Communities Together Inc —

our history:

Communities Together Inc (CTI) was formed as a non-profit 501c3 in 2017 to carry forward and build upon the resident service programs developed and implemented by AHD Management and Residential One over the preceding 20 years.

The owners of AHD, Inc (Affordable Housing Developers) www.ahd1.com have long realized that affordable housing is about more than just building units and the need to focus on building strong communities. Typical of affordable housing portfolios utilizing Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), the AHD Inc portfolio consisting of 20 projects with over 3,000 units in Maryland, DC and Virginia was required to provide a “resident Services plan” in order to receive tax credits and financing.  In order to implement the plans, a budget was provided from operations for each property to pay for resident services and activities. A resident services coordinator was hired by the management company to coordinate the work in concert with the resident manager at each property.

Over the years, this model has served the residents of the AHD portfolio well. With limited staff and resources, we learned to partner with other service providers to leverage our efforts. The senior properties focused on social activities, health and wellness. The family properties have offered a wide variety of programs tailored to the make-up of the residents, including family oriented social activities, afterschool enrichment, and adult education.

Among the many lessons learned, the most important was the need to have the resident’s engagement in developing and implementing programs. We have found that a bottom up approach with input and involvement of the residents is always more successful than a top down delivery of service. This was the basis for our official change of direction in 2012 from “resident services” to “resident engagement” and the basis for our work at CTI.

Communities Together Inc was formed to bring this work to the next level and to build a model actively engaging residents to improving their communities, that we can bring to other low- and moderate-income communities. CTI will allow us to leverage our resources by partnering with other service providers, foundations, lenders, investors and others active in the affordable housing industry.

Our Core values:

  • The success of society as a whole depends on fairness and equal opportunity
  • All people have a right to live in healthy, holistic communities
  • Providing opportunities and tools to remove barriers and empower
    people in achieving their full potential
  • When people are comfortable in their homes they will engage in
    and contribute to their communities

Our Approach:

We aim to actively engage the residents of affordable housing communities in providing activities and services that enrich their lives by promoting wellness, opportunities for continued education and increasing civic pride. We intend to develop model programs that can be applied to both affordable family and senior housing communities by continuously monitoring and measuring the success of our programs, services and activities.

Our Story:

Communities Together, Inc. is a joint effort by a group of real estate professionals including developers, architects, builder, property managers and lenders along with community organizers, social workers, musicians, artists and tutors who share a firm belief in the power of community. As long-term members of a team responsible for design, development, financing and management of affordable housing, we have come to realize that the success of our collective work is not measured by counting units of housing built but rather by the strength of the communities we have created. Community is the launching pad for success. Low and moderate residents can leverage scarce resources by networking and sharing information and material.We actively engage the residents in determining the type of activities and services required at each site. CTI works with the site management staff and the residents for the delivery of desired activities and services. The “resident engagement” model promotes resident buy-in and constructive participation in the community.

Board of Directors:

Donald E. Tucker AIA, LEED, AP

CTI President & Founder

A real estate developer and registered architect, Don Tucker is a recognized expert in the programming, design, and development of multi-family, elderly and special user housing, and he has an extensive portfolio of successful projects. With more than forty years of design and development experience, Mr. Tucker has been responsible for numerous projects, from small group homes for seniors to large multi-family residential complexes. As both an architect and as a developer, he has consistently focused on affordability, sustainability, and meeting resident needs.

Mr. Tucker is the president of AHD (Affordable Housing Developers), Inc. Since its founding in 1986 AHD has been responsible for development of more than five thousand affordable rental units in the Washington, DC market area. AHD is known for its focus on community building and resident services. Mr. Tucker is also president of Eco Housing Corporation, a national leader in the development of Cohousing communities and a principal of the award-winning EDG (Environmental Design Group) Architects, LLC, a full-service architectural firm known for creative, user-driven, sustainable design.  In addition, Mr. Tucker has taught architecture at Temple University, lectured at numerous conferences, and written published articles on affordable housing, senior housing, and cohousing.He received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of New Mexico in 1968 and was subsequently awarded a fellowship in urban design at the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his Master of Architecture degree in 1970.

Michael L. Seltz

Treasurer, CTI Board of Directors

 Michael Seltz currently works as a housing development consultant. He works under contract to St. Mary’s Housing Development corporation, where he supervises a 223f refinance currently underway in Fredericksburg, Maryland, and under contract to Volunteers of America (VOA), where he manages several Low-Income Housing Tax-Credit funded (LIHTC) projects, including projects in California, Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, Alaska, and New Jersey.

He served as the Director of Real Estate Development for VOA from 2004-2006, and as their Vice President of Housing Development from 2006-2015. In these roles, he supervised project and development managers across the nation, and he also managed acquisitions, renovations, and refinances for LIHTC projects. Before joining VOA, Mr. Seltz worked as an independent project manager and real-estate developer; he participated in the development of a variety of senior and multifamily housing projects in the DC metro area. Prior to his work in development, Mr. Seltz worked in architectural and interior design. After serving in the US Army in Vietnam, Mr. Seltz worked at Skidmore, Owings & Merill, where he rose to Associate Partner. He subsequently founded Oldham & Seltz, a commercial architectural and interior design firm which designed $475 million in built construction over the course of twelve years.

Mr. Seltz received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Brandeis University in 1965, and a Master of City Planning degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1967.

Donna P. Thurmond

Member of the CTI Board of Directors

Donna Thurmond has worked in the field of aging services for over 30 years and currently serves as the Vice President of Resident Services and Programs at Volunteers of America’s national office. She has developed and implemented a wide array of programs and services, including health promotion and disease prevention initiatives for seniors living in subsidized housing. Donna provides national oversight for a multi-million dollar service coordinator program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Her efforts have resulted in implementing 135 service coordinator programs in 158 subsidized housing facilities. Donna, also serves as the Treasurer on the American Association of Service Coordinator national board.

Donna is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and received her Bachelors of Art and Master of Arts degree in sociology with a specialization in gerontology.

Tony Ross, HCCP

Member of the CTI Board of Directors

Tony Ross is the President and a co-founder of ResidentialONE, a real estate management company with an extensive portfolio throughout the DC metropolitan area.

Prior to the founding of Residential ONE, Mr. Ross worked at Edgewood Management Corporation, where he gained experience in affordable housing, commercial real estate management, property renovations, and development, and where he rose to the position of Vice President. Subsequently, he worked at Equity Management, where he rose to the position of Executive Vice President; in this capacity, he served as an integral part of the organization’s strategeic management. In addition, Mr. Ross has served as an Adjunct Professor of Property Management at the University of the District of Columbia Community College.

Mr. Ross received a Bachelor of Arts in leadership and a Master of Science in organizational performance from Bellevue University. He also earned an Associate’s degree in occupational studies and emergency and disaster management from Thomas Edison State College. His professional designations include an HCCP (Housing Credit Certified Professional) certification from the National Association of Home Builders, a NAHP-e certification (National Affordable Housing Professional – Executive) and a SHCM certification (Specialist in Housing Credit Management) from Spectrum Seminars, Inc.

Karon L. Phillips, Ph.D., MPH. CHES, CAPS

Member of the CTI Board of Directors

Dr. Karon Phillips is a public health gerontologist working in the Washington, D.C. area working as a Scientific Reviewer (contractor) for the NIH Center for Scientific Review and as a community engagement consultant. She has significant experience conducting and coordinating a variety of coalition building and programmatic activities to promote healthy aging. She has extensive training in community-based interventions for older adults. Her experience includes directing the implementation of programs and services focused on health promotion, including chronic disease self-management and falls prevention, across several senior affordable housing communities. Along with the addition of new programs and services, she has developed and led numerous research projects and multi-site needs assessments.

Dr. Phillips holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Women’s Studies from Cornell University. She received her Master of Public Health degree and her Doctorate in Aging Studies from the University of South Florida

Scott Willis

Member of the CTI Board of Directors

Scott is currently the East Region Vice President of Sales and Business Development for US Bank’s National Strategic Markets and Affordable Lending Team; where he leads the institutions all-channel home loan strategy focused on expanding home ownership to LMI and Multi-Cultural consumers segments across a 18 state bank  and mortgage footprint market.  Prior to joining US Bank, he served as a Senior Regional Community Development Manager with HSBC North America; leading the bank’s CRA strategy to exceed its LMI residential mortgage, small business lending, community and retail service, and community development loan and investment targets for 32 retail bank branches in the Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia, and South Florida markets. Prior to joining HSBC, Scott worked in Regional Multi-Cultural and Affordable Lending positions with JP Morgan Chase Bank, First Horizon Home Loans, and AIG United Guaranty; directing business development, CRA, and Fair Lending execution strategies that increased retail lending to first time home buyers, ethnic–minority, and LMI consumer segments across a 17 state bank and mortgage footprint market. Scott completed a  B.A. degree in Public Administration from Kentucky State University (1990) as well as Masters’ degrees in Public Policy (1997) and Urban and Regional Planning (1998) from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning. Over the course of his banking and financial services career, he has been active in driving “high impact” volunteer engagement initiatives in collaboration with the Junior Achievement Metro Affiliates of Washington DC and South Florida, The Washington DC LISC Lender Advisory Council, The BEACON DC Women’s Founders Initiative, Venture Café Miami, the Greater Washington Urban League, NHS of South Florida, The Maryland Women’s Business Center, The Washington DC Metro Affiliates of the SBA’s Emerging Leader and SCORE Programs, as well as The Madame CJ Walker’s Legacy Foundation.

Anthony Waddell

Member of the CTI Board of Directors

Anthony L. Waddell is an industry veteran who over his career has worked as both a financier and developer of affordable and mixed-income multifamily housing.Most recently, prior to transitioning to NUE and the C.A. Harrison Companies, for which he is now the principal development consultant, Mr. Waddell served as the Vice President of Real Estate Development Mid-Atlantic for the Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc. (POAH).  All totaled, Mr. Waddell has nearly twenty (20) years of experience in executing complex mixed-use, mixed-income, mixed-financed urban development projects as both a lender and developer.

While at POAH, Mr. Waddell oversaw POAH’s development activity in the mid-Atlantic region, focusing on opportunities in key markets from Pennsylvania to North Carolina – including the $500 million redevelopment of the Barry Farm Public housing complex which recently began construction of the first phase of public infrastructure and is expected to start vertical construction in the summer of 2021.

Prior to joining POAH, Mr. Waddell was DC Housing Finance Agency’s Director of Public Finance.  In that position, Mr. Waddell was the chief underwriter and manager of the DCHFA’s Multifamily Mortgage Revenue Bond Program. During his tenure, Mr. Waddell and his team financed nearly $1.9 billion in affordable / mixed-income housing in the District of Columbia.  During the economic downturn that stared in 2008, Mr. Waddell was instrumental in creating the short-term collateralized bond structure (FHA/Ginnie Mae structure) that is widely used today to manage the impact of negative arbitrage on tax exempt bond transactions and take advantage of low taxable debt rates; closing the first such transaction in 2009 during the height of the financial crisis as part of the New Issue Bond program enacted under

In the private sector while with Urban Atlantic headquartered in Bethesda, MD, Mr. Waddell led two transformative HOPE VI joint venture projects: Albemarle Square in Baltimore, MD and Capitol Quarter in Washington, DC.  The two projects together consisted of the development of over 2,100 units of mixed income for sale and rental housing and over 800,000 square feet of office/retail/community space.  During his five (5) year stay with Mid-City, Mr. Waddell managed over $700 million worth of development activity.

Throughout his career as both a financier and developer, Mr. Waddell has had formed relationships at almost every unit of government in markets where he has worked and with federal agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  Deal structuring and management; and working through the complexities of public-private partnerships and joint ventures are strengths.

Mr. Waddell is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School, where he earned a Master of Science Degree in Real Estate with a concentration in Institutional Investment and Development.

Board Members Emeritae:

Shavon Bartley

Rosemary Pezzuto (Founding Member and Secretary)

PROGRAM STAFF:

Isabella Abraham

Associate Community Engagement Coordinator

Born and raised in the DC area, Isabella ventured to Burlington, Vermont after high school and graduated from the University of Vermont with a Bachelor of Arts. She majored in Sociology and pursued two minors, one in English and one in Public Communications. During college, Isabella volunteered and worked on the East Coast and in the Midwest, gaining insight on the affordable housing crisis that no community in the country is free of. Isabella was thrilled not only to return to the DC area and contribute to her own community after her time in New England, but also to learn the intricacies of affordable housing from the inside. She is inspired by the powerful ripples interpersonal connections can create and is always searching for where and the ways in which institutions can be improved. Her professional interests include writing, organization, and collaboration. She was proud to become a member of the Communities Together team as an Assistant Community Engagement Coordinator in 2021.

Jordon DaSilva-Martins

Assistant Community Engagement Coordinator

Since 2015, Jordon DaSilva-Martins has worked and volunteered with children and youth in various settings to promote healthy living through mentorship and to teach social-emotional learning skills. In the 2021-2022 school year, Jordon served as an AmeriCorps member with City Year, assigned to a high school English class in Washington, DC to provide academic and personal support. Determined to help bridge gaps between students and schools, Jordon has encouraged communication and togetherness. It is important to Jordon that she helps cultivate a creative, safe, and accepting environment. She is passionate about serving the community and helping others achieve their personal goals through support from others. In 2021, Jordon graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology with a specialization in Health and Society and a minor in Business Administration. She is excited to join the Communities Together team as an Assistant Community Engagement Coordinator responsible for family communities chiefly in the District of Columbia and Maryland.

Michelle Morton-Azeem

Community Engagement Coordinator – Ashburn Chase

Serving full-time at Ashburn Chase Apartments in Virginia, Michelle Morton-Azeem is working to integrate ten percent of the residents, who are developmentally disabled (DD), with all of their neighbors. Michelle found that her true calling is to be able to help others when she took on the role of Employment Aide with Rappahannock Goodwill Industries, where she worked with and assisted DD individuals. She went on to serve as a Case Manager and Service Coordinator and supervised up to 30 Direct Support Professionals. Later, she took on the role of Resident Services Coordinator at a low-income HUD subsidized community. Michelle lives by two sayings: “You will never go hungry around me,” and “Everyone has a story. We just have to listen, even when they are silent.” She is always looking for ways to bring new ideas to life in order to improve the lives of those she serves. She attended Strayer University, studying Acquisitions and Contract Management, and earned a Diploma with Honors from Ashworth College. She is now studying at George Mason University, seeking a career diploma as a Social Service Assistant. Michelle is also a Licensed CPR instructor for the American Red Cross and a Notary Public for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Bryana Solano

Community Engagement Coordinator for Spanish Speakers

Bryana Waleska Solano was born in Honduras and raised in the United States. She’s passionate about serving her community and giving back to those in need. Bryana has been working in the field of human services since 2013 and firmly believes that she’s an agent of change. She’s provided services for many families through non-profit organizations in New York, Connecticut, and the Pacific Northwest. Among other things, she has managed cases for children through a family guidance center and provided behavior modification counseling with children with two or more behavioral health diagnoses. She has also worked with undocumented, unaccompanied boys, counseling and teaching them new skills through therapy. She was very excited to begin her journey with Communities Together in 2021 and is focused on working with our families in Maryland’s Langley Park Corridor as our Community Engagement Coordinator. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Antillean Adventist University in Puerto Rico.

Lili R. Spain, MSW, M.Ed.

Community Engagement Coordinator

Simply put, Lili R. Spain loves people, especially seniors! She has been a teacher for ten years with the Richmond Public School system and the Hanover County School system. She was then called to the ministry of giving spiritual care for the dying and their families as a chaplain for Hospice of Virginia for another decade. Her career path changed when she moved to Northern Virginia. Earning a Master’s in Social Work in 2019 led her to join Communities Together as the Community Engagement Coordinator specializing in senior communities in 2019. Lili has done volunteer work with Literacy Volunteers of America, English as a Second Language, Hospice of Virginia, and INOVA Health System. She has also participated in advocacy efforts for the YWCA and the Alzheimer’s Association. Lili holds a BA in French, an M. Ed, and an MS in Patient Counseling, all from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has been ordained by the American Baptist Association.

Tom Vellenga

Executive Director

Tom brings us wide experience as a public servant. During the Clinton Administration, he was White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta’s advisor on national security, having served Panetta, Sen. Sarbanes, and others in Congress. Earlier, he managed USAID’s relations with Congress for its programs in Eurasia and Europe. Later, he advised Energy Secretary Federico Peña on environmental, health, and safety programs. In 1998, his family moved to St. Paul to raise their kids with their wider family. He led programs at the University of Minnesota and managed the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. In 2006, Tom founded Heartland Democracy and created an unprecedented program of civic self-empowerment for non-voters, captured in a TEDx Talk in 2011. In his last five years in the Twin Cities, Tom served as second-in-command of Carver County. In 2019, his family returned to Washington, DC to be close to his wife’s family and friends. He raised funds for the Biden-Harris campaign and consulted with Communities Together before joining our team as interim executive director in 2021. He holds a BA from Williams College and an MA in international economics and strategic studies from Johns Hopkins’ School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

Anastasia Wroblewski, MSW, NRP

Community Engagement Director

Anastasia Wroblewski is our Director of Community Engagement. A native of Prince George’s County, she prides herself on working in the community that raised her. She was our first employee and has moved from Assistant Coordinator to Coordinator to her current role. Her career in housing started in 2008 while working with Camp Fire and several partners including Prince George’s County Transitional Housing Program and Shepherds Cove Homeless Shelter. There she wrote and won her first grant to provide summer and afterschool programs and services to youth. In recognition of her commitment of service to the community she has been presented a number of awards including Prince George’s County Teenager of the Year in 2008, Daily Point of Light in 2009, and National Camp Fire Achievement Award in 2010. In addition, she worked hard to earn the Camp Fire WoHeLo Award and Presidential Service Award with over 3,000 hours. Her educational credentials include a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from St. Bonaventure, a Master’s in Social Work with a clinical concentration from the University of Maryland at Baltimore, and a postgraduate Certificate in Strategic Management from St. Bonaventure University.

Interns:

Educational internships are available with Communities Together Inc. Past internships have included undergraduate and graduate level students from several universities.
Universities include:

University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Social Work

Gallaudet University School of Social Work

Howard University School of Social Work

Washington Adventist University School of Nursing

University of Maryland Public Scholars

Salisbury University

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Bowie State University

If you are interested in an internship with Communities Together Inc please contact, Anastasia@commtogether.org