By Chief Condra Ridley
On June 28 , 2014, the Oxford Community Association expressed their gratitude, love and respect for Mary Morris to honor her retirement from the Fort Wayne Housing Authority (FWHA).
Well-wishers from all over Fort Wayne gathered at the McMillen Community Center to lift their voices in praise and thanks for Ms. Morris and the 34 years she faithfully and effectively contributed to housing services throughout Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana. The Indiana General Assembly issued a proclamation declaring June 28 Mary L. Morris Appreciation Day.
Mary came to Fort Wayne in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Ark. She came equipped with important organizing experience she had gained by going door to door work on federal housing projects in Baltimore. Initially, she worked for the City of Fort Wayne in Community Development, under which the Fort Wayne Housing Authority operated. When the Housing Authority left the City County Building and moved to Anthony Boulevard, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requested that Mary move with them. This marked the beginning of her exemplary career full of significant contributions to the development of Fort Wayne for its residents.
Mary became a relocation specialist and worked on major relocation projects, such as the Railway Center, the East Central Towers, the Grand Wayne Center and the Senior Citizens’ Center, to name a few. She became skilled in housing counseling and with a staff of six members, she operated housing rehabilitation programs, home ownership, budget, mortgage and default counseling. She did all this while constantly seeking funding for staffing and programing.
Over the course of her career, Ms. Morris brought grants worth millions of dollars to Fort Wayne. Her expert counseling has enabled three generations of Fort Wayne residents to experience the joys of homeownership. Mary expressed that the greatest gratification she received from her work was “to see people change their lives” by utilizing the knowledge and the homeownership opportunities she provided. For many years, Mary Morris was the only HUD-certified counselor in Northeast Indiana. She used her position with FWHA to elevate counseling. Actually, she was able to watch and experience the evolution of housing counseling.
The Oxford Community Association gave this special recognition to honor Mary’s retirement from FWHA (which officially began on Feb. 28) because she was active in the Association the entire time she worked for the Housing Authority. Her work for the Association has been invaluable, too.
Chief Denise Porter-Leathers, Win Moses, James Redmond, Christine Reed, Pastor Donovan Coley, Anne Bryant and many others shared heartfelt commendations to Mary Morris for the selfless service she has rendered to our community.
Diane Rogers with her African dance troupe, Omotayo’s Rite of Passage, presented Ms. Morris an authentic kente cloth, which Diane brought back from her recent journey to Ghana and they honored her with the dances of unity and of strength.
Rose Caruso, membership chair for the Oxford Community Association, said, ”Mary is a wonderful person, a great inspiration. I’ve enjoyed working with her over the years. Anything she can do to help a person, she is there—johnny on the spot.”
When Mary retired, Mayor Tom Henry issued a proclamation declaring Feb. 28, 2014, Mary L. Morris Day. In the recognition he sent out to the City of Fort Wayne, he stated, “Mary Morris helped hundreds of Fort Wayne residents save their homes from foreclosure and rebuild their lives with affordable housing options. Mary is an example of commitment and service that will forever live in our community as she mentors the next generation of leaders in her activities with the Voices of Unity as well as many other non-profit and faith-based organizations.”
Mary already has her sights on making some improvements to the Oxford Community Association building, so it can better serve the elderly members and offer some social/educational activities in southeast Fort Wayne. She wants to make sure that anyone who is seeking assistance with mortgage default assistance to save their home from foreclosure will look to the Urban League or Community Connections.
Mary Morris is officially retired and most deservedly so. We congratulate her on her very successful career with the FWHA and send her blessings for good health, happiness and fulfillment in the next phase of her productive life.