A Quarter Century Impacting Housing -- A Lifetime Of Caring
In preparation for an upcoming media interview, Maude Hill was recently asked if there were specific communities developed by Homeport that have her imprint.
Hill, Homeport’s vice president for community and government relations, paused for a moment, smiled, and then said, “All of them.”
Since 1990, Hill has played a leading role in Homeport’s organizational journey that has lifted the lives of thousands of Central Ohio residents through affordable housing, financial education and access to supporting services. She’s worked with residents to learn their needs and assisted in the design and floor plans of family-friendly apartment homes. She has created relationships to support development or lower opposition, and been a liaison to government officials who make funding decisions.
On Oct. 15, Homeport will honor her at its fund-raising program called Voice & Vision. The program at St. Charles Preparatory’s Walter Commons has an honorary chairperson list that reads like a “Who’s Who” of Columbus including members of Congress and Mayor Michael B. Coleman, and leaders in health, faith, business and real estate.
Initially hired as a “family development specialist,” Hill said she could not have imagined the evolution and direction that would take place over a quarter century at an organization first called Columbus Housing Partnership.
“But I always knew I had a passion with the mission of the organization . . . of helping . . . people of limited income. I feel privileged. I feel great esteem to be able to impact policy decisions in the affordable housing industry,” she said.
Alabama And Cleveland
The story of Maude Hill is remarkable, and those whom she has come in contact with shower her with praise.
Born in Thomaston, Alabama, she lived on a farm owned by a grandfather born into slavery. She learned about dairy cattle, hogs, okra, corn, tomatoes, watermelon and cotton, and grew a deep appreciation of independence and entrepreneurship.
By middle school years she had moved to Ohio. Her aunt was heavily involved in school desegregation efforts in Cleveland, and Maude went along with her to meetings to pass out literature. She learned quickly about civil rights and making a difference for others.
“It sort of got in my blood,” Hill recalled.
As a young adult she became engaged in the Welfare Grievance Committee of what was known as the welfare rights movement, advocating that recipients be treated respectfully and that benefits be increased. She participated in a sit-in at the Cuyahoga County Commissioners office in Cleveland. The protesters locked the commissioners inside the county building, requiring fire fighters with axes to break the doors open.
A few years later she joined a four-day protest walk down Interstate 71 from Cleveland to Columbus meant to gain the attention of then Gov. James Rhodes. People would stop and bring the marchers water and food, according to Hill and close friend Helen Yarborough.
The marchers burned a casket on the state house lawn that was supposed to be Gov. Rhodes. Police on horseback broke up the event, but the political stunt proved effective, she said. The state increased the monthly Aid For Dependent Children (AFDC) check from $5 to 35 per person.
“We were very militant.” Hill said.
Hill, known as Maude Cade, moved from outsider to insider when she was hired as a case worker for the Cuyahoga County Welfare Department. During that period she met her future husband, Baxter Hill, who worked in community relations for Cleveland Mayor Carl B. Stokes.
Moving To Columbus
Maude would later work for the city of Cleveland Community Relations Department. But she and Baxter moved to Columbus and took state jobs in 1983 after Richard Celeste became governor. Hill worked in a new agency created to help individuals with drug and alcohol problems.
In 1990 Hill came to Columbus Housing Partnership when it operated as an “outpost” of the Enterprise Foundation, a non-profit organization co-founded by pioneering real estate developer James Rouse.
From a home converted to office space at 1465 East Broad Street, Hill began her work as a Family Development Specialist. She would later be promoted to Property Manager, Director of Operations, and to her current title of Vice President of Community and Government Relations.
Over that time frame she has participated in the organization’s growth to 30-plus affordable rental apartment home communities and single family home neighborhoods with more than 5700 residents. Homeport provides out of school programs, produce fairs and access to mental health and other services. Its Housing Advisory Center is a HUD certified provider of financial education, aiding homebuyers and preventing foreclosures.
While building up families or renovating neighborhoods, she raised 12 children and three of her own siblings. She now has 23 grand-children.
Yarborough, Hill’s friend of 49 years who worked alongside Maude and Baxter in the Civil Rights Movement, said Hill’s experiences as a family person, and outsider trying to help others, has served her well.
“Her experience started from way back when she had six children. She learned her way through the system. Now she is able to navigate on behalf of others. She has helped people in all walks of life. She knows their struggles,” Yarborough said.
Hill’s ability to help and grow others extends to family and co-workers. Her children, all adults, recall exact instructions she gave them as kids on how to take a message on phone calls to their home. Homeport employees, past and present, remember how she gave them first time experiences from building a community playground to driving a 27-foot U-Haul truck.
'Everybody Loves Her Heart'
Real estate developer Skip Weiler says Hill’s success lies in her ability to focus, and her genuine care for others.
“She is a doer, which is awesome. And everybody loves that about her,” Weiler said. “I think what everybody loves about her more is who she is, her heart. She’s such a loving person.”
Homeport President/CEO Amy Klaben said Hill is inspirational in her abilities, vision and desire to help others.
“I love working with Maude. She dreams about a better world where everyone has what they need to live a dignified, decent, successful life. She loves people. She knows how to get the most from them because they want to help her – us -- to ease the pain of those we serve,” Klaben said.
Hill said she is proud of the imprints she has made. Examples at Homeport include:
· “Indian Mound was the first Tax Credit (financed) apartment home development we did. It was 100 units. From a design standpoint we were able to create a floor plan so a mom could cook dinner, look out the window watching children playing outside and supervise a child doing homework at the table -- and be doing laundry.”
· The name of the Emerald Glen apartment community near Grove City is a play on the fictitious “Emerald City” at the end of the Yellow Brick Road in the The Wizard of Oz. Three streets are named “Lion Drive,” “Tiger Drive” and “Bear Drive,” as in the animals Dorothy feared in the forest on the way to the Land of Oz.
· Creating partnerships with the “faith community” for housing developments. Churches including New Salem, Rhema Christian Center, Mt. Herman Baptist Church and First Church of God were influential in the development of lease option and rental apartment home communities including Renaissance Community Village, Framingham Village, Providence Glen, Corbin Commons, Elim Manor and Elim Estates.
· The naming of Raspberry Glen apartments after wild raspberries found on the property while landscaping for the property was being designed; The same for Pheasant Run apartments after pheasants were found on the grounds.
Hill considers her talents and interests diverse and enjoys fund-raising as a means to an end to making a difference in the community.
“I have a huge romance in the work I do each day. It matters to me to see our children have a safe environment, to be able to do their homework in their bedroom, to connect their parent to employment, to have their utility bills or rent paid so that there is stability,” Hill said.
“I am glad I can go home and look at myself in the mirror and say I have done something good and given back to the community and the people we have served. I am so tremendously thankful to have this opportunity.
“I am excited working in the housing arena at the intersection of government, business, faith and social service agencies. I am no stranger to people. Perhaps that is my purpose in life, to facilitate, advocate, engage, encourage and uplift.
“My grandparents in Alabama said if you are going to matter in life, you have to work hard and be open and honest. My grandfather always said, ‘Your word is your bond.’ And I try to live those examples and set examples,” Hill said.
“I always try to put myself in someone else’s shoes. ‘What if that shoe was on the other foot? How would I want to respond?’ In each example it has benefited me,” she said.