Marilyn Sanchez has had a relationship with the Mel King Institute since the beginning. In fact, she was present at the very first kick off meeting to announce the Institute, taking pictures! Her current role at Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC), allows her to interact with the Institute in a variety of ways, and she brings her experience and wisdom about the community development field with her.
Marilyn has worked in the Boston community development field since she began her career. First, she was an office manager at Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative before moving to Quincy Geneva Housing Corp. in Dorchester. Marilyn fell in love with the neighborhood, but in her words, “it was very hard to work and live in [Dorchester] because there was so much violence at times. But if you just looked closer you could see the families living and working there – the positive stories that don’t get on the news.” This passion for supporting communities follows her across organizations. She then moved to LISC, where she has worked for 19 years.
Marilyn also has ties to the community development field outside her professional life. She bought her current home through Nuestra Comunidad’s first-time homebuyer program. This program gave Marilyn the ability to stay in Boston to raise her girls and exposed her to deeper community involvement with Nuestra Comunidad. From there, Marilyn attended community meetings where the Executive Director David Price was able to connect with her, and eventually he asked her to serve as a board member.
Marilyn recalls, “When I first walked into a board meeting, I was so afraid of the numbers. So afraid to not understand a lot of things. After 10 years on the board, at least I can understand them now…now I can give my opinions as a board member.”
One topic Marilyn learned by serving on a CDC board is that she saw just how hard it is to get affordable housing projects off the ground. Everybody sees the ribbon cuttings and people with keys in beautiful places, but they often don’t realize how much work it takes to get to the point of moving residents in.
In Marilyn’s current role as Office Manager and Assistant Program Officer at LISC, she continues to seek out the Mel King Institute for professional development help. She says, “community development throws you in the pool and you have to learn how to swim. You have to go out and seek the tools and skills to do the job.” When Marilyn has a question about something community development related, her first action is to check the Mel King website to see if we have the resource or training that she needs. This belief in the value of Mel King resources and trainings extends to Marilyn’s management of the LISC AmeriCorps program, where participating fellows have free access to a suite of Mel King Institute trainings during their tenure in the program. She also enjoys taking the MKI classes alongside the AmeriCorps fellows because there is always something new to learn.
Marilyn believes everybody deserves a place to live. This belief is what drives her in community development work, and it hits close to home. As a teenage mom herself, she struggled to find apartments without fear of eviction from landlords or frigid indoor temperatures. Everybody deserves a safe and warm home. For her, the community development field feels like family. If you need to leave to take care of a sick child or family matter, people understand where you’re coming from. As she says, she could have worked in corporate America, but she is so thankful she went into community development because of the benefits to her and her family.