Accomplishments in the community development field are often expressed in big numbers. There are multimillion-dollar financing deals, thousands of units of affordable housing constructed in a given year and so on. The totals are impressive, but they can seem a bit impersonal. At what point do they stop being numbers and start transforming lives?
The main features in this issue of Community Dividendemphasize the importance of the personal touch in community development. The context is one-on-one counseling and assistance, provided by dedicated volunteers.
The Minnesota Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Association (MMFPA), profiled in our cover feature, is an all-volunteer organization that counsels people who are on the verge of losing their homes. The association works closely with its clients, customizing its assistance according to each homeowner's circumstances. As discussed in a companion article on post-purchase support programs for homebuyers, this kind of intensive, personalized attention can significantly reduce the incidence of foreclosure. A third feature in this issue discusses a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in North Central Montana. By devoting their time and attention to understanding each client's unique financial situation, the program's trained volunteers helped hundreds of low-income workers file for much-needed tax refunds.
Through their efforts, the MMFPA and the Montana VITA program demonstrate that community successes don't always have to be measured on a grand scale. Sometimes, they can be measured one homeowner or taxpayer at a time.