Giving So Others May Have Affordable Homes

BY STEVE DINNEN

Some people give money to charities. Some volunteer their time. Then there are people like Sue Kenny, who has supported several charities with both cash and personal involvement.

Sue and her husband, Ed Kenny, have long been involved with supporting charitable giving and haven’t often strayed outside of town. “Ninety-nine percent of our money would go local,” she said. “We wanted to somehow give back to our community and make people’s lives better.”

One day Kenny found a way to crank that support up a notch. At lunch, a friend told her about Anawim Housing, a Des Moines-based nonprofit that supports housing efforts for people who struggle to find stability in that area. After studying up on Anawim, and meeting with Stella Neill, its founding executive director who died in 2010, she knew she had to do something more than just write a check.

“I did a lot of soul-searching,” Kenny said. “I wanted to make a wise choice [about] who I wanted to spend my time with.”

Des Moines needs safe, affordable housing, said Kenny, and that’s what Anawim, founded in 1987, set out to provide. “Their mission is so basic, so simple, yet profound.”

The board that Kenny found herself on at Anawim was not just ceremonial, but a working group, she said.

“We were there to inspire staff and give our opinion. Every one of us felt the passion of making Anawim successful,” she said.

Anawim (it’s a Hebrew word from the Old Testament that describes the “poor ones” who remained faithful to God in times of difficulty) is the largest provider of permanent supportive housing in Iowa. Managing more than 220 housing units, Anawim’s website says it provides stable housing to 386 individuals who have experienced homelessness and live with a mental illness, substance use disorder, physical disability, diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, or are fleeing domestic violence.

Kenny has recently retired from the board at Anawim, as it consolidated two boards into one and as she and Ed Kenny found themselves spending much of their time at their home in Florida. They still are active in supporting nonprofit ventures. Social services fall in that category, as do cultural activities and community projects, like the skate park.

“Our mission is all local,” she said.

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