Continental Management, a longtime partner of Cinnaire, believes in investing in people first and fostering a community where employees and residents can grow personally and professionally. Continental’s on-site professionals provide daily service to residents and demonstrate the company’s commitment to quality through their dedicated management of the properties. Dara Kraay Grady, Property Manager at NWI Veterans Village in Gary, IN, embodies the characteristics of the Continental team. She is dedicated to serving those who have served our country and improving quality of life for veterans.
A Conversation With Dara Kraay Grady
How did you get into the property management industry?
By accident! I was a stay-at-home mom and perpetual graduate student – I had earned one graduate degree and was working on another when I decided to take a break from school and start a community service project with my kids. We decided to make care packages for the homeless, which felt like something we could do to make an impact. We made and distributed our first round of care packages, then launched a small fundraiser to finance additional packages. That led to a GoFundMe, which led to establishing a nonprofit organization called Care Packages for the Region (CPR). We wanted to make an even bigger impact and be a part of the solution to the needs of members of the military and military families. During my research for organizations working with homeless veterans, I came across Cinnaire and reached out to Dave Helm who connected me with the team at NWI Veterans Village.
Initially, I volunteered at the development. We started out hosting Football Sundays, a time for the residents to gather to watch football, enjoy a hot meal and relax with their neighbors and our team. I began to spend more time at Veterans Village and suddenly one day I became the Property Manager! I didn’t feel qualified. I didn’t know anything about affordable housing or property management. I remember a time when we had an issue and Dave reassured me, we would solve it. He taught me that’s what property managers do – we are creative problem solvers. It turns out I was very qualified after all. I may not always know the answer, but I’m eager to learn and seek out solutions so that our residents are consistently provided with the best housing, the best resources, and the best services.
What do you love about your job?
“I have a lot of respect for Cinnaire, their community philosophy and what they are all about. It’s a unique opportunity to work with a company like Cinnaire, I enjoy and appreciate being a part of it.” – Dara
Partnerships! The people I have met throughout my time at Veterans Village never cease to amaze me. We’ve had so many individuals, businesses and organizations step up to serve and support our residents. From politicians to warm hearted grandmothers to do-gooders and givers, there are so many people that want to be a part of what we are doing here. We have several community groups, youth organizations and churches that volunteer with us. It’s not just about donating financial resources. We are appreciative of the donation of time, of handmade goods such as hats and scarves, to the care packages and donations of household goods, foods and other daily necessities. We are truly fortunate to have so many wonderful people supporting our residents at Veterans Village.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
Funding! We always have residents in need of additional rental assistance. I’m no expert in supportive housing but from the research I’ve done, I know there is a significant need for additional supportive housing units in communities across the country. I’m learning as I go. I would like more people to understand how these types of projects can be an asset to communities, they are not only efficient investments they are a community asset.
What inspires you most in your work?
I’m inspired every day by our residents, our partners at the VA, our community supporters, youth groups, churches – the list is long! We have so many incredible stories to share. We have a resident with severe MS. His mobility is very limited, and he was basically homebound. He dreamed for a longtime of getting an electric wheelchair that would allow him the benefits of improved mobility, social participation, and quality of life as well as decreased pain and discomfort. I started asking around, reaching out to some community organizations and private donors and sure enough, for Christmas, we received not one but two donations of electric wheelchairs! Coincidentally, shortly after, a local church donated a van to us for the purpose of serving veterans that was equipped with a wheelchair lift.
One of the residents that received an electric wheelchair is so giving. Every year at Christmas he adopts a family from the local legion angel tree and provides gifts to a child in need. He doesn’t want anyone to know he does this. It was very fulfilling to be able to give him the wheelchair, he has such a kind heart and is so giving. Many of our residents are constantly seeking opportunities to give back, which I think is so neat. Here you have this group of veterans that have served our country, struggled with homelessness and mental health issues, and they are committed to finding way to help others. It’s inspiring and uplifting.