2014-06-06 / Columnists

Who’s Who?

Cathy Mickens, CEO and Director, Neighborhood Housing Services Of Jamaica, Inc.
By Mark C. Healey

CATHY MICKENS CATHY MICKENS Tell us about yourself

I am the CEO and Director of the Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica, Inc. and a homeowner in Jamaica. I have had multiple roles in the organization for the last 39 years. We have been serving communities in Queens for 40 years.

What is the Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica, Inc.?

Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica, Inc. (NHSJ) is a 40 year old not-for-profit organization that’s committed to preserving neighborhoods by offering homeownership education, counseling, technical and financial assistance to residents in Southern Queens. We are currently at three convenient locations: Our Administrative Office is located at 889-70 162nd Street in Jamaica; in 2012 we were appointed Community Sponsor for the South Jamaica Multi-Service Center at 114-02 Guy Brewer Boulevard in Jamaica, and in January of 2014 we opened our newest office at 1526 Central Avenue to assist with post-Sandy needs and employment for young adults 18 to 24 years old.

What do you do as the CEO?

As CEO, I work with a highly professional team of employees and a dedicated Board of Directors to identify the needs of the community, and then collaborate with our partners (government, foundations, lending institutions, businesses, and other not-for-profits) to create products and services to address those needs. NHSJ provides affordable housing and awareness of available resources for residents to upgrade and preserve their properties to improve the quality of community life.

What makes NHSJ more of a viable option for those seeking assistance?

We provide grants and programs to assist homeowners affected by Hurricane Sandy, and to those who are unable to get assistance through conventional markets. We assist homes in foreclosure, property damaged; employment interrupted or the need for relocation assistance.

How does having staff from the area help you do your job and deliver the message of the NHSJ?

We have multiple staff members who live on the peninsula and experienced post traumatic effect of Hurricane Sandy on their families and community. It helps to provide the highest level of service and concern for truly helping homeowners affected by the storm. Our organization has been serving Southeast Queens for 40 years and we want to be of assistance to the Rockaways.

How long do you see yourself being a part of the NHSJ?

I love what I do and I hope to be going at it for another 39 years. When you serve communities like NHSJ does it is not just a job but a calling to serve.

Were you or are you involved in any other community-based programs?

Yes, when you have been doing this as long as I have, you are integrated in multiple organizations. Partnerships are the key to the longevity of our organization.

What do you think is the most important issue facing Rockaway?

Our homeowners still need assistance with fixing their homes or getting back into their homes. We are committed to applying for various grants and services to get them whole again. Additionally, employment for our youth people is a big concern. The internet has created an environment of submitting your resume and hoping for the best. At our Rockaway office, we are making contacts with various local leaders and business owners to employ our youth. People helping people get our young adults employed and helping them with lifelong goals and dreams.

What’s your biggest complaint?

People have been through so much after the storm and they are reluctant to ask for help. They are in need but have been through a lot of experiences which leaves them leery to ask for help. We want to help. We are now located in the community and want to be very integrated in the community and its needs.

What advice do you have for people who are interested in getting involved in the community?

Pick something you are passionate about and make the call. Service is very rewarding work.

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