Lisa Grace remembers her old neighborhood as an idyllic place: summer days were spent outside riding bikes and playing at the park at the end of her street chasing down Gordy the ice cream man and, like many kids in Detroit, coming home when the street lights came on. Little did Lisa know as a kid going to Emerson Elementary that she would one day return to her old neighborhood to help run one of the most successful non-profits in Southeast Michigan.
Lisa’s home was close to the beauty salon her father ran, Hair by Joseph, on McNichols next door to Kathy’s Cheesecakes. You could say Lisa’s first job in the neighborhood was when she was about four years old. For 25 cents, Lisa would dance and sing Mary Poppins tunes for the women getting their hair done at the salon. As an older, but not quite teenage girl, Lisa developed an appreciation for the surrounding neighborhoods. “My mom would drive my sister and me through GRDC’s neighborhoods to look at the beautiful homes. We’d pick out our favorites as we went along. She also loved to go to Open Houses and I would always tag along. I think that’s where I got my love of homes.”
As a teenager, college student and then young adult, Lisa moved around a bit, gaining experience and insight as she went. In fact, Lisa comes to GRDC with an impressively diverse resume. She has worked at Fox Sports Detroit, Metro Parent, B.L.A.C. Magazine, and most recently, EcoWorks, a Detroit based non-profit that creates opportunities for people to learn about and practice the use of green energy. Lisa has also developed impressive managerial skills as she has pursued her career while also looking after eight children, a combination of “his, mine and ours.” The oldest in the 20 year spread of the children is currently a geography major at the University of Michigan with a particular interest in land use. It seems the passion for homes, buildings and their use has been passed down once again.
Although Lisa hasn’t lived in northwest Detroit in some time, as the new Deputy Director at GRDC, Lisa spends her lunch hours driving around Grandmont Rosedale “re-familiarizing myself with the street names and parks.” Her plans don’t end there, however. “I plan on visiting every business, to learn as much as I can about the community.” GRDC is fortunate to have Lisa Grace and her diverse experience, particularly her understanding of working with a community-led organization. “I’m looking forward to implementing what I know, but ultimately GRDC’s activities are up to the community and the GRDC staff.” In turn, Lisa feels fortunate to be with GRDC: “In community development circles, GRDC has one of the strongest reputations in southeast Michigan. GRDC is the gold standard of community development work. In the non-profit industry, GRDC is a model.”
The next time you see Lisa at a community event, introduce yourself, and welcome her back to the community. She’s very pleased to be here. In fact, she says working at GRDC “feels like coming home”.