Spouses of Savings & Community Bankers of America members have pioneered a new direction in community philanthropy.

Each year, through our group called Housing Partners, we sponsor a fundraiser for a housing-related charity in the city that hosts SCBA's annual convention.

Housing Partners is not just the name of a spouses' group, but a reflection of the commitment from members of an industry that has long served the housing needs of America's communities.

In November, hundreds of spouses and CEOs will arrive in New Orleans, site of this year's convention, with handmade crafts and gifts that reflect a lot of work, time and love.

Restoring Pride

We will roll up our sleeves, and actively sell crafts and other items. Then, on the clossing day of convention, we will donate the proceeds to My House, a residence in New Orleans that provides transitional housing and educational opportunities for homeless women and their children.

If our past performance is any indicator, we will raise more than $10,000 for My House, the next link in our national chain of community service.

Housing Partners was formed three years ago by spouses who wanted a proactive alternative to traditional convention activities for spouses. The idea for community involvement through our trade association began with a survey initiated by Thekla Shackelford, wife of past chairman Don Shackelford.

New Wrinkles

Each season brings a new wrinkle to our activities. The first year, we sold house pins made by Lucinda. To our surprise, we couldn't keep up with the demand.

In just three days, we had raised more than $10,000 for So Others Might Eat, a Washington, D.C., group that aids the homeless. It was so successful that spouses and CEOs took the idea back home and began selling house pins in their institutions to benefit local homeless groups.

The second year, we invited spouses and members to donate hand-made crafts for a sale. We were overwhelmed with gifts of handknitted baby items, cross-stitch samplers, children's clothing and holiday decorations. Institutions donated big-ticket items, including an Amish quilt, a wooden circus train and paintings. These were raffled or sold by silent auction.

Housing Partners' 1992 donation went to the Logan Heights Family Health Center, a nonprofit clinic in San Diego that aids homeless and low-income persons. The response from local officials, the press, and the community was very rewarding.

This year at our New Orleans Convention, we will have another craft sale, plus an evening fundraiser featuring the music at several leading New Orleans jazz groups. Our overhead will be low, thanks to the generosity of numerous donors. Louisiana thrifts are contributing specialty pins made by homeless persons from old Mardi Gras costumes.

Member-Driven

Because of our volunteers and donations, we have new expenses. Housing Partners is a voluntary, member-driven organization, open to spouses of all SCBA members.

While we depend on SCBA for seed money, staff assistance, a booth in the convention business show and most importantly, the support of our top leadership, we do the work, including selecting the charity we will support.

The chairman of Housing Partners is the spouse of SCBA's chairman. Linda Holland, wife of incoming SCBA Chairman Dave Holland, will take over next year; it is her this year of involvement with Housing Partners.

Worthwhile Experience

Clearly, it's an experience we think is worth having. Most of us are involved in charitable work in our own communities.

In addition to the obvious beneficiaries - the local charities - the effort has provided an unparalleled experience for participants.

If you would like more information about Housing Partners, and how you might develop a similar program, please contact us at SCBA headquarters in Washington, (202) 857-3101.

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