A Letter From Debra Edelson
Executive Leadership Transition
I write you today to share that I am closing this chapter of my professional life and announcing my departure from the Grove Park Foundation, effective August 31, 2021. As the founding Executive Director and Board Member, it has been my deep honor to be entrusted to build, grow and lead this organization. April 1st marked my 6-year tenure serving and working in Grove Park with the residents of this beautiful and passionate community. This milestone also closely coincided with the exciting opening of the first classrooms at the new YMCA early learning center, the welcoming of hundreds of scholars to the new K-8 Woodson Park Academy, and the readying of the coming health center for our partner Whitefoord, to serve the children and families of this community. Additionally, vertical construction of our new 110-apartment mixed-income housing development is now visible and will be providing deeply affordable homes to neighborhood residents later this year.
These efforts have been a labor of love for me, made possible by the amazing collaboration, support and talent of so many exceptional partners, funders, civic leaders, and residents that shared our vision, and generously joined with their own passion and resources into its realization as well. During these years, the dedicated staff and talented board leadership of the foundation have engaged deeply with neighborhood residents and leaders to understand pressing needs, listen to concerns, build programmatic responses, and start to reverse decades of disinvestment in this long-deserving community. It is my heartfelt hope that all these first major efforts have set the stage for the coming next phase of initiatives that will continue to center on racial equity and focus with great intentionality on building housing and economic security, access to jobs and financial resources, revitalizing main street and spurring cultural revitalization, and overall building economic wealth in the people and businesses of this community. In wrapping up this first phase of major capital investments and establishing programs that will help lift the community for years to come, now is the time for a new leader for the foundation.
While the investment in new civic buildings have been the most visible and symbolic signs of our work during these years, in many ways it is the less visible investments that we delivered directly to residents — in paying COVID relief for over 375 households, providing critical repair to over 90 households with help of partners, establishing the organization’s largest program initiative—our N.O.W economic mobility program that will uplift hundreds this year – that are closest to my heart. In these unseen and quiet efforts, the foundation has been investing in the people, the long-invested residents of this community, to ensure they can continue to rise with the tide as market investment comes fast and strong after decades of waiting.
I am deeply grateful to the members of the Grove Park community. Over the years we have worked together– joined hands, had hard conversations, built trust, and accomplished progress where the challenges were great. Residents and leaders stepped forward and dedicated hours to community conversations that were brave, forward thinking and unifying that resulted in much of what we have achieved. I am deeply grateful to those individuals who invested in a shared vision and partnership with the Grove Park team. One of the most important items that I am committed to delivering before August 31st is establishing a permanent Community Advisory Council to the Grove Park Foundation Board of Directors. This will be a forum for open dialogue, sharing values and focusing efforts together; and it is my deepest hope that this group will serve as a gathering place where ideas and partnerships are conceived and launched for years to come.
Today the Grove Park Foundation is an organization that is diverse, financially sound, and steeped in mission delivery, and I am deeply proud of the work it has accomplished. As my life path diverges from its day-to-day operation, the organization and its work will continue to be in my heart, and I will continue to be a friend and advisor as it moves seamlessly into its next chapter of efforts. My final words of gratitude here must be reserved for the talented staff who are passionately focused on delivering on the mission of equitable revitalization every day, and the inspiring Board who give so generously of themselves. I know with highest confidence they will move together through an orderly process to identify my successor and pass the torch of leadership for the next phase of work.
In gratitude and humility,
Debra A. Edelson
Founding Executive Director, Grove Park Foundation