents. Thousands of dollars have been created within our company and community.
3. We’ve been able to serve hundreds of families and students in the East Bank neighborhoods. My favorite event was the Hiatt Service Day, where over 600 students came together to give back to their community. We also hosted a holiday party back in December, inviting elementary school-aged kids and families to come meet Santa, have a free meal, grab free winter gear and continue building community. The Des Moines Register covered the events and CHI really began to shine its “community building” light out to residents, the school and partners even more. AKA building our brand. 🙂
4. This is not an easy job. I am a solutions-oriented person. I see something or someone that needs help and I go to action. The thing with neighborhood improvement is that there are so many action steps, so many issues to address, that a lot of times I have to ask myself where the biggest fire is on any given day. Some days I get fired up about crosswalks needing painted, other days I’m passionate about slumlords who own dozens of rundown homes, and other days I obsess over data. There is so much to tackle that the “instant gratification” person in me has to hold tight and appreciate small victories. They really do add up though!
5. I think I have found my true passion. While I go back and forth about what I want to “do with my life” (whatever that means), I find a lot of joy in making Des Moines a better community to call home. For all ages, all races, all incomes.
I’m happy. Big things are happening. Our coalition of partners, residents and stakeholders are launching Viva East Bank on August 22. Look. People are committing their dollars, their time and their resources because they believe that everyone deserves the same opportunities and a great quality of life. It’s the sweetest gig I could ask for. I’m filled with infinite support from staff, friends and family.
Stay tuned as I continue to praise the work we get to do everyday.