Terry Nowakowski, Chief Operating Officer, Partnership for Strong Communities
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
― Mother Teresa
The Partnership for Strong Communities (PSC) is an organization that I have long admired. In a short span of time, the organization has brought the plight of people experiencing homelessness into the light and inspired others to move the needle towards change. PSC provides solutions for those who seek safe, permanent housing and builds stronger communities in Connecticut by working to expand affordable housing in our communities. PSC has impacted positive change for the state by convening interested stakeholders across a wide range of sectors, and inspiring change through a “collective impact” approach. PSC has accomplished so much in such a brief period – the road ahead has no bounds.
What led me here to PSC as the new COO? I believe that nothing is an accident and I am clear that I am here to help and to serve. In the brief time that I have been at PSC so far, I am beginning to see and imagine all the wonderful possibilities of what is yet to come.
Some of the most difficult events in my life have provided me with an opportunity to learn and grow. What I know to be true is that it is less about the work and more about the people you are supposed to meet. My life has been so enriched through all of the amazing individuals who have shaped my life, from family to friends and work colleagues. In my work, I have witnessed first-hand that nothing happens in the absence of relationships. When individuals come together for a common purpose and through relationship, then change can occur one person…one day…at a time.
I strongly believe that finding a home for everyone is something that is possible and no one should be without one. In my early years, my family was the center of my life, and they continue to be. Although my husband and I existed on very little in our early years together, we always ensured that our children had a home in a neighborhood where they could be safe. During those years, I became very active in my community through church and other civic activities. As a result, I became known to many in the community, particularly through my work at the church as cantor and religious education teacher. I loved working with adolescents and many of them sought me out during some of their most challenging times. Although not planned, my husband and I became home to four runaway teenagers for extended periods of time during these years. Many of these teens were running away from homes in which there was substance use disorders, mental health issues and domestic violence. In two cases, we housed two young teenage girls for over a year at separate times; one young women came to us on weekends and another lived with us through four years of college. As I reflect on these experiences, I believe that what made the difference for these youths was a safe place to call home and a family who loved them.
Having lived in CT my entire life and having lost a father at an early age, I know that life can change overnight. In addition, having married right out of college and having my first child less than a year later and two others not long after was also quite the life lesson! We were lucky to find affordable, low-income housing with one child and another on the way. Because of this affordable rental housing, we could provide a safe space for our family and then could save to buy our first home. Affordable housing allows individuals to become an integral part of a community while holding on to their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Believing that everything can change and become better is how I move through my life – and I will keep this thought close to my heart on the journey I am now on.
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