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On a recent beautiful spring day in St. Louis, I had a rare break and decided to take a walk during the lunch hour. I was even dressed for it, wearing comfortable jeans and a Beyond Housing shirt - another rarity. I walked out of our beautiful new offices and headed east, toward Barack Obama Elementary School and Vetter Place Senior Apartments. As I got closer to the school, I began to hear the wonderful sounds of kids playing outside. Their jubilant laughter was heartwarming and infectious. When I arrived at the school, there had to be at least 100 kids playing outside One group included about 25 kids and a teacher holding a large circular rainbow colored blanket and waving it up and down. When it really got going, the teacher called a child’s name, and that child would shout in pure glee while running underneath the blanket. It brought a huge smile to my face.
Moving along, I walked towards Beachwood Avenue, made a left and headed north. Looking up the street, I could see ten homes built by the 24:1 CLT for new homeowners and another five homes built by Beyond Housing for those interested in renting. The further I moved away from the school the quieter it became. Midway down the block, all I could hear was the calming sound of the wind quietly rustling through the trees. In the moment, I was reminded of the fact that while 15 new homes had vastly improved the neighborhood, more needed to be done. Several homes were in poor condition, and the streets and sidewalks were in great need of repair.
As I continued up the block, a young woman holding a small child sat on the steps of one of our newer homes. Stopping to say hello, I greeted her with a smile and asked her how she liked the house – a question that brought a smile to her face and showed her pleasure with the home before she even spoke. As I came to the end of the block I bumped into Cheryl, one of our rental housing case managers. She looked surprised to see me walking up the street but excited to tell me about a home visit she’d just finished with one of our families that had gone well. I could tell Cheryl loved her job and cared for those we served. It made me smile again.
I then turned left heading west on Bircher - a cross street with no homes facing the street itself. As a dog barked in the distance, I saw several more homes that we’ve built and more homes in need of repair. Continuing on, I passed by several folks sitting on the back end of a pickup truck, and we greeted each other with smiles and hellos. With no sidewalks on Bircher, I stayed close to the curb as I passed Oakwood and Ravenwood. Coming up to Edgewood, I could hear cars rolling by with the birds singing in the background. I turned left on Beachwood and headed south back towards our new offices. As I approached, I could not help but be amazed by the size of our new building - 40,000 square feet. What a change from the modest single-family home when we first started in 1993! While my walk only took about 25 minutes, it was wonderful in every imaginable way. I am blessed to have this job and be part of this work.
I’ve been working in community development in the St. Louis area for 25 years, and I’ve been the CEO of Beyond Housing since 1993. While I’m proud of our accomplishments, I don’t claim to be an expert. At Beyond Housing, the experts we listen to are the voices of the community members we serve. I’ll be raising issues here that I believe matter to our community. I hope you’ll join the conversation. We do reserve the right not to post comments containing offensive language. To paraphrase Dr. King, we can disagree without being disagreeable.