Totman and the five visitors all attended the Achieving Excellence in Community Development Program offered by NeighborWorks in association with Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Avesta Housing is a chartered affiliate of NeighborWorks America, a national nonprofit organization created by Congress to provide financial support, technical assistance and training for community-based revitalization efforts.
Front row, from left: Tom Collishaw, Self-Help Enterprises, Visila, California; Frank Lang, St. Nicks Alliance, Brooklyn, New York; Brian D'Andrea, Century Villages at Cabrillo, Culver City, California.
Back row, from left: Paul Kealey, NeighborWorks; Carol Gore, Cook Inlet Housing, Anchorage, Alaska; Dana Totman.
The group visited several Avesta properties in the Portland area, including Munjoy Commons, Logan Place, Brick Hill, and Florence House, as well as projects under construction, such as the Adams School condominiums and Pearl Place II. Despite their different markets, group members said they found many similarities between the work they do in in places like New York City and California and what Avesta does here in Maine.
Frank Lang from St. Nicks Alliance in Brooklyn said both his organization and Avesta focus on urban areas where the challenge is making sure housing is close to public services while also respecting the individual character of the existing community. He hoped to utilize some of Avesta's practices to strengthen his staff training opportunities to better serve residents' needs.
Tom Collishaw from Self-Help Enterprises in Visila, California, said he was interested to learn about the partnership between Avesta and Preble Street, which provides resident services at Avesta's two properties for the chronically homeless, Logan Place and Florence House.
Brian D'Andrea of Century Villages at Cabrillo, also in California, said he enjoyed the opportunity to see how a larger organization like Avesta delivers services and secures funding.
And Carol Gore of Cook Inlet Housing in Anchorage, Alaska, said her organization and Avesta were very similar in that they serve a similar sized market, and the staff at both places are "high energy, youthful, hungry and passionate." She credited Avesta's Adams School project for "doing things the private sector can't do," and for bringing back the neighborhood connectivity that used to exist at the site.
Achieving Excellence is an 18-month educational program for seasoned executive directors in community organizations that focus on affordable housing or community economic development. Through this program, Totman addressed critical challenges facing his organization, and implemented solutions that changed how the organization responds to community needs. For more information, visit the NeighborWorks website at http://www.nw.org/network/training/courses/AE.asp.