Washtenaw United: New West Willow Neighborhood Association Building Brighter Future

Jul 1, 2019

Janice Williams
Credit David Fair / 89.1 WEMU

The New West Willow Neighborhood Association was formed in 2015 and, ever since, the future of the Ypsilanti Township neighborhood has become brighter.  Long-time resident, association member, and neighbohood watch activist Janice Williams provides a look at living in West Willow and building to something greater. 

WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw County to explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area.  And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services.  It is a community voice.  It is 'Washtenaw United.'

Janice Williams at the WEMU studio.
Credit David Fair / 89.1 WEMU

United Way chose to invest Capacity Building in this specific neighborhood association for several reasons:

  • As a neighborhood in Ypsilanti Township, the outcomes for West Willow have been in decline for years since the shift away from manufacturing jobs.
  • Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley has been doing Community Development work with the neighborhood since 2013 with a focus on engaging residents directly in neighborhood revitalization efforts (as a complement to renovation of homes in the neighborhood).  They lifted up the NWWNA as an organization ready for capacity building support to strengthen the organization to continue these neighborhood revitalization efforts.
  • The NWWNA is headed by leaders of color, which is also priority of our Capacity Building Investments.  There is a lack of diversity of nonprofit board members and executives.  Diversity of identity, experience, thought and ideas help nonprofits meet the immense demands required to address the complex issues we face in the sector.
  • The funding provided the opportunity for the organization to receive leadership and governance training and customized assistance from NEW (Nonprofit Enterprise at Work) to help the organization self-identify where they desired to improve and in service of creating a stronger neighborhood association and a more connected West Willow.
  • Since the Capacity Building investment began, NWWNA has continued to grow.  The leadership of the organization has progressed from a start-up phase to learning about how to operate as a board, developing board policies, building more partnerships, and working with residents to develop a vision for the future of the neighborhood.
  • They’ve launched a Youth Advisory Board to engage young residents in community change and opened a warehouse space with community tool rentals.
  • The organization has worked directly with residents to hold community conversations and develop action plans for improving the health of the community (through a Washtenaw County Public Health initiative that UWWC also funded).

WEMU's David Fair and Janice Williams
Credit David Fair / 89.1 WEMU


United Way of Washtenaw County Grants

Habitat for Humanity’s Community Development Work in West Willow

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu