This has been a year of transition, not just for NASCSP but across the country and the globe. While the pandemic continued to challenge public health systems and communities, many across the country, with the help of vaccines, returned to a new normal of public events and outings.
While the labor market tightened, recovering many of the jobs lost during the past couple of years, record-high inflation took hold and offset, or even outpaced, the gains in wages. Natural disasters like Hurricanes Fiona and Ian punctuated 2022, causing $29 billion in damages and the tragic loss of life here at home, while the war in Ukraine destabilized international relationships and caused energy and gas shortages worldwide.
In spite of the challenges, we faced this year, together we also have witnessed the awe-inspiring images sent back to Earth by the James Webb telescope, the largest in space. The swearing-in of Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court, and the enactment of the Respect for Marriage Act, which enshrines federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages, moved our nation steps closer to fuller justice for all.
Transition also was central to NASCSP in 2022. For the first time since the onset of the pandemic, we hosted an in-person training conference, bringing together our Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) and Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) partners to converge in Minneapolis. With the help of the Minnesota State CSBG and WAP State Offices, we offered training and fellowship opportunities to more than 400 registrants, making this year’s conference our most successful to date!
Over the year, NASCSP Program Staff hosted more than 60 webinars, visited more than half a dozen states, and responded to more than 250 grantee information requests! The WAP Team facilitated over 25 conference sessions along with three working groups. NASCSP’s CSBG Team had a productive year as well; highlights included stewarding the ACSI Promising Practices Work Group and State Management Work Groups – both of which conducted research over the course of the year that will inform future resources. Our Research Team tirelessly worked to collect, organize, and analyze data for the CSBG Annual Report and the WAP Annual Funding Survey.
Notably, this work took place against the backdrop of a significant transition in NASCSP’s history. Following the departure of Executive Director Jenae Bjelland, Interim Executive Director Jeannie Chaffin deftly stepped up to steward the organization as the board set out on its formal search for a permanent Executive Director.
On December 1, I officially took the helm of the organization, excited to bring my experience as an advocate and nonprofit executive to this role. I also came to NASCSP with an eagerness to connect its mission and work to my passion for expanding access to opportunities by underrepresented and marginalized individuals and communities. Throughout my career, it has been this work that has helped break down barriers and improve the lives of others—work that aligns with NASCSP’s values.
As you know well, CSBG and WAP have a long history of working to eliminate poverty and create safe, energy efficient homes for low-income people and families. As I think about that history and its successes, I also am aware of the challenges facing our members and the partners we serve. The past couple of years of transition have left many state offices and officials running on empty. Yet, look at all we accomplished together this year to keep families and communities from falling through the cracks! Look at the families we helped serve and the homes we helped weatherize and you can see NASCSP’s story at work.
I am delighted to share this story with our stakeholders. However, I cannot do it without your help. Looking ahead to 2023, I will be kicking off a “listening tour” to learn from you—our members. This tour will get me up to speed on the work you are doing in the states and will serve to lay the foundation for the advocacy work to build and strengthen relationships during the upcoming 118th Congress. I look forward to spending time with you and carrying your voices, successes, and needs forward.
When I think about what lies ahead in 2023, I am increasingly excited about building relationships with our members and sharing our work and values with new and existing stakeholders. When I think about all that 2022 brought forth, I am immensely grateful to those who carried the load in the midst of many transitions. I am thankful to Jeannie not only for steering the ship, but also for her guidance and insights as I came onboard. I also am thankful to the Board and Executive Committee for their support and trust throughout this process.
Most of all, I am grateful to have inherited a team of dedicated, smart, and talented consummate professionals who continue to produce the high-quality work you have grown to trust and depend upon. Thank you—Jonathan, Mary, Khari, Lauren, Muska, Bryce, Britt, Hugh, Andrea, and Raymond—for sharing your wisdom and making my transition such a smooth one.
Here’s to a new chapter in our journey together. Wishing you and yours peace and wisdom in 2023!