A few small words with enormous meaning

I’ve said it many times before, but it’s worth repeating: ROC USA has seen a tremendous amount of change since we launched almost six years ago. The Network is welcoming a new resident-owned community (ROC) about once a month. We’ve also added staff, developed new programs, launched this online community center and more.

But the change that excites me most, the one that really exemplifies who we are and my vision of ROC USA, is the addition of the ROC Association. The Association’s Directors are elected by ROCs across the country, and they also sit on the ROC USA Board of Directors. That means they serve as three of my 13 bosses.

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The first election yielded three community leaders who are working hard to guide our whole organization and find innovative ways to meet community needs. Colleen Preston of Cranberry Village in Carver, Mass., Natividad Seefeld of Park Plaza in Fridley, Minn., and Liz Wood of Duvall Riverside Village in Duvall, Wash., bring a unique perspective to our Board: that of homeowners, ROC USA’s ultimate customers.

For me personally, this change to our structure – this reaching out and pulling ROC leaders in and in close – is a true reflection of me and, as the founding president, an element of what we’re doing that I am very proud of. Long after I am gone, I am now assured of one thing: ROC USA will always have ROC leaders themselves at the helm of the organization, helping pick presidents and set priorities. In the end, I truly believe we are “better together.”

That’s why I was so pleased and so excited that AARP Foundation, which is already a lender to ROC USA Capital (so it can in turn make loans available to resident corporation buyers) , reached out with a request to profile the ROC Association Directors on their website. Few people are eager to jump in front of a camera. It’s nerve-racking. It didn’t help that the AARP studios are pretty intimidating. Jane Pauley tapes her show there!

But boy, did Colleen, Natividad and Liz deliver!

I won’t spoil their video interviews by repeating much of what they said except for one excerpt from Liz Wood.

In this one particular clip, Liz talks about living in a home she owned atop rented land. Despite owning her home, she says she still felt like a renter, with little say over her future and without that feeling of security that comes with land ownership. She does a terrific job debunking the common misconception that today’s mobile homes are mobile.

But the clincher comes when Liz sums up what we at ROC USA and everyone in the ROC USA Network are working so hard to do: “What ROC USA did was connect my land to my house, which is the American Dream.”

I was floored.

So were Colleen and Natividad, who say the ROC Association should take that message and use it moving forward.

So was our communications and marketing manager, Mike Bullard. Mike was struck by what Liz was able to convey in only 16 words.

In 16 words, Liz gets to the heart of our mission.

In 16 words, she makes clear why this work and this mission are so vital — helping people realize and live the American Dream.

In 16 words, Liz elegantly and eloquently nailed what we’ve struggled to summarize in hundreds and hundreds of words.

I think every staff member at every Technical Assistance Provider, everyone here at ROC USA, and all of our Board members, donors and lenders will feel a little swell of pride and accomplishment when they hear Liz.

I certainly did.

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