Board Member Spotlight: Shailja Ambrose

Not Just a Building: The Importance of a Home

Every day, CommonBond donors, volunteers, and staff are working together to ensure we deliver on our mission of building stable homes and vibrant communities.  

CommonBond’s Board of Directors is an integral part of our leadership team, and we are pleased to spotlight one dedicated board member this month – Shailja Ambrose. 

Shailja has always been passionate about volunteering and lifting up her community. Serving on CommonBond’s board has been another way for her to use her skills and passions to support our work and further our mission.

Get to know Shailja 

CommonBond: Please share a little bit about yourself and your background.  

Shailja: I am married with two teenage boys, ages 15 and 17. I started my career in the fashion and retail industry as a buyer for TJX and Macy’s on the East Coast and had ended up leaving there after 9/11. I was then in the banking world for 14 years – starting in retail and ending my banking career in commercial lending. I then dabbled in recruiting for a year before moving into an entrepreneur life in real estate. I now own and operate low-income multifamily housing in the Saint Paul area.  

CommonBond: What sparked your interest to become a board member at CommonBond?  

Shailja: I’ve been volunteering all my life. Since I was 12 years old, I would get involved in something or other. I was especially passionate about volunteering for causes supporting women, children, literacy, and housing. I was introduced to CommonBond through a program I did while at Wells Fargo called Urban Ventures. This program would take a group of individuals from different banks and introduce us to one local nonprofit organization every month. We would go there and spend the entire day with that community. CommonBond happened to be one of those organizations.  

We spent half the day touring a CommonBond building, learning about the community, and talking with staff who would share about the services they provided. Out of the 10 or so organizations that I met, CommonBond stuck out to me. This was around 2017 when I began searching for a way to get involved. I applied for the board associate position. Then, I met with Deidre Schmidt (CommonBond President & CEO) and Karen Law (Executive Vice President of Talent, Equity, and Culture), which cemented my decision to get involved with the board. 

CommonBond: How are your experiences tied to CommonBond’s work? 

Shailja: For my work on the board, I am involved in the planning committee for both the Celebration of Home gala and Birdies for Hope golf tournament. I love introducing CommonBond to other people, and as a board member, I feel I can do that with a lot more confidence. 

CommonBond: What kind of goals do you have in your position as a CommonBond board member? What is something you’re working on or a primary interest you have? 

Shailja: I would like to become more comfortable with the fundraising side of events as well as sponsorships in the coming years. I was a board associate up until this January 2024. I joined during the COVID pandemic, which was difficult because we didn’t really see each other, so this year is my big year to get involved and just learn a lot more. Everyone on the board has been really supportive of teaching, so I am excited to become even more engaged and learn more. 

CommonBond: What does it mean to you to be a CommonBond board member? 

Shailja: It’s such an honor to be a CommonBond board member because I truly believe in the mission of CommonBond and find value in what we do. Not only is affordable housing some of the most important work we can be doing for our community, but to provide Advantage Services such as career counseling, childcare, Study Buddies, etc. is crucial to creating community and raising the confidence of residents. As a board member, it’s a privilege to be able to do my work and support the community at the same time. I can be a part of a solution that is such a huge issue in our state right now, and across the country. I really love introducing other people to CommonBond who can also be a part of the solution and offer support and connections. 

CommonBond: Why does CommonBond’s work matter? 

Shailja: Affordable housing is such a pressing issue and need. We are not just providing a building for people; we are providing a home. CommonBond is providing housing to people who may not otherwise be able to afford to live in cities like Plymouth, Excelsior, or Edina. Advantage Services is phenomenal. We are not just giving you a roof over your head, but we are really encouraging and helping to get people out of a negative situation they may be in; whether it’s providing career services, tutoring, or helping someone who hasn’t been in this country for a long time get connected to any services or support they may need. 

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Learn more about Shailja 

CommonBond: What does home mean to you?  

Shailja: Home means safety, security, comfort, peace. It’s not just a roof over my head. I want my kids to know there will always be a warm bed to sleep in and someone to care for them – someone there they can tell their worries to or have a cup of tea with. Just comfort. 

Shailja: Who are your role models? Who inspires you? 

CommonBond: I would say my mom and dad. My parents immigrated here in their 30s with two young kids and no jobs – the typical story of an immigrant family. We had a lot of support when we got to America, but they left a really good life back home in India. My dad always taught me to work hard, be humble, and that nothing is beneath you. He came here and delivered mail because that’s the job he got. When I shifted my career to work part time as a bank teller, people would say, “You’re moving backwards, you’ve been corporate,” but my dad’s advice was, “Reach for the stars, but be humble because nothing is beneath you.” And my mom – she is so hard working and has always taught us to be independent. She believed that women should have money and their own career, and that hard work will pay off. She has been a huge inspiration to my philanthropic side always leading by example. She is the person where if she has $1, she will give away 75 cents. She truly believes we are on this earth to help people.  

CommonBond: What is your favorite room in your house? 

Shailja: My favorite room is my living room. It’s the center of our home. I’m the first one up every morning, so I enjoy my morning coffee, read, and watch the sun rise from there. And in the evenings, we all gather there after school, homework, and work are done. We sit around, share our day, or watch a game together. 

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