NEWLY ELECTED MAHC BOARD MEMBER
“My board and myself work hard to keep our property safe and clean so that our children can have a great place to live”, declares MAHC’s new Board Member, Karen Mitchell. Karen, mother of six children, and Nanny to 17 grandchildren, is indeed no stranger to hard work. Born and raised in Gary, Indiana, she started out working in a steel mill. When her position was phased out in 1998, she moved into the Grandville Cooperative in Indianapolis and a community activist was born. She ran for the board in 2003, and has been serving ever since. Today Karen is the chair to the senior services committee and has been the president at her Cooperative since 2005.
Karen began attending MAHC conferences in 2005 when she was part of a “problem” board in her community. Not a fan of flying, she drove all the way to Florida for this event because she knew the information and guidance would be necessary to re-build a more effective board. Karen was determined to change her community’s image, and credits MAHC for educating and encouraging her to reach this goal.
Karen was voted onto the MAHC Board last May, and is excited to teach her first class at this year’s conference. She plans to speak about, “How to be you and still be professional”, and will focus on communicating with hard to deal with members. Karen says the biggest challenge facing most cooperatives today is, “motivating members and getting them to appreciate the cooperative and not treat it like an apartment”. For example, “When they call us to change their light bulbs, I tell them to go to the store and change it!” Karen’s approach to this problem is to orientate each new member herself so that they can’t say they weren’t aware. She feels that by educating her members, she enables them to be the best contributors to their cooperatives and adds, “You can’t appreciate something you don’t know you’re getting!”
Karen appreciates her relationship with MAHC for many reasons, but especially for all the training and networking. She thinks it’s important not to let her new position go to her head, and would like to thank MAHC for the valuable new friendships she’s gained. Karen has benefited most from hearing what works or doesn’t work for other coops because this alleviates the need for trial and error in her own community. “Learning from other’s mistakes or good ideas is a fast track to success”, says Karen.