Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On the Road with Chuck: Part II

Chuck Wehrwein
NeighborWorks America COO
When I arrive in DC, I know I’ll be getting lots of questions about why I left the beautiful Rocky Mountains for the city life, so I want to explain my reasons here. The truth is that it was no easy decision. I’ve been living in Colorado for over 11 years and my children have grown up there, so I would not be headed east if I weren’t strongly motivated to join the NeighborWorks team.

In fact, my enthusiasm is already high enough for others to take notice. The day before I left Denver, my wife and I were meeting with LeeAnne, our realtor. When LeeAnne asked me to explain what NeighborWorks is about and why I was leaving, I spent several minutes describing the organization, its members and the great work that takes place in communities across the nation. LeeAnne was immediately struck by the passion in my voice, and commented that she, too, felt inspired by our vision of building strong, vibrant communities.
Pagedale Senior Housing was built across from
a Save-a-Lot grocery as part of the 24:1 initiative

I found a great example of this work in St. Louis last Friday. I met with Beyond Housing’s leader, Chris Krehmeyer. We talked a little bit about his experiences as a NeighborWorks organization and he showed me a small sample of the economic development projects and housing they’ve been building in the inner ring suburbs of St. Louis as part of a program called 24:1. This initiative has three main goals: strong communities, engaged families and successful children and it is addresses each goal by really integrating the various elements of community – from district schools to housing for the elderly to a new grocery store making fresh produce more available to residents.

Great work like this is inspiring and is indicative of why I am so pleased to be taking on my new role as COO. I’m looking forward to meeting with and hearing from more of our members in the coming weeks as we begin to formulate, together, how we can better develop responses to the myriad needs and opportunities in our communities across the country.