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Culture / Newsy

Houston CEO Jumps Into Emergency Shelter in Wake of Harvey, Wins National Award for Crisis Management

BY // 09.15.17
photography Courtesy of BakerRipley

Few if any in among the thousands that poured into NRG Center in the wake of Harvey recognized the sophisticated red head leading the Harris County effort to open the emergency shelter. The leadership that Angela Blanchard, CEO of BakerRipley (previously Neighborhood Centers), exhibited that last Tuesday in August and throughout the crisis has been the hallmark of an extraordinary career in community development that has spanned more than three decades.

For her “creativity, determination, and success in finding solutions to critical issues,” Blanchard was named on Thursday recipient of the 2017 Heinz Award in the Human Condition category, an honor that includes an unrestricted cash award of $250,000.

The Heinz Family Foundation established the awards 22 years ago in memory of the late Pennsylvania Senator John Heinz. Blanchard will be formally honored in Pittsburg in October along with award recipients in the areas of art and humanities, environment, public policy, and technology/economy/employment.

In announcing the award, the foundation praised Blanchard “for creating a new model to develop, transform, and empower economically disadvantaged communities . . . Blanchard’s proven approach equips low-income and immigrant communities with the tools to thrive economically and socially, and draws its ideas, strengths, and direction from the people served.”

Last May, Blanchard, who is a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings, announced that she would resign her post at the end of the year, passing the torch after having served as CEO for two decades, during which she powerfully advocated for immigrants, oversaw the construction of new community centers and expanded the non-profit’s revenue. Now, in the interim, she is leading BakerRipley’s continued efforts in the long-term disaster recovery from Harvey.

“Our approach stems from our confidence that the people we are working with have aspirations of their own that should be honored, and that they have their own deeply held beliefs about how to move forward,” Blanchard said in an award statement. “Appreciative Community Building for us means standing side-by-side with people, and working with them on that which is most important to them — the things that keep them up at night and get them up in the morning.

“We have made it our practice to look at every community for what gives it life and energy, what is whole and what is strong.”

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