Photo: Jennifer Bowser, Arcadia-DeSoto County Habitat for Humanity

DeSoto Catalytic Community Guide Program Spotlight—Jennifer Bowser, Executive Director of Arcadia-DeSoto County Habitat for Humanity

Posted on June 11, 2024 by Avery Crews Prado de Lima, TPF Fellow 2023/24

Editor's Note: The Patterson Foundation believes in the power of collaboration among individuals, organizations, and communities to achieve shared goals. By working together towards common aspirations, they can not only strengthen themselves but also their communities, shaping a better future. DeSoto County Ahead serves as a prime example of this collaborative approach, where community members learn from one another, share experiences, and collectively grow to build a more robust, resilient community. We hope you take time to explore our Community Spotlight Series, sharing how local DeSoto County organizations are making a difference in the community or strengthening the people in their community.

 

As part of The Patterson Foundation's work with DeSoto County, The Harwood Institute's Catalytic Community Guide Program in DeSoto County offers an intensive program for community members who desire to guide their community to create lasting change using Harwood's approach. Catalytic Community Guides (CCG) are local community leaders trained in the Harwood approach and positioned in the community to help people adopt a mindset and practice that enables them to step forward, take action, create meaningful change, and unleash the potential of their community. Five DeSoto County community leaders are participating in this transformative 12-week course. In this month's DeSoto Solutions to Actions newsletter, we're spotlighting Jennifer Bowser, the Executive Director of Arcadia-DeSoto County Habitat for Humanity, who embodies a wealth of experience within the nonprofit sector.

Jennifer Bowser is an advocate for sustainable, affordable housing. She is the executive director of Arcadia-DeSoto County Habitat for Humanity, also known as DeSoto Habitat. Jennifer left her hometown of Big Run, PA, to enjoy the warmer weather in Florida, where she began her journey with DeSoto Habitat in 2014 as a volunteer at the ReStore. After volunteering for a little over a year, she was hired as the office secretary in 2016 and became the executive director in December 2017. Jennifer is an active member of her community, serving on the board of directors for DeSoto County Chamber of Commerce and as the Board Chair for Hope DeSoto Long Term Recovery Group. She is a member of the Arcadia Centennial Lions Club, the Rotary Club of Arcadia, and the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee for DeSoto County. Jennifer has a wealth of experience in the nonprofit world and has helped DeSoto Habitat blossom into a growing organization focused on helping families achieve strength, stability, and independence.

When asked what she sees as the impact of this project on DeSoto County residents, Jennifer said, "I have learned a great deal through my participation in the CCG Course. The Harwood Institute's program was a very beneficial use of my time and energy and helped me grow to become a better leader. Listening to the community's needs and wants is a large part of their teachings, and I believe that philosophy is paramount to making intelligent decisions regarding the future of DeSoto County. Learning best practices for leading meetings and hearing all sides of issues was of great value to me. I learned new skills and the proper ways to put those skills into practice. I would recommend this course to anyone in a leadership position."

Jennifer also reflected on the value of participating in the Catalytic Community Guide Course with the Harwood Institute. She shared, "The work that The Patterson Foundation and The Harwood Institute are performing in DeSoto County has inspired many community members to get more involved and let their voices be heard. The Community Conversations were an excellent use of residents' time and allowed them a forum to express their views and ideas. I am excited to see what the future will bring and am looking forward to the upcoming report."

We are excited to continue to see the growth in these community leaders as the Catalytic Community Guide Course continues and look forward to the impact they will have going forward.

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