Urban Land Conservancy (ULC) celebrates the achievements of our partnerships that create and preserve nonprofit facilities and affordable housing for communities in metro Denver. ULC’s Monthly Partner Spotlight is awarded to partners who demonstrate the value of collaboration, furthering our mission to improve the lives of Metro Denver residents through our real estate investments and community assets.
Congratulations to our May 2019 Partner Spotlight of the Month: Mi Casa Resource Center!
With roots grounded in the Latino community, Mi Casa Resource Center was founded in 1976 by a group of eight Latino mothers. Their objective was clear: develop a supportive environment conducive for increased educational and employment opportunities for both themselves and their children. In an effort to remain both inclusive and understanding of the community’s changing needs as Mi Casa grew, the nonprofit eventually expanded to serve all families with limited economic opportunities. Today, Mi Casa serves more than 3,000 individuals and families each year. While their mission has expanded significantly across the Metro region, Mi Casa continues to primarily serve low income people of color, with females making up 66% of their annual client base.
As Mi Casa continues to expand their programming, services and outreach, the organization was in desperate need of a larger space to accommodate a growing staff size. In 2015, Mi Casa launched a capital campaign to relocate their headquarters to the Westwood neighborhood of Denver. With a lead donation of $1.5 million from the Salazar Family Foundation (and a number of additional large donations from generous benefactors), Mi Casa moved to the Salazar Center for Family Prosperity in July 2017 located at 345 S. Grove Street in Westwood. The larger space has allowed Mi Casa to provide increased services and programs, therefore greatly expanding their ability to serve a much broader population.
ULC has been working in Westwood since 2010, and after extensive community engagement, acquired the old Thriftway property on Morrison Road in 2014. ULC then demolished the structure and constructed interim pocket park while development opportunities are being considered. When ULC learned of Mi Casa’s plans to move into this new mixed-use development, it was clear they would be filling a tremendous need in the community. Earlier this year, ULC toured the new space with Michele Soli, Mi Casa’s Corporate Relations and Communications Manager. Soli walked ULC through numerous training rooms, computer labs, community kitchens and family meeting spaces – all designed with the community at heart. Soli explained that she views Mi Casa’s role as providing individuals and families with the tools necessary to make them more resilient in the future. Their space is a clear testament to this philosophy, and proves success is created right in their office building.
“Mi Casa moved its headquarters location to the Westwood neighborhood in 2017 to be closer to where many of our participants live,” said Monique Lovato, CEO of Mi Casa Resource Center. “But Westwood is also vulnerable to gentrification and involuntary displacement. Our organization is part of what we see as a mitigation strategy, in that we help people to find better jobs and to help them start and build businesses so they can be more economically sustainable.”
The Women’s Business Center at Mi Casa is an entrepreneur-focused program that provides wrap around services for current and future business owners. Programs include (but are not limited to) in-depth business training, micro business loans and regularly hosted workshops. Business development workshops include “Considering a Business,” QuickBooks 101 and “Communication Excellence for Business Success”. Of the thousands of community members served through Mi Casa’s business development courses each year, Danna has an incredible story to tell. Read her full story.
Since Mi Casa’s inception more than 40 years ago, the organization has developed a broad network of employee partners, including many banks and credit unions. In an effort to assist job-seekers in their search, Mi Casa created a Career Development program which provides intensive training, career workshops and one-on-one coaching to assist in a person’s career search from start to finish. Mi Casa works in direct partnership with their employee partners to coach and train job seekers, especially in the financial services. Read more about how Keyona discovered a career in banking.
In alignment with Mi Casa’s mission to, “advance the economic success of families with limited opportunities,” the organization also provides direct supportive services to community youth. Programs are centered on middle school and high school age students, with whole family programs offered as well. One of Mi Casa’s newest programs is “La Receta,” a mobile-food business accelerator. The first cohort to participate in this program graduated earlier this month, with 20 students in the graduating class. The cohort recently celebrated their graduation with a tasting event from each business, including food trucks, catering companies and prepared food businesses.
And this is just one example of Mi Casa’s dedication to creating programs that provide equitable community support. Additional resources include English as a second language (ESL) classes, high school equivalency exam preparation, financial coaching and much more.
In April, ULC and Mi Casa both represented the Colorado contingency during the National Community Reinvestment Coalition’s Just Economy Conference in Washington D.C. NCRC was formed in 1990 to increase the flow of private capital into traditionally underserved communities. Today, more than 600 community-focused organizations comprise NCRC, providing access to banking services, affordable housing, jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities. NCRC also hosts the annual Just Economy Conference; a national event for community, policy, government and business leaders to convene, share best practices and discuss innovative ideas toward equity in the banking and housing sectors. Inspired by the NCRC’s Just Economy Conference; Lovato convened 20 community-based organizations to Mi Casa to discuss strategies for increasing advocacy around the issue of opportunity zones to spur action in local government.
“Under Monique’s leadership, Mi Casa has done an incredible job of integrating their services into many communities,” explains ULC’s President and CEO Aaron Miripol. “They truly engage with residents, and build community capacity and strength to address the challenges of neighborhood displacement, wealth building, and workforce training. Mi Casa is doing authentic work on the ground and ULC looks forward to expanding our work with them in Westwood and other neighborhoods.”
ULC greatly respects Mi Casa’s leadership, community focus and proven track record of providing equitable opportunities for Denver’s underserved population. A majority of ULC’s mission is to increase the supply of permanently affordable housing across the Metro Region, and we simultaneously recognize the critical importance of the supportive services necessary to accompany housing. Resources such as financial literacy, business training and mental health coaching area all key pieces to building healthy, equitable and sustainable communities. We look forward to watching Mi Casa grow and thrive in their communities!
If you are interested in supporting Mi Casa’s work and making a direct investment into local Denver families, there are many options available! Mi Casa has individual donor options, corporate sponsorships, volunteer opportunities and many public events throughout the year. Visit their website here for more information.