<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=730207053839709&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Skip to the main content.

4 min read

Answering the Call to Build Community

Answering the Call to Build Community

"Habitat needs to show up differently in community." That’s what Shereese Turner said when she joined Twin Cities Habitat to lead Programs & Services in 2018. Fueled by her own journey with housing, Shereese challenged our organization to build deeper, more trusting relationships with Black communities and other communities of color. She pushed us to listen better, have seats at more tables, admit when we’re wrong, and change course when needed.

It Takes a Village

Shereese’s vision for Programs & Services is heavily influenced by her personal journey to homeownership. “I realize how stressful things can be and understand how valuable it is to approach this work with my old self in mind,” she said. "To treat everyone with dignity, respect, be an effective listener. I ask, 'What was it that I needed to turn the corner? What did I need as support to get to the next step?'"

Shereese posting with her dog back in 1999.As a single mom with three kids, Shereese  moved to Minneapolis in 1995 and found support from community organizations like Hennepin County Human Services and St. Anne’s Shelter. After several years of ups, downs, and renting an apartment, she purchased her first home in 1999. "Home allowed me to build a strong foundation for my children where they didn't have to worry about anything. I remember just telling my children, ‘Go to school, get good grades, I got the rest."

But her journey had just begun. She had many worries as a first-time homebuyer, and she needed to tap into her community for support. She relied on friends’ recommendations for electricians and handymen people who could fit her budget or work out payment plans for services. The old saying rang true: It takes a village to raise a child.

"We're all as good as our resources," Shereese explained. "So the more resources we have, the better. And that's really what sets our communities of color apart from other communities is that there's just not enough resources. And I'm not speaking of just social services or Human Services type of things. No, it's your village, it’s your community."

Shereese's professional career progressed and after more than 10 years of working at Twin Cities R!SE, she joined Twin Cities Habitat as Senior Director of Programs & Services; she currently serves as our Chief Program Officer. 

New Staff, New Energy

Like many organizations, Twin Cities Habitat rode a wave of change during the height of the pandemic, including the launch of our Advancing Black Homeownership Program. Shereese is extremely excited to see how successful the program has been and the number of families we’ve been able to reach. Part of this success is due to the new staff within Programs & Services that are helping her build relationships.

"I’m excited about how we’re gonna show up differently with our stakeholders. We get to feel equally excited about not only the homebuyers’ journeys, but even our own journey because we’ve come a long way."

Preston having a cheerful conversation with two other people at Habitat's Home Celebration event.Community Engagement Manager Preston Powless at Twin Cities Habitat's Home Celebration

She explained how her team members share a similar passion and energy, and that helps everyone get through the busy workdays. "The work is still there, it just don’t feel that hard anymore because you got people who are equally excited about this work and that's the game changer. It feels like we’re a brand-new division."

New division staff include:

  • Portia Jackson, Director of Programs & Services
  • Preston Powless, Community Engagement Manager
  • Sydney Schultz, Community Engagement Coordinator
  • Jenny Sanford, Homeowner Engagement Manager
  • Pearll Warren, Homeowner Development Coordinator

Building Community

Shereese's philosophy on building community aligns with her philosophy on leadership, which she learned from an inspiring mentor. "It’s not what I know or how much I know. It’s how you show up in this space, how you encourage others, how you inspire others, and how you motivate others to be their best selves. I’m gonna be my best self so you can be your best self."

Shereese has created new partnerships and ushered in a new era of energetic community building. She has been instrumental in Twin Cities Habitat being more visible in the community and sponsoring events like Live Your Healthy Lyfe, Selby Jazz Fest, and A Night at the Q. She helped spearhead a new collaboration with Minneapolis Public Housing Authority and Twin Cities R!SE, dubbed Pathways to Success, and she is on the Steering Committee for the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity.

Shereese taking a selfie with three local police officers at the Live Your Healthy Lyfe event.Shereese attending Live Your Healthy Lyfe.

What does Shereese want community partners and organizations to know about Twin Cities Habitat and the work we’re doing?

“We're so much more than what people think we are. I want people to know all of what we do. Yes, we are an amazing home creation organization, but we do so many other things, too. And I would love for them to understand every program that we offer, because I'm sure there is something for everybody within our program, be it home repair, foreclosure prevention, just looking to buy a home, or even volunteering.”

Shereese and her team are eager to partner with more community groups, as well as employers looking to invest in their employees. "Allow us to help you," she said. "Let us gain access to your workforce, so they can see what we offer. Let’s all work towards making our communities more stable and safer. We can solve this, but we can’t do this work by ourselves. We need you to join forces with us so we can really address the needs in our communities."

Lessons from the Past

When asked what she thinks her old self would say to her if she could see how far she’s come, Shereese said, "I can see my old self reminding me to extend grace to myself. Be patient. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Your turn is coming. You are not your past. You are not your circumstances. You’re much bigger than that. Your circumstances are temporary."

It’s a powerful message from someone who knows the reality of how hard it can be to believe in yourself and have hope for the future. "I know change is hard. I get it. Change is real hard. But one thing that I remember my mentor telling me is that change is constant, change is inevitable, and change is good. So, I've just learned to embrace change because I can't control it."

Shereese speaking in to a microphone at a Habitat event.Shereese speaking at Twin Cities Habitat's Home Celebration

Shereese remembers back to when she was struggling through the early days of homeownership and how important community was.

"When I started to get access to things, when I started to just educate myself or get resources around something that would enhance my or my family's life, it just felt like a ton had just been lifted off my shoulders. Like I can breathe, and that's what I hope for anybody is that they feel like they can just breathe."

If your organization would like more information on how to partner with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, please reach out to our Community Engagement Manager Preston Powless!

Sign up for the Community Partner Newsletter for a quarterly update on the latest news, happenings, and events within our Programs & Services division.

Habitat Announces Ground-Breaking Partnership with Black Men Teach

Habitat Announces Ground-Breaking Partnership with Black Men Teach

Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity is thrilled to announce our new partnership with Black Men Teach (BMT)—designed to provide pathways to homeownership...

Read More
5 Great Reasons to Work at Habitat

5 Great Reasons to Work at Habitat

Guest Blog by Robyn Lodahl, HR Coordinator, and Blake MacKenzie, Communications Specialist It takes everyone to make Twin Cities Habitat for...

Read More
The Heights: A Historic Investment in St. Paul’s Greater East Side

The Heights: A Historic Investment in St. Paul’s Greater East Side

The Greater East Side of St. Paul is a vibrant community with plenty of small businesses, arts and culture organizations, and a strong and...

Read More