Theresa Cummings, center, with her family

Theresa Cummings

Community Development Specialist – City of Goshen

Published Oct. 2023

Community Development Not Just About Numbers for Cummings

I’m in my first year as the Community Development Specialist for the City of Goshen, and I’ve already made some lifetime memories.

I got to see a picture, recently, of a large family that was able to—thanks to the good work of Lacasa Inc., and with the assistance of funds available through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)—purchase and move into their first home.

I’d heard the gentleman from that family say that he didn’t think this moment would ever happen; and that it wouldn’t have been possible to fulfill his family’s dream without our help. It was incredibly rewarding to feel like I played a part in that family’s great achievement, and in the picture you could just see the joy and relief, the exhilaration, in all of their faces.

I’ll be honest with you, that made me cry. When things like that happen it reminds you that this work is really about helping people, and you tend to forget about all the hours and number-crunching and volumes of paperwork that go into most everything we do.

CDBG funding has helped Goshen grow

In the world of community development things can take time. Each day can bring changes, and a lot of hours are spent researching and working just to stay in compliance. Paperwork is a constant theme, and there’s a fair amount of legalese, and that’s where my background as a legal assistant—and my experience in business administration—comes into play.

The CDBG is a grant offered by Housing & Urban Development (HUD) that supports community development activities to help cities like Goshen build stronger and more resilient communities. The goal is to use the funds to back projects that create transformative impact in our community and improve the lives of our residents; with a focus on assisting those with low and moderate income levels.

Before
After

Before, left, and After pictures of a Goshen home that was rehabilitated through Community Development Block Grant funding. Photos provided.

My role is steward to the grant to make sure the funds go to eligible projects that best serve the community.

Each applicant for a proposed project must meet eligibility guidelines, which are based on the types of activities and other factors. Some examples of eligible activities are housing rehabilitation projects that create affordable housing units, economic development, infrastructure improvements, public services—limited to 15% of the grant funds, homeownership assistance, and helping income eligible homeowners with home repairs.

Goshen has been a recipient of CDBG funds for over 40 years and in that time thousands of Goshen citizens have been positively impacted by the program. For example, over the past 20 years Lacasa’s Help a House program—which helps qualified applicants to improve safety and energy efficiency, and with major repairs such as furnace and window replacements and accessibility additions—has helped 240 homeowners with home repairs and rehabilitation projects.

Subrecipients move the CDBG wheel

Lacasa, the nonprofit housing agency, is just one of our subrecipients. Others include the Boys & Girls Club of Goshen, the Council on Aging, the Elkhart County Clubhouse (Cora Dale House), the Goshen Interfaith Hospitality Network, Maple City Health, and the Walnut Hill Early Childhood Center.

These subrecipients really deserve all the accolades, I call them our boots on the ground. These organizations are the ones reaching out to people in the community, helping people, and making a real difference. I get to be a part of it, and we help through funding and support, but our subrecipients are the ones who make all of this work. There are incredible, dedicated people working with these organizations, and they are a big part of the reason so much substantial community development has occurred, and is in-progress, in Goshen.

As part of my job I report the beneficiaries of all the projects back to HUD, but the work we do is about more than paperwork and reporting, and it’s about much more than numbers. It’s about people helping people, and that’s what really drew me to this opportunity in the first place. Every town or city is always going to have the people who need the help, but Goshen is very blessed and lucky to have so many worthwhile organizations that do such amazing work to help those in need. I’m thankful to have seen firsthand how CDBG funds have made positive changes toward the Good of Goshen, and thankful to be a part of it.

Goshen, at first glance

My husband, David Cummings, was raised in Goshen and went to Goshen schools as a child. Technically, he’s not ‘from’ Goshen because his parents lived, and still do, right across the road from Goshen’s city limit. And I grew up in Elkhart. But Goshen is a part of David’s life, as it is now a part of mine.

We live in Nappanee and have talked about moving to Goshen at some point in the future.

Sometimes you’re driving somewhere and you drive through a town that doesn’t seem to be thriving and you just feel kind of sad about it. Goshen feels like the exact opposite of that to me. At first glance, I think people can tell Goshen is an innovative, progressive, and creative city. A city on the upswing. Downtown Goshen is absolutely beautiful and there is so much action and energy and revitalization going on.

I spent nine years working for the City of Elkhart, and I’ve served my community by working within Wa-Nee schools, but there is something particularly rewarding about working to help a city like Goshen—a city that has clearly demonstrated a commitment to building a brighter future for its residents—to just keep getting better and better, and keep working to meet the needs of all of its people.

You know, HUD sends out a lot of notices. They’re very good about that. They let us know about new compliance orders, and what’s coming down the line, and they even provide training. Sometimes I feel like I’m back in school, and that’s not a bad thing. The paperwork involved sometimes seems endless, but it’s all worth it—every minute of it—to see the faces of one family who’ve had their lives changed for the better with this program and the development work we’re doing in the city. One family. You simply cannot measure the positive effect of something like that.

Written by Jake Sandock