Greater Northwest Indiana’s Community Outreach Triumphs

Wetland in Indiana turned into an outdoor destination with trails, a bird sanctuary, and a gazebo
The Greater Northwest Indiana Association of REALTORS® used NAR grants to transform this undevelopable wetland into an outdoor destination with trails, a bird sanctuary, and a gazebo. Photo: Joe Wszolek

All REALTOR® associations want to make their community a better place to live and position themselves as leaders in their community. This ambition takes time, money, and vision, and it happens to be among the 2019 strategic priorities of NAR President John Smaby.

Many AEs turn to NAR’s REALTOR® Party Community Outreach programs, which provide funding, resources, and technical assistance to those who are committed to effective community leadership. Some associations and their staff not only take on this challenge but also go above and beyond expectations.

Joseph Wszolek, chief operating officer of the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of REALTORS®, consistently leverages NAR outreach programs, including placemaking grants, housing opportunity grants, diversity grants, smart growth action grants, and the Land Use Initiative, to position his association as a leader in its community.

“Joe gets community outreach and understands the benefit community engagement brings to the REALTOR® community,” says Holly Moskerintz, NAR’s community outreach programs manager. “He knows the value in reaching out to stakeholders in the communities within [the association’s] jurisdiction to enhance local housing, transportation, and quality of life.”

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How They Did It

Follow the lead of the GNIAR by addressing issues and challenges in your community. Take advantage of these NAR Community Outreach programs, which also meet the Core Standards advocacy requirement.

  • Transforming Neighborhoods Program
  • Land Use Initiative
  • Diversity grants
  • Placemaking grants
  • Smart Growth grants

Some of the association’s recent projects include transforming an undevelopable wetland into an outdoor destination with trails, a bird sanctuary, and a gazebo; supporting the redevelopment of a town in its jurisdiction into a walkable community; joining with community leaders to explore ways to increase access to affordable housing; partnering with a county parks board to update its five-year master plan; and holding an event to address the issue of vacant, abandoned, and problem properties in Northwest Indiana.

A major advocacy success came as the result of the Greater Northwest Indiana Association taking the lead to defeat a proposed commercial zoning regulation that would artificially restrict free enterprise.

“[The association] is committed to advocacy every day on behalf of our members,” says Peter Novak, CEO. “It is one of the core missions of our association. So we make it a point to learn about our communities, including the elected officials who run them. We learned a long time ago that the best way to establish a relationship with our community leaders was to try to work with them when we aren’t asking for something, so that when we do need something, they will already know who we are and what we’re about. By tapping into NAR’s community outreach programs, we’ve been able to educate, advocate, and physically make improvements to our communities.”

The Greater Northwest Indiana Association represents almost 2,500 members in six counties and more than 50 communities.

A wide range of projects came to fruition with help from NAR staff, the association’s memberships, relationships with elected officials, and various community connections to other networking contacts. “NAR’s numerous community outreach programs were created by REALTORS®, for ­REALTORS®, to give us added opportunities to do so much for our communities,” says Wszolek. “With the help of NAR staff, we’ve used these programs to accomplish what otherwise would have been left undone. As we move forward, we will continue to exemplify that REALTORS® do more than just open the front door.”

From building strong communities to addressing local community challenges to advocating for public policies that protect property interests and promote a vibrant business environment, the Greater Northwest Indiana Association is a community outreach success story.