AHEAD embraces inclusion, diversity at annual meeting

by Angela Larcom

Mike Claflin of AHEADLITTLETON — The pandemic has forced non-profits to forge new communication and funding methods this year. AHEAD Housing embraced the challenge while planning its annual meeting that focused on messages of inclusion and diversity.

Annual meetings are a legal requirement and a crucial operational component for many non-profits. AHEAD made it an event, typically held at the Mount Washington Hotel in April.

Safety concerns led AHEAD organizers to opt for a delayed, virtual experience this year. With technical, audio and visual support from Phlume Media, the event live-streamed from The Loading Dock in Littleton last Wed evening.

Director of AHEAD Home Ownership Center Matt Manning opened and closed the hour-long event. After a brief acknowledgment of event sponsors, he turned the mic over to Executive Director Mike Claflin.

Claflin spoke of the impact COVID-19 had on the non-profit this year. With the addition of AHEAD's new Lloyd's Hill workforce housing project in Bethlehem, the organization increased its apartment quota to 486 units in 15 communities.

AHEAD provides housing for more than 300 seniors and over 150 people with disabilities in the area. An additional property in North Woodstock is slated for development and will add 40 units to the non-profit's portfolio.

The non-profit showcased its fiscal sponsorship of North Country Pride, a fledgling organization that supports the LGBTQ+ community. A short video was presented of the North Country's first Pride event, held last month in Littleton, Franconia and Bethlehem.

While presenting the Pride video, AHEAD Board President Martha McLeod said, "Our communities are rural and may not have all the cultural diversity that exists in a larger city. You will find that our communities in northern NH not only support diversity and equality; they embrace it."

Claflin introduced a new equity statement read by a diverse cross-section of the North Country community.

"We know that our society marginalized certain races. We, as a people, have not always been on the right side of justice. The recent BLM movement has brought us to review and discuss systemic racism, and what that means and all of the outcomes of its oppressive and harmful nature," he said.

The equity statement video addressed authenticity and accountability.

It read, "At this time, we are coming together to look at ourselves, our communities and our nation, learning how we marginalize others because of their race, nationality, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion and/or disability."

Developed by the AHEAD board of directors, the statement continued, "We strive for a safe environment that supports people of all abilities, where we engage with each other openly, honestly and respectfully. Our actions and deeds must be anti-racist, antiism and inclusive. We will engage in hard conversations responsibly."

AHEAD leaders also presented two awards during the presentation. Champlain Housing Trust CEO Brenda Torpy received the OCB award for her work in Vermont. Claflin presented this award in memory of the late Olivia Chase Beleau, who built and preserved more than 1,000 homes in rural Vermont and New Hampshire before her passing in 2018.

The Frederick W. Griffin (Freddie) Award was given to Robert Peraino, a nephrologist who cared for COVID-19 patients in New York City earlier this year. The recognition is presented annually to a long-term AHEAD contributor who's shown consistent support.

In the last year, AHEAD Housing assisted 40 families in becoming first-time homeowners, generating more than $5.3 million in sales. Nearly 70 people participated in the non-profit's literacy workshops and over 100 people took home buyer education classes. The non-profit assisted 165 families with foreclosure prevention services, with 60 success stories.

Since 2002, the organization helped home buyers invest over $100 million in North Country communities and helped more than 800 families become first-time home buyers. The organization's economic impact extends further, with $400,000 paid in property taxes and $925,000 spent on local contractors and purchases in 2019.

Photo above:  AHEAD Housing Executive Director Mike Claflin spoke about diversity and inclusion while presenting a new equity statement at the non-profit's annual meeting last week.

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