FHLBI Launches Pilot Program to Build Community Development Capabilities

“We saw a need to help people—particularly those in rural communities—learn how to get started in developing a plan for improving their community,” said MaryBeth Wott, Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis’ Community Investment Officer. “That’s the reason we created the Mentoring Communities program.”

Participants in roundtable discussion at Mentoring CommunitiesOn November 1, 2016, FHLBI’s Community Investments team piloted a new educational opportunity, Mentoring Communities, in partnership with Martinsville-based Home Bank. The day-long program brings together a group of residents and stakeholders to help them lay the ground work for realistic and meaningful community development.

Sharing knowledge

The program helps community leaders see possible solutions to the challenges they face by presenting the successful ways other communities have tackled the same problems.

“There is a lot of benefit in learning from others who have gone before you, especially in the area of community development where so much depends upon doing the right things, in the right order, with the right people,” said Trish Lewis, a manager at FHLBI responsible for developing the program. “We have found what really helps is a mentoring model. And that’s what Mentoring Communities provides—a space where those who’ve been successful can share ideas and resources with those still in the trenches or developing new programs.”

Roundtable discussion at Mentoring CommunitiesHome Bank President and CEO Dan Moore (black suit in photo to the left) agreed. “There are things you don’t know you don’t know until someone who does know points them out to you. Mentoring Communities helped stimulate an ongoing conversation here.”

Turning a corner?

Moore, who is also a member of FHLBI’s Board of Directors, said the seminar had already proven beneficial to the residents of Martinsville and Mooresville.

“Martinsville has not really experienced the recovery other areas have,” Dan said. “We’re trying to deal with homelessness and many other poverty issues—and we’re struggling. Helping people overcome poverty can seem overwhelming, but it’s nice to know that there are successful programs out there.

“It’s tough when you discover your community is struggling. That’s hard to accept. But to get people to look forward, which is what Mentoring Communities did, and to hear the success stories of others—that takes some of the sting away.”

Sidebar: Topics discussed at the Mentoring Communities SidebarCollaborators have already reached out to the Martinsville community as a result of the day-long program.

“We’ve been contacted by a group out of Bloomington that is interested in opening a project to address rural homelessness,” Dan said. “This fits perfectly with the Affordable Housing Program grant we just received from FHLBI for Stability First, a local organization that addresses the need for transitional housing for homeless women.”

Stability First is creating 16 units of 4-bed dorm-style rooms called Magdalene House. Part of the program also provides community and enrichment services for the women to help them move out of homelessness and into independent living.

MaryBeth said FHLBI hopes to expand the Mentoring Communities program in the coming year, offering area-specific knowledge and guidance to other communities in Michigan and Indiana.