Volunteer Spotlight: APAH’s Board Chair Susan Bell

APAH’s current Board of Directors Chair is Susan Bell. She’s a 40-year resident of Arlington and former Arlington County employee. In honor of Volunteer Week, we asked Susan to tell us – in her own words – a little about her ties to APAH.

How did you learn about and become interested in volunteering at APAH?

I first found out about APAH when Tom Leckey, one of the founders, came to my office at the County to introduce the newest affordable housing provider to County agencies. I worked with APAH on the County side on several acquisitions, renovations and new construction projects.

I retired from the County in 2011 and I’ve been honored to serve on APAH’s Board since 2012.


What have you learned from your time serving on the APAH Board?

Before I joined the Board, I thought I understood the need for affordable housing. I now understand that affordable housing is essential for the health of the community and the region, as well as the need for robust resident services.


Will you share an interaction with an APAH resident that had an impact for you?

At each Board meeting, a resident is invited to talk about their life and how it has changed since they moved into an APAH property. These presentations really ground the Board in APAH’s mission and underscore the extreme need for affordable housing.


Why is affordable housing important for the Arlington and Greater Washington communities?

The Washington Metro area is a great place to live, and as a result, an extremely expensive place to live. Affordable housing is essential for a whole range of people who contribute to the quality of all our lives and help make this place so desirable—health care workers, teachers, public safety employees, day care workers, restaurant and hospitality workers, and many others. Without affordable housing options, far too many pay large percentages of their income for rent, commute unreasonable distances and double up in whatever housing they can find.


What is your vision and what are your hopes for Arlington of the future?

I think most would agree that our actions today help determine our future. For example, the County’s financial and policy commitments to Metro in the 1970’s were bold steps that shaped the physical form of the community, and created a strong tax base to support robust services and programs. My hope is that in the Arlington of the future, the County would build on those successes and accelerate efforts to address affordable housing needs, recognizing that inequality and market forces have exacerbated the problem here.


Since it’s Volunteer month, to whom would you recommend volunteering with APAH, and why?

Anyone who supports affordable housing and is willing to share their skills and time with APAH should consider volunteering. There are many ways to volunteer, and the opportunities range from short term commitments such assisting with resident services activities, to serving on a Board committee.


Do you want to share any advice for young professionals working in affordable housing?

My advice to young professionals working in affordable housing is to learn all you can about your area of focus, and then develop broad knowledge about the rest of the organization where you work.  Nurture your commitment and celebrate achievements.