Denise Mason, BBVA
2021 TREC Community Investors Chair
At the end of last year, TREC united its small business and nonprofit real estate lending, community development initiatives like the Dallas Catalyst Project and Dallas Collaborative for Equitable Development, and educational programs under TREC Community Investors. What was the purpose of this move and how will it ultimately benefit the people and organizations that TREC Community Investors serves?
TREC Community Investors is the merger of our CDFI, TREC Community Fund, and the philanthropic entity, TREC Foundation. By creating one entity, it means we now have one non-profit organization that has one message and one purpose: to provide financial, professional, and educational resources for real estate projects that support the revitalization of low-to-moderate communities in our region, including the creation and maintenance of quality affordable housing, community facilities, and commercial developments for small businesses.
The MLK Food Park recently opened in the Forest District to fight food insecurity in the South Dallas neighborhood and hopefully influence city policy around allowing more rapidly deployable food vending options. Why was this partnership so important for TREC Community Investors and the broader Dallas community?
As part of our ongoing Forest District initiative under the Dallas Catalyst Project or DCP, we wanted to demonstrate the economic viability of the small food neighborhood vendor, if given the opportunity to showcase their businesses, in their neighborhood. We also wanted to offer a place in the neighborhood where families could gather in a safe community space. As the overall design of the MLK Food Park was driven by feedback from Forest District residents, overall the one-month-long temporary demonstration offers a vision of what could be. Finally, the MLK Food Park is designed to inform city public policy as relates to small food vendors who want to operate their businesses in alternative settings to the traditional storefront.
What else is on the agenda for TREC Community Investors this year?
We will continue with the work under the Dallas Catalyst Project in the Forest District and the Dallas Collaborative for Equitable Development (DCED) in three Dallas neighborhoods. Our goal is to increase the number of loans we provide to for-profit and nonprofit entities for projects we believe will support residents in low-to-moderate income communities in our region, including affordable housing, community facilities, and small business developments. On an ongoing basis, we always look to engage TREC members who desire to support all of our neighborhoods, through volunteering, offering pro bono services, or leading our educational programming. Overall, we are guided by one principle: IMPACT.
There’s certainly a lot going on. What is your favorite way to relax?
My favorite was to relax is to volunteer in our communities. My mother instilled in her children the spirit of volunteering and served as a role model throughout her life. As an adult, I spend most of my free time volunteering as a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.- Tau Rho Omega Chapter. One of the basic tenants of the sorority is “To be of service to all mankind.” The organization provides opportunities for me to use my expertise to give back in service to our communities while also fostering long-lasting sisterly relationships.
TREC’s slogan and challenge to its members is to ‘Build the city You’ve Imagined’ and leave a lasting impact on both the skyline and Dallas community. What does that phrase mean to you, your career, and your work with TREC Community Investors?
As a BBVA employee, the bank encourages employees to live up to our vision of “Creating Opportunities for Brighter Futures.” I believe that in meeting TREC’s challenge to “Build the City You’ve Imagined,” you must create an inclusive environment that provides the opportunity for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, to strive and participate in asset-building activities such as home ownership and starting a small business to create a lasting legacy that benefits both families and the community at large.