Remarkable Women in Housing and Community Development, Then and Now

Fahe | March 14, 2024
HomeSource east Tennessee President & Chief Executive Officer Jackie Mayo receives a Leadership Award from Fahe President Sara Morgan at the 2023 Fahe Annual Meeting.

Remarkable Women in Housing and Community Development, Then and Now

Working for justice has always required focus and grit. Women like Cushing Dolbeare have been up to the task. Her lifetime of advocacy centered on one principle: that decent housing is basic to our social fabric.

Dolbeare founded the National Low Income Housing Coalition in 1974. It operated out of her garage with virtually no budget to share timely, factual, nonpartisan data about the realities of homelessness in America. One of her revelatory claims was that existing policies favored the rich and hurt the poor, which she deduced by comparing codified tax-based subsidies for homeowners and budget-dependent subsidies for low-income housing assistance.

In 1989, Dolbeare crafted the methodology for and was the author of the Coalition’s first edition of “Out of Reach: The Gap Between Housing Costs and Income of Poor People in the United States.” Continually in print and updated annually, this widely-cited report remains a pivotal part of the conversation regarding the problems of affordable housing on the national, state and local levels 30 years later.

Dolbeare was a principled, articulate advocate for housing access for fifty years and a mentor for countless housing advocates and researchers. “Cushing was the godmother of the affordable housing advocacy movement,” Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) said in a statement. He added that her “commitment, careful analysis and attention to the facts . . . made her respected by all.”

Learn more about Cushing Dolbeare here:

Sisters Led the Way

One of the many legacies of Dolbeare’s commitment is Fahe, which incorporated in 1980 as an Appalachian regional housing nonprofit.

Women were foundational to Fahe’s early success. Its first major investment, received in 1981, was from the Adrian Dominican Sisters. The Michigan-based sisters pooled their retirement savings to create a Community Investment Fund in 1978 to invest in communities and causes they care about. Since the inception of their loan fund, the Adrian Dominican Sisters have made 500 loans totaling more than $37 million.

Fahe’s CEO Jim King explains the importance of their trust to Fahe, saying, “The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ investment was essential to our early growth. They have been a consistent part of our mission, proving them not just to be pioneers but also mission-minded friends.”

Learn more about the role of the Adrian Domincan Sisters in community development here:

Celebrating Fahe Women Leaders

Thanks to the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ pioneering investment, Fahe’s network of 50+ nonprofits across the Appalachian portion of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, Alabama, and Maryland are bringing people, organizations, and resources together to build homes, communities, and a thriving Appalachia. Women continue to lead this justice work: twenty-five of Fahe’s 54 member organizations – 46% – are female-led.

Fahe President Sara Morgan states, “I am honored to have had the opportunity to learn from and to work with so many admirable women leaders in the Fahe Membership as we bring increased investments to our region, advocate for policy reform, and create solutions for Appalachian people and communities.”

Honor Roll:

Annie Cacheiro, Aid to Distressed Families of Appalachian Counties

Lisa Pierce, Alabama Rural Ministry

Lisa Barton, Appalachian Community Action & Development Agency

Melisa Winburn, Appalachia Service Project,

Wilma Kelley, Beattyville Housing and Development Corp.

Kathy Stark, Blount County Habitat for Humanity

Lisa Porter, Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority

Lindy Turner, Clinch-Powell Resource Conservation & Development Council

Carrie Lea, Community Action Agency of Northeast Alabama

Sarah Halcott, Creative Compassion, Inc.

Kathy Vanlandingham, Crossville Housing Authority

Sherry Trent, Eastern Eight Community Development Corporation

Christal Crouso, Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority

Angie Allen, Highlands Housing Corporation

Kate Somers, HomeOwnership Center

Jackie Mayo, HomeSource East Tennessee

Belinda Harness, Housing Authority of Mingo County

Mary Meade-McKenzie, Kentucky River Community Care

Elaine McVay, Mon Valley Habitat for Humanity

Mary Ellen Judah, Neighborhood Concepts, Inc.

Patricia McFarland, North Central West Virginia Community Action

Maria Catron, Oak Ridge Housing Authority

Cassie Hudson, Partnership Housing, Inc.

Anne Price, People’s Self-Help Housing, Inc.

Hope Cupit, Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, Inc.

Krystal Gibbons, Tennessee’s Community Assistance Corporation