For the past 36 years, Myra Peabody Gossens has applied what she does best in her work to what she loves most about life—being part of a community and in service with others. And she did so at Jubilee Housing, where, as a newcomer to Washington, D.C. in the early 1980s, she immediately felt she had found a “home.”
“I was attracted to Jubilee because we work with community members, not for them,” she said.
Gossens, who has established and led two successful businesses, including her current firm MPG Advisors, and has advised countless companies, nonprofits, and associations, stepped down last month after more than 12 years as chair of Jubilee Housing’s board of directors.
However, she quickly reminds everyone that she’s not stepping aside. Her ties to Jubilee remain strong, and she invites others to find their passion helping Jubilee Housing generate opportunities and break down barriers—with community.
“Community members already know what they need,” she said. “The job is to really listen and be a partner to break down barriers and offer opportunities.”.
As a new volunteer with Jubilee handpicked by renowned developer Jim Rouse, Gossens turned her skill at building partnerships to building a network of area business leaders who could strengthen Jubilee and advance its mission to provide deeply affordable housing in the Adam Morgan community. She helped found the Jubilee Support Foundation, which later became the Jubilee Support Alliance, connecting champions for Jubilee who remain involved in its work today.
Jubilee Housing Executive Director Jim Knight then invited Gossens to broaden her involvement, first to lead a fundraising effort and then to lead the board.
“He had a very compelling vision for the future of Jubilee and the community,” she said. “I was anxious about the board chair role because I wasn’t from the community or a part of the Church of the Saviour (Jubilee’s founding faith community). Ultimately, though, I felt I could use my experience to move the organization forward. It was a tremendous leap of faith.”
Gossens drew on that faith and on her vision of “community,” honed through years working in community development, politics, and communications. Most recently she focused her leadership on helping Jubilee define its work as creating justice housing—deeply affordable homes, with nearby support services, in thriving neighborhoods.
“Coming of age in Georgia during the ‘60s and ‘70s, I saw vividly the injustices of racism,” Gossens said. “When I moved to DC, I sought out ways to address those and other inequities. Bryan Stevenson, of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., powerfully captures my belief when he says, ‘The opposite of poverty is not wealth. In too many places, the opposite of poverty is justice.’ Jubilee strives to deliver justice.”
Gossens has been instrumental in pushing for justice with Jubilee. She dedicated her talent for strategy and organization to help guide Jubilee to modernize its apartment communities, establish a first of its kind supportive housing program for area residents returning from incarceration, acquire additional properties, and hold fast through the fight to acquire and maintain the affordability of the Maycroft apartments.
“Myra has been an invaluable partner and guide,” said Knight. “I can’t imagine where we would be without her! As much as I appreciate her great skills – in strategy, governance, and business acumen – she is also skilled at heart. Perhaps her greatest gift and contribution is her innate passion to build a world that works for all people. Truly, she’s taken on any challenge we’ve given her. She’s been here for the long haul. She’s put her heart and soul on the line for this mission, its residents’ and for the community’s sake.”
Gossens’ applied her leadership expertise to leaving Jubilee on solid footing, poised for continued growth in the future—a future in which she intends to remain active.
“My parents were great models for me,” Gossens said. “They always said, ‘You’ve been given a lot. You’re expected to give back.”