On November 15, 2016, the staff at Piedmont Housing Alliance celebrated Karen Reifenberger who has been with the non-profit for seventeen years. The staff held a reception at Kardinal Hall in her honor.
Karen began her career in California working as a civil rights litigator on federal fair housing cases. She was inspired by the prospect of achieving some measure of justice and opening doors for her clients. Karen then moved east and worked for the Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington, now known as the Equal Rights Center. While there, Karen had the opportunity to work with real estate firms, lending institutions and property management firms. These were all businesses dedicated to the ideals of fair housing and equal opportunity. Karen helped them to comply with the law. Karen says, “I wanted to be able to do something that had more of a preventive aspect to it versus reactive.”
While at a conference, Karen ran across the name of former Piedmont Housing Alliance employee and board member, Rosa Hudson. Rosa, who was a long-time community organizer and housing counselor, helped spark her interest in returning to the home of her alma mater, Charlottesville. Karen saw the chance to work where real housing opportunities were being created. She was offered a position writing grants in support of fair housing work, something that no one else was doing in Charlottesville at the time. According to Karen, “It was exciting to be able to bring that to Piedmont Housing Alliance’s services and weave it into the greater housing counseling program that already had been formed.”
That was seventeen years ago. After all these years, Karen says what she enjoys most at Piedmont Housing Alliance is that there is always something exciting going on and some new challenge. “It’s not an easy business, but there is always a need to help create equitable and affordable housing opportunities in this area.” Karen says, “Aligning ourselves with partners locally and state-wide to make these opportunities happen is also very rewarding. I can see that we are now a part of a high-quality network of respected affordable housing delivery providers.”
When asked about Karen, CEO Frank Grosch says, “There have been countless times in the past three years where Karen’s grace, her kindness and her hard work have made all the difference to our success and, honestly, to whatever success I have found in the job. Karen really is the best.”
Karen’s current position is Chief Operating Officer, but she has also held titles including Senior Planner, Deputy Director, Director of Fair Housing & Special Projects and Interim Director during her tenure at Piedmont Housing Alliance.
Karen was reminded recently why what Piedmont Housing Alliance does is so important after receiving a message from a realtor in a fair housing class who wrote, “Thank you so much for your class today! When my family came to America when I was just a baby, it was a financially creative builder who gave us a chance and helped us buy our first home – which had a profound impact on our future opportunities. Thank you for the work you do!”
Karen, we’d like to thank you too!