Month: January 2017

Joe’Mar Hooper joins CommonBond as inaugural Wisconsin Market Leader

Head shot of Joe'Mar Hooper -- a man wearing glasses and a dark suit with a white shirt and striped tie, smiling at the camera.

We are thrilled to welcome Joe’Mar Hooper to the CommonBond team! He recently joined CommonBond Communities as the inaugural Wisconsin Market Leader.

In this role, Hooper leads Wisconsin business growth and relationship development activities. This hire is part of a bigger move by CommonBond in Milwaukee and the greater Wisconsin market — in addition to this hire, CommonBond plans to serve more people, shift its governance model to enhance local Board influence, and expand its property management presence. After more than a decade in the state offering affordable housing and services, CommonBond Communities is expanding its efforts and presence to better serve Wisconsin residents.

Hooper brings with him an expansive mix of policy, legislative, finance, housing, community engagement, and economic and community development experience. His background will help create an even stronger foundation for advancing CommonBond’s growth in Wisconsin.

“Having grown up on Milwaukee’s Northside and seeing the effects of poverty and housing insecurity on my friends, neighbors, and loved ones, the mission of CommonBond Communities resonates with me. I am excited to work with this great organization to grow affordable housing and supportive services in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin,” said Joe’Mar Hooper.

Hooper will partner with Greg Lamas, CommonBond’s Wisconsin-based Regional Manager of Housing and Services, in advancing partnerships and opportunities to expand CommonBond’s work in Milwaukee and the greater Wisconsin community. The engagement of Joe’Mar Hooper will help us put down even deeper roots in Wisconsin.

“I am thrilled to have Joe’Mar provide leadership for our new business and community partnerships,” said CommonBond CEO Deidre Schmidt. “Joe’Mar is a perfect fit for our organization. He is a respected professional, has demonstrated real creativity in the face of financial and regulatory constraints, and comes to our work with a heartfelt connection to our mission.”

Hooper’s professional career spans two decades and includes leadership positions at the local and state level, including serving as the Budget Manager for the Department of City Development/Redevelopment Authority, Legislative Fiscal Manager for the Department of Administration, Deputy City Treasurer, and Operations Manager for the Milwaukee Health Department. He has strong relationships within the Milwaukee community and throughout the state of Wisconsin.

In addition to his work experience, Mr. Hooper has a passion for community involvement (and excellent BBQ, in case you were wondering about his favorite food!). He has been an active member in civic organizations and boards in the Milwaukee community, including serving as a commissioner on the Social Development Commission of Milwaukee County, and is currently a member of the board of directors of the Milwaukee Public Library (Finance Chair) and the Salvation Army. He holds an undergraduate degree in Secondary Education and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.

Residents Back in Their Homes Following Renovation of Seward Towers in Minneapolis

Outdoor photo with sidewalk, benches, and wooden arbor overhead
New entrance to Seward Tower West with benches and wooden arbor

CommonBond Communities and its Seward neighborhood partners have invested significant time and resources in the two Seward Towers. To make the Seward Tower properties more welcoming, environmentally friendly, and safe for residents – and to preserve the buildings for the long-term – extensive renovation of the common spaces and individual apartments began late in 2015. Aging buildings, old sewer pipes, older mechanicals, and windows that no longer met code were some of the building issues that were addressed.

View of downtown Minneapolis from new window at Seward Tower West
View of downtown Minneapolis through new window at Seward Tower West

Throughout the duration of the construction period, residents had to move out of their units to accommodate the apartment upgrades. More than 35 families were relocated to a nearby apartment building, and the remaining households were temporarily moved within the buildings. With the well-being of residents as its top priority, CommonBond worked with a proven partner, Frerichs Construction, to complete the renovations in record time – the construction schedule was reduced by more than six months. All residents moved back into their apartment homes to find new windows, flooring, countertops, and appliances. In addition to new mechanicals and other technical upgrades to the building itself, light and airy entrances and common spaces were improved the resident experience.

“Residents displayed such patience with the many unknowns of this renovation project. This community is made up of some of the most resilient people I’ve ever met, and residents tried hard to see the positives of the renovation instead of focusing on the day-to-day challenges such extensive remodeling presented,” said Kim Christoffel, CommonBond Advantage Services Coordinator at Seward Tower West.

Man wearing a Nike jersey checking on something in the oven
Sandy Myers in his newly renovated kitchen

Most residents were happy to move back into their updated homes. They expressed appreciation for the readily available parking, homework center for their children, and the sense of community that exists at Seward Towers.

Sandy Myers, a Seward Tower West resident, shared his experience with the renovations:

Man wearing a cap and a Nike jersey, standing with his hands on the back of a recliner and smiling at the camera
Sandy Myers, resident at Seward Tower West

When the construction started, it was hard for me since I have good days and bad days with pain. It was so helpful to have a crew move my belongings and take care of the whole move to the temporary place. I’m thrilled to be back in my renovated apartment. Every morning it’s a blessing to wake up in this place. My remodeled apartment feels like a Christmas present and New Years present all wrapped up in one!

I feel so happy here. I’m not the kind of person that’s happy every day – but even on the days when I have pain, I still feel grateful and thrilled to be here! Everything is new – doors, cabinets, stove, fridge – and I don’t hear any freeway traffic even though I live right off I-94. It’s a lovely place and I treat it like that – I like to keep my floors clean and shining because I care about this place. I wouldn’t give up this home up for anything!

Frey Family Foundation Encourages Others to Help End Homelessness

Photo of 15 adults posed around a man and woman who just got married
The extended Frey family

The Frey Foundation understands the power of home. Since 2006, a major focus of its grantmaking has been to help end homelessness. The foundation trustees understand that to have an impact on homelessness, funding needed to go beyond bricks and mortar – it needs to be extended to support those who have experienced homelessness address underlying issues that led to their homelessness.

In part because of the Frey Foundation’s commitment, CommonBond has been able to expand its work in providing supportive housing so that now 369 individuals and families – including 58 veterans who have experienced chronic or long-term homelessness – are experiencing stability in their CommonBond home. These residents have the added advantage of having onsite services that address mental and chemical health issues, education, and employment.

“A family can move from a shelter or precarious living situation into decent housing, and the same issues will follow them – mental health challenges, chemical dependency, domestic abuse, lack of a high school education, and no employment,” says Jim Frey, president of the Frey Foundation. “It’s extremely difficult for people to cope with chemical dependency and mental health issues, for example, when their lives are in chaos, constantly moving among temporary living arrangements. Once living situations are stabilized, people then need supportive services to help them overcome the underlying issues that led to housing instability.”

Last summer, CommonBond received a matching grant from the Frey Foundation aimed at attracting new donors, encouraging existing donors to give at an increased level, and inviting prior donors to be generous again. In December, the match was successfully met thanks to an outpouring of support from individuals who – like the Frey family members – want to be a part of ending homelessness in our community.

Thank you to the Frey family and all of our donors who believe in the power of home. With your support, we will continue to be able to help build stable homes, strong futures, and vibrant communities with and for those with the greatest need.

CommonBond Resident Celebrates 100th Birthday

Photo of older man wearing glasses and a red and blue plaid shirt, smiling at camera“Moving to Goldendale Homes is the best move I’ve ever made!” says CommonBond resident Norman Oletzke. He has lived at Goldendale Homes, a CommonBond community in Annandale, MN, for almost 18 years. Goldendale also happens to be a quarter of a mile from the farm where he was born. Norm will soon celebrate his 100th birthday – and still lives independently with very few services.

You will often see Norm headed down the hall on his scooter, pulling his laundry basket behind him because he still does his own laundry (and takes his trash down to the dumpster, too). He recently invited his neighbor over to celebrate New Year’s Eve – and prepared a chicken dinner for her!

For seniors on fixed and limited incomes, affordable housing is a key element in maintaining independence. The community that we foster helps keep seniors engaged with one another and with the broader community, which helps them lead happier and healthier lives. CommonBond’s Advantage Services help them stay physically independent as long as possible by helping prevent falls and increasing strength.

CommonBond has developed and manages 40 senior housing communities serving nearly 3,000 residents of 62+ years in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Our senior residents have an average household income of just over $17,000. The vast majority have assets of less than $5,000 – so you can imagine that without CommonBond housing, they wouldn’t have many options.

Norm says, “The best part of living in a CommonBond Community is I am comfortable and have never had any problems. I have many good friends in the building that I can trust and they trust me.”

His favorite quote seems to be a good one to live by: Eat when you’re hungry and drink when you are dry; if nothing else happens you’ll live until you die! Happy 100th birthday, Norm!