We are excited to introduce you to Symone Crawford who was recently named the next Executive Director of MAHA effective January 1, 2022. Tom Callahan, the previous Executive Director was in the role for over 30 years. He hired Symone back in 2018 and became, a mentor and friend to her.
Symone is grateful to her community of women who have been her support system since she moved into the state, some have non-profit experience others have experience in the corporate field, managing/directing people. When asked what part of her earlier life experiences would she credit to this accomplishment, her response was that growing up in Jamaica, she looked up to her uncle (John) and mother (Edith) who has had the most impact on the person she is today.
Edith worked for the Social Development Commission in Jamaica, which was an organization that worked with children from underserved communities. The organization would teach children different skills such as cooking, embroidery and tailoring. They would also host several community events to bring the community together including hosting sporting events. Growing up in this world allowed Symone to see the impact that community growth and empowerment organizations can have on people’s lives. Growing up in these surroundings influenced Symone to get involved in community work at a young age. She would get involved with programs at school and at her church.
Symone’s uncle John also played a huge part in shaping who Symone is today. Symone stated, “My uncle lived with us, he was differently-abled and needed our help. I remember the family coming together to support him, it never crossed our minds that not helping was an option and it never felt burdensome.” Symone added, “He was more of a brother to me than an uncle.” After his passing Symone realized just how much of an impact Uncle John had on her life. She credits him for teaching her how to love and care for those who can’t always care for themselves.
Symone carried that mindset with her when she migrated to the United States in 1998 and eventually settling in Boston in 1999. Initially Symone and her husband struggled to find adequate housing for their growing family, despite the fact that both Symone and her husband had full time jobs. They had to live in a family friend’s basement in Mattapan from 2000-04. This gave Symone the opportunity to live around friends and save money for a down payment on a home. One day she heard that there was an open house down the street from them. She jumped at the opportunity, it was a newly renovated single family home that was close to family.
While touring the home, the Realtor suggested that Symone reach out to MAHA. Symone had no idea what MAHA was at the time but she decided that she would take the opportunity to learn more about MAHA. She would go on to sign up to take a first-time homebuyers course. While completing the first-time homebuyers course, Symone was invited by the staff at MAHA to get more involved in the work outside of the classroom and she jumped at the opportunity. Symone was empowered by the staff at MAHA to grow and become an advocate for herself and others in the community. MAHA gave her the opportunity to speak on her life and how it’s impacted by what’s going on in the community. Given Symone’s background it didn’t take long for her to fall in love with the work.
Symone credits Hillary Pizer (Associate Executive Director), Barbara Rice (Community Organizer) and Cortina Vann (Community Organizer) who have a combined 75 years of experience working with MAHA for believing in her, coaching and encouraging her to be comfortable speaking in front of 10 people in a bank conference room or 1,000 people at a rally at the Reggie Lewis Center. MAHA would give Symone speaking roles at those rallies. They facilitated meetings where Symone would be introduced to everyone from bank CEO’s, community leaders, City Councilors, State Representatives and Mayors. This was a great learning experience for Symone. She learned a lot about organizing and working with local community leaders.
Symone would go on to serve as the Vice-President of the MAHA board for 6 years, before spending a year and half as the President of the Board. In 2018 the opportunity to officially join the MAHA team became available. It was at this time her company closed its Quincy office where she worked as a claims manager and she joined the MAHA team. In 2019, Symone and her homebuyer education team colleagues, Percy Stallworth and Michelle Crocket among others, would roll out a program called STASH. To this day, this is one of Symone’s proudest accomplishments.
STASH is a program designed to help prepare people who grew up “without the bank of Mom and Dad.” To be eligible for the $5,000 grant in the City of Boston, first-generation homebuyers must earn below 100 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) and contribute $2,500 of their own money. Symone added “First-generation buyers often don’t have enough savings, or family members with the financial resources to tap, when trying to buy a home. This investment is critical in helping to level the playing field for those residents to become homeowners.”
The funds can be used toward down payment assistance and/or closing costs. These funds are considered grants, not loans! So you would not have to pay this money back. Symone and MAHA have worked with Mayor Walsh, Interim Mayor Janney and are currently working with Mayor Wu to ensure that this clever initiative is able to continue into the foreseeable future.
While Symone began to become more of an established figure in MAHA and in the community, she was growing in her career path going from a claims adjuster to a Manager. She bought her first home in 2004 and was going to school. She graduated with an Associate’s degree from Roxbury Community College, a Bachelor’s Degree from Northeastern University and a MBA from Southern New Hampshire University.
While working on the Board and in her current role as Executive Director she has been surrounded by an amazing group of female leaders that have served as a great support system and mentors for Symone. “I work with so many incredible women on our board that have been so supportive.” Also Hillary Pizer who has been with MAHA since 1987 and Regina Waters (28 years) have been very supportive of Symone and provide a unique perspective on the work at hand. Symone added “ You can’t beat that kind of support, that internal knowledge that goes way back, all of these systems that support me, hats off to them.”
Symone is not satisfied with the current state of housing in our city. Symone believes we need to expand funding for homeownership, increasing funding will lead to more home owning opportunities. She believes we should increase funding in affordable housing, so as to expand the opportunities for affordable homeownership. Symone believes that we should look into increasing Linkage (fees that developers pay as they build commercial space) as well as increase Inclusionary Development Program percentages and payments (when residential developers build apartments and condos). Symone and MAHA believe that we can make it common practice that more homes should be affordable to the average income within the area where the homes are being built.
Symone has been motivated by her family. She wants to be a role model to her three daughters. As an immigrant, it was important to Symone that her children saw her and her husband purchase their home, and graduate from college while working full time jobs. Symone made sure to surround her children with family every chance she could. For Symone raising her kids in an environment that stresses the importance of family, reinvesting in the community and the importance of having great relationships with neighbors is integral. Her children have all had a chance to volunteer with MAHA, they have all gone on to graduate from college and her eldest daughter has recently purchased her first home. Thank you to Symone Crawford for continuing to fight for and empower the community. We here at Greater Ashmont are so excited to see what you and the amazing staff at MAHA have in store in the years to come.