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Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan Embraces Encore

Change comes easy for a nimble organization like the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan. Now in its tenth year, the organization is poised to embark on its own second act, and appropriately, it looked to the Encore movement to spark additional thinking and provide new support.    

Encore Fellows Tera Qualls and Jane Royer started working with Healthy Homes in March of 2016 and already changes are underway!  Understanding that people are its greatest resource, Healthy Homes Coalition along with Tera and Jane, examined how the organization might use staff, volunteers, and its client base to reach more children and families. The ultimate goal is to provide advocacy and outreach to dramatically increase the number of environmentally safe homes for kids.

An early win occurred when Tera and Jane reviewed job responsibilities with staff and found a quick way to give staff extra time through the use of skilled Encore volunteers. Rather than employ staff to install air conditioners for children with asthma triggers, three Encore volunteers handled the installation for twelve families across Kent County. It was not just a job for handymen; the task involved teamwork among the volunteers and staff, problem-solving as adjustments were needed for the installation, and relationship-building skills when the volunteers entered the homes and provided information to families, some of whom were non-English speakers.

In addition to utilizing the talent of older adults, a broader tenet of the Encore program is to engage talent and experience from a variety of sources as needed. To this point, Healthy Homes recently incorporated a committee, comprised of parents who receive services, into their work. Tera and Jane helped to encourage this direction. The parents are providing excellent insights and ideas, and one of them was recently hired for a full-time paid staff position at Healthy Homes. The intention is for more parents to help drive the work and have a direct hand in producing the results that are so important to them.

The next step in Tera and Jane’s work with Healthy Homes is to put together a think tank of Encore adults who will help the Healthy Homes team discover the best ways the organization can educate the community, increase broader funding for operation support, and potentially expand the Healthy Homes team to include staff focused on community advocacy, policy change, and fundraising.

Tera and Jane are inspired by their work with Healthy Homes Coalition and look forward to launching new work with Family Futures and The Red Project in coming months. Stay tuned for more information about how Encore is reshaping and enhancing the work of nonprofits in Kent County.

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