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Planners and dreamers make Beacon work
July 5, 2016

By Lee Mauk  |  At Beacon's annual meeting on June 8, I cycled off of Beacon's board. After 10 years, I wonder if I’ll feel lost in the late afternoons of the second Wednesday of every month. Ten years translates to 120 Wednesday meetings. And then, throw in more than a few committee meetings, some lunch meetings, a few visits to the Capitol, meetings in City Hall, and a lot of tours of Nicollet Square.

The last weeks have been a time for me to look back at how Beacon has grown in 10 years. In 2006, when I first entered the office of what was then Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation, in the large building on the south edge of Loring Park, Lee Blons and four staff greeted me. Lydia Apartments had opened, and Westminster Presbyterian and Plymouth Congregational were in the early stages of their sesquicentennial collaboration. (What began with Nicollet Square is now culminating in a fourth housing development together, Great River Landing.)

Look where we are now! A collaboration between two congregations has grown to a collaborative of more than 80 congregations, reflected in the name change in 2012 to Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative. During that decade we merged with Families Moving Forward in 2010, and are now serving Hennepin, Scott and Carver, sheltering 12 families every night. Beacon owns 17 properties of affordable housing in Minneapolis and St. Paul. A thousand loyal supporters come to our annual lunch fundraiser in the fall. Prior Crossing will open in a few months, and 66 West breaks ground this month. And today we have more than 30 staff members at five locations.

Talk about change! Whew! If anyone had peeked into a crystal ball and told me about these things back in 2006, I would probably have looked askance and said, "Dreamer..." But, as I look back on these 10 years, the word "dreamer" takes on a special meaning. I have realized that while Beacon has a plan, we must also have a dream. 

Where would we be without the dreams that got us through budget crunches, or challenging neighborhood meetings, or rejected proposals, or a tense city council vote? The plans were great, but it was the dreams and the dreamers that kept us moving forward. Beacon is good at doing both.

The Beacon board is now in the very capable hands of its new chair, Deb Carlson.  I traded in my name tag which read "Board Chair" for a name tag that reads "Beacon Leader". I will wear it proudly as I join the ranks of many hundreds of other Beacon Leaders as we work to end homelessness together.

Lee Mauk
Lee is Beacon's outgoing board chair, who has served in countless capacities at Beacon, including 10 years on the board of directors. He's pictured above at the podium at the 2016 Acting on Faith event where he shared the origin story of Beacon with nearly 500 people.