By Ruth Bordett, AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer through NeighborWorks
With my time as AmeriCorps VISTA at MANNA nearing the end, I would like to share some of my thoughts about my year as part of the development department at MANNA. When I arrived at MANNA in August 2015, I had little to no knowledge of affordable housing and its role in the District. I previously wrote a blog post in December (“Wading Through a Sea of Housing Jargon”) about the difficulty I had in grasping all of the housing jargon and procedures that have become essential to my work at MANNA. The past year has served as a crash course in affordable housing policies and development. I am proud to say that I am walking away from my year at MANNA with a much better comprehension of the importance of affordable housing.
All of my memories from MANNA share the common thread of serving as proof of the long and impactful history the organization has had on so many families and the Washington, D.C. community as a whole. I am honored to have witnessed the role MANNA has taken over the past year in striving to provide services and resources to the community East of the Anacostia River. The creation of our Ward 8 Homebuyers’ Club and the annual East of the River Homebuyer Fair are important strides towards our mission and continuing to deepen our partnership with communities in overlooked areas of the city, like Wards 7 and 8. Additionally, MANNA’s 24-unit condo complex in Southeast, the Buxton, was featured in a Washington Post article (“Finding an Affordable Anchor in D.C.’s Wave of Gentrification”). Seeing the hard work of my colleagues and MANNA’s buyers documented in this way has been extremely rewarding.
MANNA’s staff are truly a family and have always been welcoming to me. This is evident at our large fundraisers, like Friends of MANNA, and in the lunchroom each work day. The staff recently put together a retirement party for our former Director of Homebuyer Education, Willamena Samuels. The Homebuyers’ Club room was filled with guests and almost every person present had a personal story or sentiment to share about Willamena. Her 18 years of dedication to MANNA and each person’s obvious appreciation for her and the organization’s long history is what makes MANNA special.
Despite my lack of experience in affordable housing, each person I have encountered at MANNA has welcomed me and imparted their knowledge to aid the fight for affordable housing in D.C. For this, I will be forever grateful. As I continue to pursue a future in nonprofit work, I hope to stay connected to MANNA. MANNA has already left its mark on the District’s history, but I know it will continue to serve and improve our community for many years to come.