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Meet Kelly Watson of Rebuilding Together Valley of the Sun in Tempe

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly Watson.

Kelly, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I began my career as a journalist at a small daily newspaper in East Texas. During that time, I saw the best and worst of people and got a first-hand view of the many inequities in society. I began volunteering for various community programs, which led me to rethink my career decision. I grew up in a very charitable family – my parents were always the first to support community events and lend aid in a crisis – so transitioning to the nonprofit sector seemed a natural fit. Over the last two decades, I have served in fundraising and leadership roles at nonprofits in Texas, Massachusetts, California and Arizona.

My childhood centered around home and family, which helped shape my belief that everyone, no matter their income level, should have a safe and healthy place to live, grow and thrive. Rebuilding Together Valley of the Sun helps provide safe homes for the most disadvantaged homeowners, so serving as Executive Director with this wonderful organization is a perfect fit.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I have worked for organizations of all sizes, and they all have challenges. I believe the number one challenge for any organization is funding. The competition for resources can be fierce, especially when working in a small grassroots organization like Rebuilding Together Valley of the Sun.

Another challenge for small organizations like ours is attracting people – both as staff and board members. Large, well-known organizations typically have bigger budgets, so can pay staff higher salaries. These organizations also have associated prestige that smaller organizations have a hard time matching. This makes is challenging to recruit high-influence board members who could help grow our mission.

Please tell us about Rebuilding Together Valley of the Sun.
Rebuilding Together Valley of the Sun is a Safe and Healthy Housing organization dedicated to helping low-income seniors, veterans, and disabled individuals with critical home repairs and safety modifications at no or reduced cost.

Our goal is to help build stronger communities by restoring independence, preserving affordable housing, renovating community spaces, and revitalizing neighborhoods. We do this by partnering with individuals, community groups and corporations to mobilize hundreds of volunteers, both skilled and unskilled, to provide critical repairs for homeowners and nonprofit facilities, install grab bars and wheelchair ramps for those with mobility difficulties, and beautify parks and public spaces.

We are proud that we provide services for more than 500 low-income households each year, at no cost to the homeowner. We are also excited about our recently launched social enterprise, Chores for Charity, which is a flat-rate handyman service available to the general public.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If I had to start over, I am not sure what I would do differently. We all make mistakes and missteps during the course of our careers, it is all part of maturing and growing as a person. I think the biggest lessons I have learned is that communication is crucial. You cannot just assume that another person, whether they are staff, a client, or a supporter, has the same takeaway from a conversation that you do. It’s also important to have the backstory before making any critical decisions.

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