New Beginnings for NASCSP

— By Steve Payne, NASCSP Board President —

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.
Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)

Maya Angelou's Butterfly

As you know better than most, the recession may be over, but life is still as hard as it’s ever been for the people we serve. Hard-working families, squeezed between stagnant wages and rising costs, are learning what it’s like to raise their children in poverty or even to find themselves homeless. It’s a complete upending of the conventional wisdom on which they were raised. Those of us who serve them experience a similar upending. Our time-tested strategies, like Community Action, are met with more skepticism than ever. As it is for the people we serve, survival requires innovation, new skills, and not a little courage.

Even so, I believe that the state Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) and Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) managers will rise to meet the challenges of our times. They’ll make the necessary changes to support the work of the Community Action network in securing and sustaining an equitable future for our country. That’s not blind optimism.  I know the dedication each of you and the incredible team of people at NASCSP bring each day to the effort on behalf of vulnerable families and communities.

No one embodies this dedication more than Timothy Warfield, who has just retired after 15 years at the helm of NASCSP. We’ll miss him very much, but those who know him well also know he’s not capable of retirement in any conventional sense of the word. We’re all deeply grateful for his wise leadership and humble service, and I’m glad to know that in his future projects Tim will continue to co-labor with us, supporting this network with his expertise, ideas, and, I hope, his infamous but endlessly illuminating stories.

I’m also delighted to commend to you NASCSP’s new executive director, Jenae Bjelland. Jenae’s roots run deep with Community Action and NASCSP. A veteran advocate and certified Results Oriented Management and Accountability (ROMA) trainer, her career in community action began at a local Community Action Agency. She later served as Oregon’s CSBG & ROMA Program Manager.

Many of you already know Jenae best from her time here at NASCSP, first as the Director of Research and most recently as Director of Healthy Homes. In that role, Jenae implemented the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Weatherization Plus Health initiative, a national effort for comprehensive strategic coordination of resources for energy, health, and safety in low-income homes.

Jenae knows that we need to create an economy that supports our nation’s most vulnerable populations. She’ll help us build broader, stronger networks across communities and legislative priorities even as she keeps us focused on our own mission. She looks forward to partnering with each of you to design effective strategies and inspire action toward a more effective and results-driven service delivery system.

Please join me in welcoming Jenae as NASCSP’s third executive director. We have plenty of work to do together, and we’re excited to have Jenae leading our team through this season of change.