Kevin White, an assistant vice president at NHT-Enterprise, is a member of the Friendship Court Advisory Committee, which was formed in February 2016. The committee is providing guidance to the Piedmont Housing Alliance in two primary areas: physical revitalization and community life. On the committee, Kevin represents NHT-Enterprise, which will remain part of the ownership group when Friendship Court is redeveloped. NHT-Enterprise is excited to continue its partnership with Piedmont Housing as Friendship Court enters a new chapter of what affordable housing looks and feels like in Charlottesville.
NHT-Enterprise is a joint effort of the National Housing Trust, a not-for-profit affordable housing advocate based in Washington, D.C., and Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., a real estate investment services company focused on affordable housing. As a nonprofit affordable housing developer and owner, NHT-Enterprise’s mission is to preserve and improve affordable housing for low-income residents. Since 1999, NHT-Enterprise has preserved over 5,000 homes in ten states and the District of Columbia. In 2002, NHT-Enterprise partnered with Piedmont Housing to acquire Friendship Court (then called Garrett Square) and complete a significant renovation, thereby stabilizing the property and preserving its affordability.
Before joining NHT-Enterprise, Kevin was a real estate development director at the national office of Volunteers of America. He has worked in the affordable housing development field since 1995. Kevin started his career in community development as an AmeriCorps*VISTA community organizer, assisting Habitat for Humanity homeowners in creating neighborhood-based homeowner’s associations. Kevin holds a master’s degree in Community Planning from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston. He also serves on the board of St. Mary’s Housing Corporation, which owns five affordable housing properties in Northern Virginia serving low-income seniors. Kevin and his family live in Washington, D.C.
Myrtle Houchens, a former resident of Friendship Court, is a member of Friendship Court’s redevelopment advisory committee, which was formed in February 2016. The committee will provide guidance to the Piedmont Housing Alliance in two primary areas: physical revitalization and community life.
You could say that Myrtle wrote the book on community life at Friendship Court, as the driving force behind establishing the neighborhood’s community center. “It wasn’t just housing,” she says of her 22 years living at Friendship Court (then called Garrett Square), “it was home.” Although she hasn’t lived there for almost a decade, and both of her own children have grown up and graduated from college, Myrtle faithfully returns to “her” Friendship Court community center for several weeks each summer to run a kids’ cafe, providing nightly dinners for the neighborhood’s children.
As a single mother, Myrtle originally moved to the neighborhood from Louisa County in the 1970s to be closer to UVA Medical Center, because her son required regular visits to the hospital. For the past 29 years, Myrtle has worked for Charlottesville schools and parks and recreation, as an instructional assistant (first at Clark Elementary School and now at Venable), and in neighborhood community centers. For her unwavering commitment to others, Myrtle was named one of the Daily Progress’s “distinguished dozen” in 2009. In the paper’s profile, it was noted that “[s]aying ‘no’ just doesn’t seem to be part of Myrtle Houchens’ vocabulary.” The advisory committee is so fortunate that this dynamic and inspiring community advocate has said “yes” to providing leadership in the neighborhood’s redevelopment efforts.
Bill Edgerton is a member of the Friendship Court Advisory Committee, formed in February 2016. The committee will provide guidance to Piedmont Housing Alliance in two primary areas: physical revitalization and community life. As a member of the committee, Bill hopes to integrate his knowledge of energy efficiency and minimizing the negative impacts of indoor air quality.
In 2002, Bill was privileged to provide pro bono architectural services to Friendship Court (then called Garrett Square) when the Piedmont Housing Alliance and the National Housing Trust assumed the responsibility of renovating and managing the complex.
Bill has practiced as an architect in Charlottesville for nearly thirty years. His professional focus has always been on energy efficiency and environmentally sustainable affordable design. Bill is a former member of the Albemarle County Planning Commission.
Regina Vaughan, affectionately known to her charges as “Miss Regina,” has been working with Friendship Court’s children and youth (ages 8 and up) for most of the 15 years that she’s been employed by the City of Charlottesville’s Parks and Recreation department as a community center employee. Regina supervises homework and activities, plans monthly field trips, helps celebrate holidays and special occasions, and has even started an essay writing contest to recognize Black History Month. “Last year,” she says “we had five essays. This year we had twelve.”
Regina remembers what it was like when she and her younger sister were the new kids in town in elementary school, after moving to Charlottesville from Ohio. It was not always easy navigating her neighborhood as a newcomer, and she draws on these memories as she provides a steady adult presence for the young people under her watch. What does she think the kids at the community center get from her? “Attention, love, knowing someone cares about them.”
When older kids she knew in their younger days see her around town, greeting her warmly, she reflects “I feel pretty good that I touched somebody’s heart over the years.”
Regina is the mother of two grown children, a son and daughter, and grandmother to two grandsons. “Most of the kids here call me ‘Ms. Regina,’” but she knows she fills a different role for each child in her care, each with his or her own needs. Sometimes, she admits, the children can be a handful as they struggle with life’s challenges and learn to negotiate conflict—just as it was when she was growing up. She is at Friendship Court three days a week now, and the other two days each week at Tonsler Park. At the end of the work day, Ms. Regina says, “when I leave I always think – God, did I do a good job today? He always finds a way to let me know that I did.”
Betty Lowry is one of seven residents of Friendship Court nominated and elected by her fellow residents, in February 2016, to serve on the Friendship Court Advisory Committee.
The committee, which meets regularly with the project’s design team, will be providing guidance to Piedmont Housing Alliance in two primary areas: physical revitalization and community life. From the outset of this ambitious and promising project, “Piedmont Housing is committed to placing residents at the center of the planning for the future of their own community and to translating their hopes and desires into design.”
Betty, who has lived at Friendship Court for twelve years, is retired and has grown children. She is excited to help with the planning process, and to get to know more of her fellow residents through her work on the committee.