New IAHF director passionate about affordable housing
T. Ewell Hopkins, the new executive director of the Island Affordable Housing Fund (IAHF), is a salesman and a very good one. He comes to the IAHF from a leadership career in professional service sales and marketing management with a resume full of record sales increases and annual quotas exceeded. He used to sell technology - hardware, software, and services. Now, he's selling something else: a stake in the future of the Island's economy and its quality of life.
Ten years ago, Mr. Hopkins and his wife, Kimberly Cartwright, fell in love with Martha's Vineyard, its open spaces, its beauty, and especially its year-round community. They bought a summer home, but soon decided that the Island was where they wanted to live year-round. After a year or two, they sold their home in Newton, remodeled the house in Oak Bluffs, and put their children in Island schools, but Mr. Hopkins still worked in the high-powered business world, traveling throughout the country.
Mr. Hopkins told The Times, "I had a five-year plan to work on the Island, but it turned into a ten-year plan." In 2006, a friend convinced him to help start a consulting business in Manhattan, specializing in professional service sales, marketing, and business management. It was, he says, very successful.
But after a five-year interruption in his plan, Mr. Hopkins re-evaluated his priorities and decided that he wanted to move from being a business professional to a "higher calling," a job that would give him a purpose in life, fulfillment, and "a sense of being part of something worthwhile." He turned his attention to Island nonprofits and, after exploring other avenues, he was recently named executive director of the IAHF, replacing Patrick Manning.
"The fact that I can do something that is meaningful - I'm all over that," Mr. Hopkins said.
The IAHF is one of several agencies on Martha's Vineyard that work to provide affordable housing for those working individuals and families who are priced out of home ownership (and sometimes even rentals) by the sky-high cost of Island real estate. The Dukes County Regional Housing Authority screens applicants for various affordable housing opportunities. The Island Housing Trust holds title to land and sometimes buildings. The IAHF raises money, and Mr. Hopkins's work at IAHF is exclusively fundraising.
A realist, Mr. Hopkins believes the IAHF needs to do a better job of listening to what the community will support. "The IAHF can't just come up with money-raising schemes and then go out and try to sell them to the community," he said.
Fundraising for the IAHF, Mr. Hopkins told The Times, is selling people on the seriousness of the affordable housing shortage on Martha's Vineyard. "There is not enough emphasis in the Island media on the impact that the affordable housing crisis has on the economy," he said.
Although donating to the IAHF may be "the right thing" to do, people doing the right thing is not going to solve the crisis, Mr. Hopkins said. "Doing the right thing has to be complemented by economic reality." With the support of his board, he wants to expand the scope and mission of the IAHF so that individuals, businesses, and towns see exactly how seriously the shortage of affordable housing affects costs, profits, and bottom lines.
A tall man with a friendly smile and an easy manner, Mr. Hopkins talks about his new job with fervor. He is passionately serious about affordable housing. For him, what is at stake is the quality of life that brought him to the Vineyard ten years ago.