This August, six founding board members will conclude their second and final term on Pee Wee Home’s Board, and in September, the board will elect new members. Outgoing board members include, PWH Board Chair, Lisa Fischbeck; Sarah Howell; Board Secretary, Catherine Petrusz; Greg Rockett; Jonathan Youngpenn; and Hudson Vaughan. We wanted to offer the outgoing board members a moment to reflect on their time with PWH in this capacity, and share what they have learned along the way.
Each of the board members bring their own expertise to the organization. Among these six, there are decades of experiences in community organizing, architectural design, organizational management, construction management, and more. As I interviewed them, it felt a bit like magic hearing how the ensemble came together, and how each person contributed to the organization’s development.
Lisa Fischbeck, PWH Board Chair
PWH was incorporated into a 501c3 in 2017, and since then, Lisa Fischbeck has served as PWH Board Chair. As Board Chair, she has led PWH with organizational skills she brought from her ministry as the launching vicar of The Episcopal Church of the Advocate. Additionally, Lisa has focused on working with faith communities interested in building homes on their land.
Fischbeck’s work with PWH has been both incredibly informative and inspiring. She said, “I am taking with me not just knowledge, but a real passion for finding ways to make housing more affordable for people in our community.”
Fischbeck’s work with PWH has inspired her to study other congregations also doing affordable housing work. She is focusing on the role of small and medium sized churches because she believes that every sized church has a call and the capability to provide affordable housing.
Sarah Stehli Howell, PWH Board Member
Howell was introduced to PWH through Fischbeck when Howell was attending The Church of the Advocate. Howell had previously designed small homes in New Orleans after the wake of Hurricane Katrina. From her previous experience, Howell knew that PWH would need someone with construction and architectural knowledge on the team.
Therefore, Howell joined the PWH team. With her, she brought her creative and efficient home designs. PWH’s are typically the size of two parking spaces, or roughly 350 square feet. With such a small space, Early on, Howell developed some small house floor-plans that could be clad to match the context of any site. She says that “This is not about making a bold architectural statement for me, it’s about designing houses that are sustainable, affordable, and blend into their neighborhood.”
“This is not about making a bold architectural statement for me, it’s about designing houses that are sustainable, affordable, and blend into their neighborhood.”– Sarah Stehli Howell
Not only are PWH’s beautiful and contextualized to their location and the needs of our residents, PWH’s are also smart, efficient, and sustainable designs. Howell has also been investigating prefabricated homes, and is hoping that in the future PWH can explore alternative construction options.
Catherine Petrusz, PWH Board Secretary
Catherine Petrusz has served as PWH Board Secretary since 2017 and was introduced to PWH originally through her work at Self Help. It wasn’t until her neighbor’s sister and friend, Marie Funk, a previous PWH Board Member and social worker, reached out to see if Petrusz would be interested in being on the board.
Petrusz has helped navigate PWH through some complicated organizational issues, and most recently has focused on forming personnel policies. When PWH was first formed, the work was entirely done through the volunteer efforts of board members and other dedicated individuals. Now, PWH has hired two full time staff, and PWH is growing into that different reality.
With PWH’s growing team, Petrusz see’s the importance of PWH building a resilient and sustainable infrastructure that will support the staff, and, in turn, support the community with much-needed affordable homes. In order to build more homes, Petrusz says “[PWH] is doing important foundational work to build a resilient organization that will sustain future homes and future tenants.”
“[PWH] is doing important foundational work to build a resilient organization that will sustain future homes and future tenants.”– Catherine Petrusz
Petrusz also complimented the work of the founding PWH Board Members, and PWH Executive Director, Erika Walker, and others who have been creating policies, finding efficiencies, and laying the groundwork to build future homes.
Greg Rockett, PWH Board Member
Greg Rockett has served on PWH’s construction team since the organization’s inception in 2015, and was introduced to PWH through his work at Self-Help. Rockett met Jonathan Youngpenn, Maggie West, and Hudson Vaughan, when Self-Help collaborated with Community Empowerment Fund (CEF). Rockett, Howell, and Vaughan have guided PWH through constructing the current seven PWH’s, and the three forthcoming Hill Street Homes.
His experience with construction, similar to Howell, has been essential to the construction of our homes. Finding contractors for building PWH’s has been difficult and Rockett has met that challenge in stride. He has also been able to communicate between the PWH Board and the contractors PWH’s hires.
Rockett has enjoyed working with all the different PWH volunteers, contractors, and residents. He said “I’ve always had the satisfaction that we have put people in homes… when I built houses [previously], one of my favorite things was just all the people… You worked with every kind of person.”
“I’ve always had the satisfaction that we have put people in homes… when I built houses [previously], one of my favorite things was just all the people… You worked with every kind of person.”– Greg Rockett
Jonathan Youngpenn, PWH Board Member
Jonathan Youngpenn, former PWH Board Member, Maggie West, and Hudson Vaughan co-founded PWH in 2015. Before PWH, however, in 2009, Youngpenn, and West co-founded CEF. In working with people navigating housing in Chapel Hill and Durham, they recognized the challenges individuals faced. Youngpenn says “West is always thinking ten years ahead,” and “had the vision for [PWH].” CEF was always trying to fill the gaps, and housing stood out as one of those gaps. PWH felt like a natural extension from CEF.
At CEF, they also advocated for changing local zoning codes, or changing local government processes to include affordable housing. Youngpenn said “that was the most immediate way to increase the housing supply, and that work is really hard, complicated, and slow.” With PWH, Youngpenn said “We wanted to create something that would take that power and put it directly in the hands of local community members.”
“We wanted to create something that would take that power and put it directly in the hands of local community members.”– Jonathan Youngpenn
PWH has always said that we are just one piece of the puzzle, and it’s important to demonstrate what small local nonprofits can accomplish. Youngpenn said, “there’s so much more work to do,” and he hopes the community can continue to apply the power and hope that local nonprofits – like CEF, Inner-Faith Council, the Marion Cheek Jackson Center, and others – inspire.
Hudson Vaughan, PWH Board Member
PWH co-founder, Hudson Vaughan has been a vital visionary leader for the organization since PWH’s inception. Vaughan was not available for an interview but some of his greatest contributions to PWH have been his knowledge and connections with town members, and the experience he brings from his work as co-founder and Interim Executive Director of the Marion Cheek Jackson Center.
At PWH, Vaughan has contributed to PWH advocacy work, including modifying housing codes to optimize the building process. He has also led our initiative to build PWH’s on faith community land. Additionally, in May of this year, Vaughan graduated from Duke Divinity School with his Masters of Divinity, and he continues to remain in the Triangle area with his spouse, Maggie West, and their son.