From the CEO
Message from Mark McDaniel
Describing the past two years as unprecedented would be an understatement to say the least — We were faced with a global pandemic, a global recession, unusual government actions, turbulent elections, and deeply felt social and racial injustice. It was a time when people in the communities we serve were disproportionately impacted by joblessness and poverty. It emerged as a time for organizations to discover what they are really made of and, imagine what they might become. That certainly was the case for Cinnaire.
Watching these events unfold, Cinnaire has been keenly focused on what we could do as an organization to better serve our partners and communities. As I write this letter, I can’t help but feel pride in all that our team has achieved through the headwinds of the past year. As you know, we have long held an unwavering belief that all people deserve the opportunities provided by living in healthy communities… and the importance of maintaining this steadfast purpose was made even more clear through these difficult times. In the past year, our team closed two of the largest funds in our history which will ultimately support the creation of 2,200 affordable homes. We were awarded $60 million in New Markets Tax Credits and we received $6.6 million in CDFI Fund Awards. We launched the Covid Resident Rental Relief program to support our residents struggling to pay their rent. Our Permanent Recovery Supportive Housing initiative, Andy’s Place, was recognized with two national awards for excellence. And, we were named to the 2021 lists of Best Non-Profits to Work and Detroit Crain’s Cool Places to Work. This momentum and growth are a result of our continual investments in our people, systems and products – in the good times and in the challenging times.
Ultimately, the foundation of Cinnaire’s success is our people. They serve our customers and communities, build the technology, make the strategic decisions, manage the risks, determine our investments, and drive the innovation of our programs. This amazing team of people – with guts and brains and enormous capabilities who have navigated personally challenging circumstances while dedicating themselves to professional excellence – is what ensures our prosperity and the health of the communities we serve, now and in the future. Our team today looks differently than it did when these unprecedented times began. We’ve had departures of valued colleagues and we’ve made strong additions to the team. I can’t help but feel profoundly grateful to each member of our team, and to each of our partners, for your commitment to creating healthy communities. Together we are changing lives and it’s an honor to work alongside of you.
Message from Mark McDaniel
2021 – A Year for Hope
Every New Year as the calendar rolls over, it’s typical for CEOs to post a letter waving a mission-driven flag and sharing an upbeat rah-rah message for the upcoming year. As a country, we are weathering unprecedented times. The pandemic is not going anywhere simply because 2020 ended. The chaos inflicted on our democracy won’t be repaired overnight. The division, prejudices, and hate are going to be with us for awhile. We are in the middle of some traumatic, and for many, life changing times. In the past year, we have had to face our own mortalities. We had to finally consider and realize that persistent systemic racism is a national crisis. And, we came to see firsthand the social and economic disparities that really exist.
Being part of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan, I have had the opportunity to dig deep and discuss these realities this month. The national holiday for Dr. King gives us all an opportunity to ask the questions – Have we really come that far? Is the work we are doing in the community development world making a difference? Are we doing enough? – I ask myself, what would Dr. King think today? Indeed, what do you think he would say?
Obviously, he would be saddened and deeply frustrated by the nine minutes in Minneapolis. He would find the shootings of black men, and now women, are happening at appalling rates. I think he would see the pandemic revolving the disparities that he recognized in our nation in the 50s and 60s are unchanged today. For people of color, broad disparities still exist in health care, incomes, criminal justice, and housing. We are seeing once again the terrible things that can happen when white privilege is threatened. MLK’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail rings just as true today as it did when he wrote it in 1963 – Injustice anywhere really is a threat to justice everywhere.
Addressing and resolving these issues are at the core of why Cinnaire was created. I believe that Dr. King would challenge us to do better, stand up stronger, and use our work and our collective voices to demand more to solve these issues. I truly believe that every day, we at Cinnaire are trying. We believe it is Why we are here. We have an unwavering belief that all people deserve the opportunities provided by living in healthy communities. I know that so many of you are trying too. But should we be approaching things differently? I know that Dr. King would be challenging all of us to stand up and be heard. Don’t just sit idly by and expect others to do the heavy lifting. Despite setbacks and disappointments, we cannot waiver. We can all do a better job listening to the people in our communities as they describe what they need and what they want to see in their neighborhoods. We need to stop coming in and telling our communities that we have the answers and the secret sauce recipe to make them whole again. That’s just not how it works. We have to be better listeners and we need to use the power of the word yes instead of defaulting to the easy answer of no.
This is not meant to be a bleak message to start the year, rather, it is a rallying call for all of us in 2021. We are living in times that require us all to be better. True change comes from looking at ourselves first, and then our organizations and asking both the serious question: Can we do better in 2021? I wholeheartedly believe we can.
2021 can be a transformational year for the community development world. One of Dr. King’s quotes – “Out of a Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope” – is a fitting charge for where we find ourselves and our path forward. There is hope and it is in our hands. Here’s to 2021 and continuing to partner together in the important work that we do.