CHP Announces 2012 Employees of the YearPosted on Jan 28th, 2013
Each year, CHP recognizes employees who have demonstrated exemplary services that help the organization further its mission to create sustainable, affordable housing across the southeast. The following five staff members were recently honored for their professional commitment and hard work as CHP’s 2012 Employees of the Year. Congratulations to each of these deserving recipients!
Dr. John Banks
Resident Services Coordinator
Horizon House and Sunset Apartments
In the eight years Resident Services Coordiantor Dr. John Banks has served at Horizon House and Sunset Apartments, he has developed a reputation for an ominpresent smile and “ready willingness to either feed you or give you the shirt off his back--whichever your need happens to be at the moment,” says Regional Resident Resident Services Coordinator Jessica Overstreet. “He is always looking out for the best interests of his residents.” The jolly gentleman, who several years ago founded Gainesville Community Action Agency and boasts 30 years of youth education experience, is also recognized by his superivsors for his exceptional level of commitment to his job, often putting in far more than the expected 20 hours of work per week and displaying an eagerness to tackle tasks that are put before him “no matter what challenges they bring.”
Regional Property Manager John Skaro applauds Banks for his dedication and “the amazing results and resources he brings to both residents and staff of Horizon/Sunset. I am honored that Dr. Banks works in my region and am proud to call him my friend.”
Banks has indeed accomplished much for the Gainesville community, including the following achievements in 2012:
• Served 42 children in the after-school program at Horizon/Sunset.
• Scheduled numerous successful and relevant community events with high levels of resident appreciation, including a NeighborWorks Week neighborhood beautification project, a Summer Splash Party, and a fall festival.
• Worked with the local food bank to deliver a summer feeding program four days each week in June, July, and August. Fifty children were served and a total of 798 meals were distributed for an average of 16 meals per child.
• Hosted a monthly USDA food distribution at Horizon/Sunset that served not only CHP residents but the larger Gainesville community. An average of 182 families per month receive food assistance.
• Managed a cadre of 15 volunteers who provided 862 hours of services to the residents of Horizon/Sunset.
• Developed nine solid community partners who have provided $45,429 in service delivery, donations, or in-kind goods to Horizon/Sunset. Perhaps one of the most successful partners Banks has built is with the University of Florida’s Shands Mobile Health Clinic. This amazing partnership brings the clinic onsite twice per month to provide a full range of healthcare services to residents.
When asked about his passion for helping the residents in his community Banks simply states, “This work is my mission. I love to help those less fortunate, whether it be with a hunger issue, trouble paying a utility bill, or some other life challenge. This work keeps me alive.” Banks says that working for CHP is particularly rewarding. “I am happy to work with a company that helps promote resident sustainability, because not all housing managers do that. CHP cares about its residents, and that matters to me.”
Banks adds that CHP is also remarkable for the way it treats its employees. “I was so surprised when I found out I had been named an Employee of the Year that I started crying!” he exclaims. “I do what I do because I love it, not for the recognition, but it is nice to know your efforts have made an impact. There is a sweet spirit of family and unity at CHP.”
Cedar Square Apartments
Regional Property Manager Melissa Stamper recalls that when CHP first bought Cedar Square apartments in 2009, “it was talked about by the community and the local sheriff’s department as a troubled property. There were vacant units, no people signed up on the waiting list to get in, no play area for the children, no community involvement or interaction, nightly calls of water leaks due plumbing problems, and a maintenance staff vacancy.” In short, Cedar Square was a hard place to work or live. Yet despite the hardships awaiting her, newly-hired Property Manager Shannon Leath took these challenges on and never threw in the towel. She personally responded to the continual water leak calls, cleaned up water, and remained at the resident’s apartment until other CHP maintenance or contractors could arrive.
Since coming on board, Leath has also helped facilitate the installation of a new playground and coordinated weatherization work performed on the apartments so that residents now enjoy new HVAC units, appliances, and low-flow toilets and shower heads. Cedar Square now even has a waiting list!
In addition to keeping the property operating smoothly, Leath has organized resident gatherings such as community festivals, safety events with representatives from the local fire and rescue departmentrs, Earth Day projects, and more. The positive changes to Cedar Square have not gone unnoticed, with even the local sheriff’s department recently thanking CHP and Leath for the remarkable improvements.
She has also gone the extra mile to help CHP with qualifying residents for tax credit allocations at soon-to-be purchased Rivermont Apartments and has assisted with the training of new Rural Development property managers in the region. “Shannon has been a great team player,” comments Compliance Manager Chrystal Strickler. “She went over to nearby Rivermont Apartments to help with certification paperwork and quickly learned how to fill out the complicated tax credit forms. Shannon played a huge part in CHP getting at least 65 residents to complete the applications. She then volunteered to meet some other residents in future weeks that were unable to make it while she was there. She also helped our development team gather paperwork necessary for the relocation of Rivermont residents when we begin our reonvation work there. She has done this without expecting anything in return, even wanting to pay for lunch out of her own pocket. I am sure I speak for everyone when I say we truly appreciate her hard work.”
Says Leath, her efforts are all in a day’s work. “I enjoy doing my job because I really feel like I’m helping residents in their lives,” she explains. “It’s an honor to work for CHP. It’s been life-changing. There are so many things I’ve learned, places I’ve gone, people I’ve met since I’ve been here. It’s been a wonderful journey so far.”
Energy Services, Rehab Division
“John O’Donnell represents the ideal employee and sets and example for others every day,” says Vice President of Energy Services Bill Beachy. “Whenever there is a need, John is there to fill it. If it means sitting at the computer, putting on his carpenter’s belt, coming in early, staying late, or coming in on Saturday, John is there and is happy to be there. John believes strongly in CHP and is constantly scanning
for ways to improve our services, efficiency, and procedures. I cannot express how valuable he has been to me and to CHP.”
As a project manager with the rehab division our energy services department since 2011, O'Donnell's dedication and commitment to CHP and to the community is proven every day he shows up to work, starting with the respect and compassion he shows for his clients. Beachy describes O'Donnell's demeanor when working with customers as one of concern and the highest level of professionalism and poise. In addition to his excellent customer service, O'Donnell has been instrumental in the explosive growth of the rehab department, working incredibly hard to visit potential new clients as quickly as possible, complete projects on time and on budget, juggle the varying requirements of multiple funding and regulatory programs, and develop and refine our processes with sub-contractors.
According to Beachy, O'Donnell also puts every effort into working across CHP departments to help further integrate its services. Utilizing his research and knowledge of ASHRAE 62.2, he undertook the renovation proposal process at CHP-owned and managed Johnson Williams Apartments, winning our Energy Services team the ventilation work and helping the department’s bottom line while fostering inter-departmental relationships. He also worked with CHP’s homownership team on a proposal to perform a whole-house rehab project. Additionally, O'Donnell strives to maximize CHP’s efficiency and quality, researching and evaluating on his own initiative numerous industry-related products that should enhance our weatherization work, such as a plug with drywall paper that will allow a much faster repair when holes are made in a home in order to blow insulation into the walls.
And just as he works to find better products, O'Donnell is committed to self-improvement. “He is always eager to supplement his knowledge and increase skill level,” explains Beachy. “Not only does he jump at every opportunity to take classes at NRCERT, NeighborWorks, and online, but he is eager to pursue actual certifications. I have often heard from his teachers that O'Donnell is one of the smartest in the class.” He is close to being certified as a Rehab Specialist, has accumulated credits towards a certification for Single-Family Construction Manager, and is pursuing his Master
Electrician certification. He has expressed interest in pursuing his Master Plumber and Master HVAC certifications as well—even though this often means working on his own time.
It’s probably no surprise then that O'Donnell also helps others with their professional growth, such as when he volunteered to help develop and implement a training program for all of CHP’s weatherization technicians after recognizing a need for
further education on roofing and potential leaks. He made several roof props consisting of different materials to mimic situations in the field and went with multiple crews to actual jobs and worked with them on site to demonstrate proper
techniques. O'Donnell then made a large prop to instruct crew members on proper wiring and developed a grading/scoring system in order to qualify each employee’s attentiveness, attitude, and level of understanding.
“I really like my job because I enjoy interacting with with our clients and knowing you’re making a difference in people’s lives. I get to see first-hand just how much something like a new roof means to these folks and they are usually very grateful for what we do,” says O'Donnell. “The people are what make this job so rewarding.”
Skip Slocum has already accomplished a great deal and contributed significantly to the improvement of CHP Realty’s customer service in the year and a half he has been with the company, says Director of Homeownership and Principal Broker Kamilia Lawson.
One area in which he has excelled is the remarkable number of designations he has received in such a short amount of time, including the Accredited Buyer Representative, EcoBroker, and EarthAdvantage certifications which equip him with the green building knowledge he needs to better serve our clients and sell our products. He is also a certified VHDA (Virginia Housing Development Authority) Homebuyer Education Trainer and is certified by the NeighborWorks Center for Homeownership Education and Counseling in Pre-Purchase Counseling and Post-Purchase Homeowner Education. Slocum is currently taking a real estate brokerage class to further his knowledge base and plans to sit for the Virginia real estate broker exam, which if he successfully passes, will result in a promotion to Associate Broker
of CHP Realty.
As if he was not busy enough, Slocum is also very active in the industry and represents us well in the community. He is a member of the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) Committee for the New River Valley Association of Realtors and was instrumental in adding and improving the data fields and criteria available to real estate agents and appraisers in an effort to “green” our local MLS.
According to Lawson, Slocum stood out early in his CHP career. “During my maternity leave, after only four months on the job, Skip led our brokerage and business continued as usual with home sales closings occurring without any delays due
to my absence. His strength as a team member and leadership potential really showed bright during this time”. Slocum has since gone on to provide homebuyer education to 77 household and sold 28 homes. Additionally, he has conducted
significant marketing and outreach to employers, real estate agents, and others which has increased our customer base and improved the visibility and reputation of CHP Homeownership and CHP Realty.
Customers also sing Slocum's praises, with one new homeseller writing that “from the beginning, Skip was attentive to our needs, very responsive to any questions or concerns we may have had, personable and professional, and very dependable and reliable. He turned a difficult situation for us into a pleasant and easy experience. He worked hard on our behalf and always provided good counsel and sound advice. He was everything a realtor should be and we will always be very appreciative of that.” Another happy client had a similar sentiment, saying that Slocum's easy manner and
no-pressure expertise in an industry frought with many confusing claims and requirements was “such a gift.”
Slocum chalks his success up to the fact that he truly enjoys what he does. “When I first saw there was an opening at CHP in the homeownership division, I felt like the job description was written just for me. Especially the ‘green’ aspects of my job, which was perfect for my career interests and my conscience. I also feel fortunate to be at CHP because they have given me a chance to grow my skills and expertise.” Upon learning he was a 2012 Employee of the Year, Slocum says he was very surprised but found the honor “validating. You don’t always know if you’re completely on target with the work you do, and it was great to find out that people are pleased with the results.”
Resident Services Coordinator
Cross Creek and Ansell Gardens Apartments
As the Resident Services Coordinator at both Ansell Gardens and Cross Creek Apartments, Tonya Speller is always taking the lead when it comes to enriching the lives of the residents and communities she serves, says Senior Regional Resident Services Coordinator Tiffany Little. “Most supervisors and organizations wish
they had more employees like Tonya. Her dedication to CHP, her clients, and the community is exceptional!”
According to Little, Speller works hard to bring valuable resources to her residents but also engages them in service projects throughout Portsmouth so that they are connected with the needs of the larger community. Examples of this social stewardship include a resident initiatiave to collect hats for the homeless and a partnership with the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia’s mobile pantry to help feed over 142 families. When possible, Speller is keen to expose the residents to even broader opportunities and experiences such as when she encouraged more than twenty individuals to enter a National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA) poster contest and three residents to apply for a NAHMA adult education scholarship. She also helped an afterschool program participant win third place in the Virginia Saves Piggy Bank Contest. Highlights of Speller's work in 2012 also include:
• Being awarded for the highest number of adult and child participants in Resident Services’ financial literacy program, Building Bucks.
• Assisting property management staff with the prevention of nineteen evictions at a cost savings of approximately $76,000.
• Securing over $35,500 in cash and in-kind donations from partners.
• Working with partners to serve more than 6,500 meals to children participating in the Ansell Gardens and Cross Creek after-school and summer programs.
“Tonya is a motivator and an innovator. She’s on the front lines and always ready and willing to help,” states Cross Creek Apartments Property Manager Lateefah Owens-Hughes. Little agrees with Owens-Hughes in this assessment, adding that Speller is remarkable for always giving 110% in effort and successfully completing tasks simply because she considers a job well done “the right thing to do.”
“Helping residents is the best part of my job,” explains Speller, “and I don’t mind working hard for them. It’s what I really enjoy and why I love working in Resident Services so much. I just do what I do, but being an Employee of the Year is a happy surprise because it reminds me that people appreciate the work.”