Category Archives: First HAND Blog

March 28, 2016


I am back with my last employee profile blog. 0115161249_HDR-2Our last, but certainly not least, employee is Executive Director Nate Lichti. His favorite color is orange and he has a three year old dog. Lichti likes to ride bikes and spend time with his 13 year old daughter. At HAND, Lichti has played a crucial role from day one. He has been coordinating, organizing, keeping people informed, and making sure that HAND’s work is always for the mission of the company since the very beginning. Unfortunately, Lichti will be leaving our organization shortly, but I don’t want you to miss the opportunity to meet a great, passionate man.


Lichti started his occupation with a master’s in nonprofit management where he grew his passion for helping his community. He loves doing work that is meaningful to him and makes an impact on the ones around him. When I asked why his job was important to him he explained, “It’s a part of my identity. It also fits the community’s needs. It’s very strategic in the way that HAND can improve the community, and build relationships.”

Lichti loves to form personal relationships with the people HAND serves. He also says that, “A lot of people think I encounter a lot of resistance everywhere I go, but we have so many backers and supporters. So, I love to see people surprise me or those around them. Sometimes people start in a confrontational place, but inevitably there’s kindness and generosity and a spirit of caring that comes out. That’s usually the best and most fulfilling part of my job.”

Neighbors who are able to support HAND and see the benefits of helping their community play a huge role in expanding and assisting the organization in its goals. When people are capable of seeing new perspectives and show an interest in caring for their neighbors, it becomes a lot easier to improve the quality of life for everyone. I also asked Lichti why HAND should matter to all types of people in Hamilton County and he clarified, “HAND is about building community, which in our society we grapple with. We’re very self-motivated or family motivated. But I think that in community development there’s a greater opportunity for that community fabric to be rewoven and strengthened. So for people looking to build and strengthen their community, I think HAND is uniquely positioned to do that.”

The interview progressed to Lichti’s reflection on his work at HAND. He has put a lot of time, effort, and passion into his years spent working to grow affordable housing in Hamilton County, and I was curious as to what he thought of it all. I started by asking him what he considered his greatest achievement and he replied, “I’m most proud of the work we’ve done to broaden the base of support, to generate support beyond the board directors. We hadn’t been relevant to many communities that really needed us but didn’t know it. Now we have been able to form many more partnerships and establish many more relationships with all of the communities. I’m grateful for where we’ve gotten.” Gaining support has been a key factor to the success of HAND, and with Lichti’s help and guidance, HAND has been able to grow immensely.

I also asked him what his hopes were for the future of HAND after he leaves. Lichti explained, “I hope HAND can continue to develop. I hope that the communities continue to support HAND. HAND needs some ongoing support to maintain a capacity to provide these services in communities. So I think pledges will help HAND get the resources and support it needs to keep going.”

Lastly, I asked Lichti how he felt about his overall experience working with HAND and the communities of Hamilton County. Lichti responded, saying, “I have been very grateful for the opportunity. It’s been tremendously fulfilling and satisfying. The encouragement I’ve received during our campaigns when there was a lot of controversy—the core support that we’ve had is critical.” Even when faced with challenges, Lichti enjoyed the hard work it took to help his neighbors of Hamilton County. He went on to say, “I’ve learned so much from local leaders, from people on the street. I’ve gotten a whole other sense of the interrelationship between suburban communities and the state as a whole. I feel like I’ve learned so much and I appreciate everyone for teaching me.”

Lichti is very sad to leave HAND, because of the great experiences, challenges, opportunities, and achievements he was met with. He has worked hard to build HAND into an organization that is able to help people of all different backgrounds and build up a community that everyone in Hamilton County can be proud of. Lichti explains, “HAND is really important for the future of Hamilton County. I really want people to recognize it and to be on the lookout for a campaign this summer that will be raising awareness for HAND and the affordable housing needs of Hamilton County. I hope people will be ready to rally behind and help distribute and raise support for HAND for this upcoming campaign.” Lichti hopes that HAND will thrive and continue to do what is was made to do: help its fellow neighbors and neighborhoods. We are sad to see such an inspiring leader, worker, neighbor, and friend go, but we wish him the best of luck in all his future endeavors.

March 21, 2016


Hello readers!

I am back to tell you about another outstanding employee at HAND. Her name is Michelle Westermeier and she is HAND’s housing coordinator. She is the mother of a ten year old son as well as the owner of a cat, two dogs, a turtle, a rabbit, a bird, and a fish! Westermeier’s favorite color is blue and she loves being a part of her son’s hobbies and interests.

Westermeier originally had a career in landscaping, working for the parks department in Anderson. While working there, she discovered her desire to help people. She loves working at a nonprofit organization, speaking to the fact that HAND has all that she desires in a job. When I asked her about her transition from landscape work to HAND she explained, “Even in the parks department I felt like I was benefitting the community as a whole because everyone gets to enjoy the parks. I was fortunate to be exposed to community development when I was in Anderson. I was also around construction, so I was familiar with that aspect of things. It was a fairly comfortable transition to shift to affordable housing.” Westermeier is proud of the work she is able to accomplish at HAND; being able to help so many people has been very satisfying to her.

I then asked her what about her job she loved, what made the hard work worth it. She immediately replied, “I want to be able to help people, and I get direct satisfaction from that. Meeting the residents that move into our rental communities, hearing their stories about how much this has actually helped them—it can be easy to be separated from that and not really hear those stories, so I really enjoy meeting our tenants and getting to know what their stories are. They’re all just so appreciative and wonderful.” She went on to clarify the benefits of HAND as an organization, saying that HAND has allowed her the opportunity to form personal relationships. Oftentimes businesses treat people as strictly clients, but the staff at HAND have been able to get to know the residents they serve and establish authentic relationships that mean more than a simple business deal.

Westermeier and I also got to explore some of the obstacles HAND is faced with. The misconceptions about affordable housing can often create misunderstandings. Westermeier explains, “There’s a mistaken belief that Hamilton County doesn’t need affordable housing and doesn’t need these types of programs for homeowners.” This can sometimes generate controversy and reluctance from neighbors to HAND projects. However, when HAND is able to educate its community on the housing issues, Hamilton County residents often embrace the organization’s programs. Westermeier went further to point out, “We all struggle from time to time with our financial situation. So really, to have a healthy community across the board, it’s important that we have affordable housing in all aspects. Regardless of what your income is, we all need affordable housing. It is too easy for people to assume that because we do have a lot of wealth in the county, that there’s not the need, there’s not those people struggling to make their monthly rent payments. It’s important to educate people, and I think HAND is one of the few organizations out there that has really been in a good position to promote that and increase that awareness.”

We ended our short interview with Westermeier clarifying the background of HAND. Many people become concerned about the motivations of a nonprofit, whether or not their intentions are to help the community. Westermeier says, “HAND is a true nonprofit. We weren’t a spinoff of some private, for-profit corporation. We were created by Hamilton County residents that were concerned about all the people living in this county. It’s a true, local nonprofit. With that, I believe we are part of Hamilton County and our passion and focus is for the benefit of everyone in our community.” With the creation of HAND came the creation of an organization aimed solely to aid its community. HAND works hard every day for the benefit of what they care about most: their neighbors.

March 7, 2016


Hello returning readers!

Today I wanted to address the concept of advocacy. For HAND, advocacy plays a huge role in the day to day process. For those of you who might not know, advocacy, in a broad sense, is working alongside people to help their voice be heard. I sat down with Tracy Heaton, the head of HAND’s advocacy. She explains advocacy saying, “You’re not their voice, and you’re not ahead of them. A true advocate would be more like a shepherd from the behind, guiding folks along an issue, because they will go where they need to go, not where you think they need to go. It’s a lot of listening, standing alongside, hand holding, but not so much leading.” HAND is involved in advocacy at the state level by staying informed and the neighborhood level by working to improve the local community.

HAND’s participation in advocacy has been a priority for the agency. Recently, HAND worked with the SouthWest Quad in Noblesville to improve their local park. Heaton explains, “The city looked at what assistance they could bring to the park after the neighbors showed their value by hosting a work day where we painted things, ripped out weeds, and planted new plants. The neighbors are willing to do their part, but at some point the city needs to make that investment and it seems that they’re willing to.”

Many people do not understand the importance of advocacy and their individual role in it. While HAND is here to help, it takes the power and voice of residents to get the job done. I asked Heaton why it was important for neighbors to work together and she replied, “When you need that cup of sugar, but you don’t know your neighbor’s name, it’s a little hard to go knock on the door and ask for that. When you accidentally let your dog out and you’re running through the yard, it’s kind of hard to yell for your neighbor’s help when you don’t know their name. On bigger issues, when the orange signs go in front of a business and they’re going to change the zoning, but it’s all these individual voices versus if you knew your neighbor’s and met with them beforehand, you could go to the zoning hearing as a united voice, which is bigger than a bunch of little voices.” When everyone can get together to express their concerns or requests as a group, they are heard and listened to more. Heaton went further to say, “I don’t know that residents know their role in this, that they can begin holding their elected officials accountable for some choices and decisions that they make that may not reflect the values of the voters in Hamilton County. Directions and decisions in our towns need to reflect the compassion and care that I believe Hamilton County voters have.”

Understanding the role of residents is the first step, but what should neighbors do next? How do individuals begin to make the difference in their community? Heaton provided some simple, yet crucial steps to take, “Tapping the expertise of HAND is the best step. Then the really hard step is actually talking to your neighbors. It might seem embarrassing or awkward, but it’s so powerful and it’s a lot easier then it seems.” Talking to the surrounding neighbors can do so much good for the community. Many people find that close knit communities are able to accomplish more; they also tend to enjoy their neighborhood much more when they have a role in it. Our talk ended with her saying, “Advocacy might seem like an angry crowd with burning torches and pitch forks, but typically it isn’t, and we’d like it to never get to that point. If we’re doing little actions of advocacy along the way, then we don’t have to have the big confrontation, because we’re in constant communication, and were constantly telling our towns what we want to see and what we want to see happening.”

Hopefully this information and message can inspire you to take a role in your community. Advocacy plays a big role at HAND and it should in your neighborhood too. It starts with getting to know your neighbors, then it can blossom from there!

March 2, 2016


Today’s blog is about another amazing employee at HAND. Her name is Tracy Heaton. She is HAND’s community outreach coordinator as well as the mother of two teenage boys. Heaton’s favorite colors are green and blue, she loves to read, travel and “yell at my kids.” She’s got a fabulous sense of humor, and a supposedly terrible dog named Bella.

Heaton has worked in nonprofits for most of her career. She explained that she loves her work and finds it very fulfilling as well as very fun. When I asked what she really loved about a nonprofit she said, “You know when you work late or you have to get up for an early morning meeting and you’re tired and you need that motivation? Knowing that what you do gives back to the community and raises up the community makes that all a lot easier.” Heaton feels very inspired and driven to do more and more by her work here. She loves helping others and believes that it’s important and necessary to aid others through her work. I also asked Heaton why her job is important to her, she replied, “I believe in it. I believe in the people I work with. I’m enriched and blessed by meeting neighbors and learning about what’s valuable to them and what’s important and how HAND can contribute, and it’s just plain fun.”

Working with the surrounding community and neighbors is a major part of Heaton’s job. She works alongside residents to get projects done, listen to their wants and needs, and so much more. While asking what she loves about her job, Heaton expressed, “I really love the opportunity to work alongside neighbors on a project: a clean-up, a day in the park, a celebration, a pot luck, those kinds of things are so fun in the neighborhood. Also, really seemingly boring things like our staff meetings are always interesting and I always learn something new.” Heaton is proud of the community she and HAND are helping to build stronger every day. She understands the importance of communication between organizations and residents of Hamilton County; therefore, she works hard to better that communication. I also got the chance to ask Heaton why HAND is important. She explained, “I think (HAND) is particularly important in Hamilton County. Affordable housing is an issue across that state, but in a community where housing is so high-end and so expensive, it’s nearly unattainable if you hit a rough patch financially. If you’re facing a divorce, if you have health issues, if you’re elderly and on restricted income, it starts to become a crisis. I think the neighbors I’ve met in Hamilton County are very passionate and want to care about their neighbors, but don’t know the situation exists. So once they learn about it, they’re usually convinced to be on our side.”

Lastly, Heaton talked to me about how it’s important for other people to understand what HAND does. She says that Hamilton County resident’s involvement is crucial to HAND’s process. Heaton explains, “I think most importantly, if a resident in Hamilton County wants an organization like HAND to thrive, they need to give that message to their elected officials, from their local, all the way to the state, that HAND is important, our work is needed, and it needs to get support from local government.” With the help of citizens, HAND’s part in the community can grow and with the growth is their opportunity to help even more residents. If neighbors can work together, HAND can help resident concerns and suggestions be heard, as a strong, united voice.

February 24th, 2016


I think it’s important for people to see the faces of HAND, because we take pride in who we are. Therefore, today I wanted to introduce you to one of our wonderful employees. Her name is Tammy Murray. Not only does she work hard in several aspects of HAND, but she’s also the happy mother of three kids. She is also a fan of the color pink after having her first and only daughter! Murray also has a cat and dog that she is happy to say is past its puppy days! She loves doing yoga and being outdoors in her free time as well as volunteering at her church.

Murray works on office management, asset management, and recently property development. This means that she helps with deadlines, talking with tenants and project managers, up keeping tenants quality of life, managing properties on a large scale, and incorporating new properties into HAND. After finishing her long list of jobs, she expressed, “That’s what I do right now, but who knows what I’ll do next week. That’s the perk of working for a nonprofit!” Murray explains, “I’m learning a lot and that’s been very beneficial to be able then to see how decisions we make and the design and building process—how that impacts us from a property maintenance issue. So that’s been really good to see that full circle.” She loves all the roles she has at HAND and is always excited for the new experiences that come with each day.

After staying home with her kids for five years, she decided to go back to work, saying, “I have always had an interest in the construction aspect of it and I wanted to do something that was more involved and engaged with my community and how it impacts those that I live with.” Murray loves the hands-on attitude the company has and loves the direct impact HAND has on Hamilton County. When asked what it’s like to work for a nonprofit she said, “I love working for a nonprofit. I love that we’re focused on our residents, and those in the community and how we can address some of the housing issues that we have in Hamilton County.” Helping others is a driving motivator for Murray and she’s able to truly act on the drive by working with HAND. She’s gotten the opportunity to make a difference in her community every day since starting at HAND.

Murray also explained why HAND is important, saying, “You think about your family members and people you care about, and nobody wants to see their family member live in a situation that’s not of good quality or that’s not safe. That’s why what we do is so important, because we want people to have that.”

I also got the chance to ask Murray her view on the impact HAND has. I was curious to see another perspective, independent of my own, and I was surprised by how much I learned from our conversation. Sometimes we take for granted the things we come home to everyday. Many people in Hamilton County don’t have the luxury of a home and Murray comments, “Housing is such a big piece to someone’s well-being.” Housing has a big effect on the overall health of people and that’s why HAND is such an important company. She also explained that, “Whether it’s a group that works with domestic violence, or a group that works with seniors, or a hospital, housing is such a huge piece. There’s so many aspects that are hitting folks in the community that are related to housing. That was one of the things I didn’t really see until I came to work at HAND.” Housing is near essential to individual’s well-being and it’s vital that everyone has access to affordable, quality living. Murray and HAND are fighting hard to provide people with the safe, comforting housing Hamilton County residents’ need.