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J. Walter Tejada Honored for Affordable Housing Leadership

Faces of AHC

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Long-time advocacy and support of affordable housing in Arlington

AHC Inc. is honored to welcome the Honorable J. Walter Tejada into its Housing Hall of Fame. “We are proud to present this award to Mr. Tejada  in recognition of his outstanding leadership and public service on behalf of the people of Arlington County and in appreciation for his tireless advocacy to preserve and expand affordable housing for low-income families,” said AHC President and CEO, Walter D. Webdale.

AHC Inc., a nonprofit affordable housing developer based in Arlington, VA, established its Housing Hall of Fame 15 years ago to honor individuals for their vision, dedication and advocacy on behalf of affordable housing. The award was presented as part of AHC Inc.’s 40th Anniversary celebration.

Mr. Tejada served on the Arlington County Board for almost 13 years (2003 to 2015). He has been actively engaged in local issues since moving to Arlington in 1992. He is a strong proponent of affordable housing with a deep commitment to providing decent housing for Arlington’s most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged residents.

His commitment to affordable housing has its roots in personal experience. He and his family moved from El Salvador to Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York City when he was 13. He saw his mother struggle to pay the rent while living in a tough neighborhood.

In Arlington, he became involved in community issues through a local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Mr. Tejada devoted many hours to building awareness about the Latino community in Arlington and helped start the Community Volunteer Network and the Shirlington Employment and Education Center.

He served on several citizen advisory groups, including the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission, the Affordable Housing Task Force, the Sports Commission, and the Neighborhood Day Organizing Committee before being elected to the County Board in 2003. Fighting to prevent the displacement of 3,700 low-income residents in Arna Valley in the 1990s crystallized his commitment to affordable housing.

“In the Latino culture, we don’t want other people to go homeless, we help each other,” explained  Mr. Tejada. “By the time I joined the Arlington County Board, affordable housing had become front and center for me – and it has never stopped being a high priority.”

His commitment has made a significant impact over the years. He helped push for dedicated funding for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF), a loan fund that helps bridge the funding gap for affordable housing projects. He was also instrumental in preserving the Buckingham Garden apartments and the successful development of Arlington Mill, which provides affordable housing along with community space on public land.

Other Housing Hall of Fame honorees include: Dr. Leonard L. Hamlin, Sr., Pastor of the Macedonia Baptist Church; Patricia McGrady, decades-long affordable housing activist and volunteer; Rick Nelson, former Director of Montgomery County’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs; and Harkins Builders, long-time AHC business partner and supporter.

Photo:  Virginia leaders celebrate AHC’s Housing Hall of Fame honorees for their dedication, vision and advocacy of affordable housing in Arlington. From left to right:  Virginia State Senator Barbara Favola; Virginia State Senator Adam Ebbin; Dr. Leonard L. Hamlin, Sr., Honoree; Patricia McGrady, Honoree; J. Walter Tejada, Honoree and former Arlington County Board member; Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Jay Fisette; and Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey. 

 

Three Generations Living in Alexandria Neighborhood

AHC Faces

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Affordable Housing Helps Family Maintain Neighborhood Roots

Rosa Byrd has lived in Alexandria’s Lynhaven neighborhood for more than 50 years. Many of her family live nearby, including her 25-year-old granddaughter, Chanel Yancey, who recently moved into AHC’s Jackson Crossing apartment community. “I like the convenient location and it’s nice to be close to family,” says Chanel, who works for the Alexandria City Public Schools.

Chanel’s mother, Patricia Yancey, grew up in the neighborhood and attended the nearby Cora Kelly Elementary School. Today, she lives a few blocks from her mother, Rosa, and commutes to work with her daughter.  “I love that. I see her every day,” says Patricia. “If she had to live somewhere else, it would have changed the dynamics of our family.”

Rosa believes Jackson Crossing provides much-needed housing options in the neighborhood. “I have a lot of friends who have had to relocate out of Alexandria,” she says. “Their hearts are here, but they have to live outside the community because of the cost of living. This is a great way to help people stay in the city because it’s gotten so expensive. I’m grateful my granddaughter is living here. She was looking for a place where she could live on her own.”

Along with deep roots in Lynhaven, both Rosa and Patricia have served in a wide variety of local leadership roles, including the PTA, civic association and election board. “I honestly believe no matter where you live, you should be part of the community,” says Rosa. In 2012, the mother/daughter team was honored by the Senior Services of Alexandria for their legacy of service. That legacy continues through the third generation; Chanel also serves as an election official like her mother and grandmother.

Rosa’s long-time community involvement has been widely recognized. In 2013, she was named a Living Legend of Alexandria, and Alexandria News honored her as Alexandrian of the Year in 2014.

Rosa, who retired after 30 years with the Alexandria City Public School System, and her husband, Jack, who worked with the Metro Bus System for nearly 40 years, thoroughly enjoy living so close to family in Lynhaven. Together, they have six siblings who live within several blocks. Over the years, more than 20 children in the family have attended Cora Kelly School.

“My family is the crown jewel of my life,” says Byrd. “One of my blessings is that when they grew up, they wanted to come back to live in Alexandria.”

Photo: Three generations of the Byrd family live in Alexandria’s Lynhaven neighborhood. From left to right: Patricia Yancey, Rosa Byrd and Chanel Yancey. 

Carlton Miller and Steve Smith

AHC Faces

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35 Years in the Affordable Housing Industry

Carlton Miller and Steve Smith are AHC’s longest-serving staff members. The organization would not be the same without their talents, expertise and warmth. Both have contributed immeasurably to AHC’s growth over the years.

Steve was drawn to AHC’s mission of social justice. Fresh out of graduate school, he was AHC’s second employee. The office didn’t have a copier, computer or even a fax machine. His primary tools were a manual typewriter and a calculator. Now Senior Vice President, Steve is involved in almost all aspects of the organization. He is tremendously proud of how AHC has grown over the years. “I enjoy feeling like we are making a difference,” he says.

Carlton’s original role was to help rehab homes for low-income families. He was sold on the organization after helping an elderly woman on a fixed income repair her roof. “I realized I could come to work every day and help people,” he explains. “What more can you ask for?” Now Vice President of Construction, Carlton manages the many aspects of AHC’s construction projects. “My goal is to help the company build and renovate at a reasonable cost with the highest quality we can possibly get.”

Photo: Carlton Miller (left) and Steve Miller have both worked at AHC for more than 35 years. 

Patti Sanner & Rosemarie Harrington/Reading Specialists

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Reading Specialists Help Struggling Readers Succeed

Patti Sanner and Rosemarie Harrington have helped dozens of children build literacy skills since they began working with AHC as part-time reading specialists nearly seven years ago. Each works one-on-one for about 30 minutes a week with children who have been identified as struggling readers.

Their dedication is one of the reasons AHC’s students are succeeding. Last year, all of the 28 students Patti and Rosemarie worked with improved at least a year’s worth of progress in their reading ability. Six struggling readers advanced more than a year. “If we catch the children at a young age, we can help them catch up,” explains Rosemarie. “It’s a joy to help them get over hurdles and to figure out how each child connects to reading.”

Patti believes the program’s team approach also contributes to children’s success. “It takes a village,” she says. “Everyone contributes to making learning more accessible and positive, from the managers to the volunteers. And because we work with different siblings over time, we are part of the families, too.”

Photo: Rosemarie Harrington (left) and Patti Sanner help bring the joy of reading to struggling readers.

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Riad Abdulmoniem / Volunteer

1129 Morris Ave Bronx #2

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Teen Volunteer Pays It Forward

Riad is a junior in high school who volunteers with AHC’s After-School program once a week. His family’s connection to AHC’s Resident Services program began more than 15 years ago when his family arrived in Arlington from Sudan.

None of his three siblings spoke English and they found the community center at Harvey Hall to be a lifeline. “Joy Rambert (AHC Resident Services manager) and my tutors were like a second family and supported me every step,” explains Riad’s oldest brother, Abdul.

The consistent encouragement paid off. Today, Abdul has successfully graduated from medical school and is applying for residencies, his sister is pursuing a degree in dentistry and another brother is majoring in computer science at Marymount University. Riad is also exploring the idea of a medical career.

As a busy teenager, why does Riad make the time to volunteer? “Harvey Hall helps change lives,” he explains. “Volunteers helped me, my sister and my brothers get ahead. Now it’s time for me to repay the favor and pay it forward.”

Photo: Riad enjoys volunteering with AHC’s Resident Services program, which has helped his family succeed for more than 15 years. (Photo: Brian Stanton)