CHR’s Kelly Collini Puts Spotlight on Community

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Kelly Collini, executive director of CHR, believes that the holiday season brings with it some of the best opportunities to get to know people in your local community.

CHR executive director Kelly Collini visits with some of CHR’s senior residents.

CHR executive director Kelly Collini visits with some of CHR’s senior residents.

“With all of the events happening at this time of year,” Collini says, “it’s the perfect time to get to know people. Most of us find it really hard to slow down, even during the holidays when there are often so many things to do. But I think that it’s precisely this time of year when we should be the most aware of the people around us, including those who live right next door.”

Collini adds that many islanders do not realize how many of their neighbors are actually residents in CHR’s affordable housing program. “With eighty-eight properties across the island, chances are good that you already know someone who lives in a CHR home,” she notes.

CHR is a non-profit 501(c)(3) that provides affordable housing on Sanibel for people who work full-time on the island and who couldn’t otherwise afford to live here. Collini is passionate about CHR’s mission. “It’s important to support the people who serve our community every day—police dispatchers, teachers, bank tellers. One of our residents told me she has two extra hours a day to spend with her toddlers because she doesn’t have to commute off island. And she’s so grateful to raise her children in such a safe and beautiful environment.” Housing the local workforce also strengthens the economy and provides social and economic diversity, adds Collini.

Before coming to CHR, Collini worked as the executive director of the Albany County Safe Project in Laramie, Wyoming, where she successfully spearheaded a campaign to raise one million dollars for a new office and women’s shelter. A resident of Wyoming for over 30 years, Collini, 56, is delighted to have landed in Sanibel. “Coming from Wyoming, I cherish wide open spaces. Sanibel is perfect because there is so much protected land. I love being able to get on my kayak and disappear into Clam Bayou.” Collini and her husband, Jim, a freelance chemical engineer, have one daughter and three grandchildren.

Over the last three years, Collini and her team have done remarkable things for CHR, beginning with balancing the budget. “Once we were in the black, we started working on deferred maintenance projects, like landscaping, power-washing, and replacing worn carpeting with tile.” Under her leadership, CHR has also amassed a reservoir of funds for capital improvements, including new roofs and siding. “One of the things I think is great is that CHR’s 74 below-market-rate-housing rental units are spread throughout the community. And because of recent improvements, they blend in seamlessly. We are very proud of the way our properties look.”

While almost two-thirds of the operating budget comes from rent collection, CHR also relies on grants and local fundraising efforts, like their upcoming fourth annual Mardi Gras celebration. The Bourbon Street-styled benefit will be held on February 6, 2016 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at The Dunes Golf and Tennis Club on Sanibel. “There will be great food, an open bar, live music, plus plenty of zany entertainment,” Collini says. For tickets and event information, guests are encouraged to visit SanibelCHR.org/Mardi-Gras-2016. “Mardi Gras is a great way to contribute to affordable housing efforts while having fun with your friends and neighbors,” says Collini. After all, a strong sense of community is what makes Sanibel so special.