Trinity Development Alliance’s (TDA) CEO Kirsten Dernbach’s hometown was not what you think.
Washington State is known for its rainy weather, evergreen trees, coffee, tech, mountains, iconic Seattle, and the music scene. Yet that wasn’t Kirsten’s experience growing up in Washington State at all.
Kirsten hails from the small town of Kennewick, part of the Tri-Cities in the southeastern part of the state, where the mighty Columbia and Snake Rivers meet. Instead of rain, evergreens and mountains, try dry and arid, punctuated by sagebrush and tumbleweeds. The four seasons are alive and well in the Columbia Basin with scorching hot summers and chilly winters. Kirsten recalls family memories of water skiing adventures on the rivers in summer and snow skiing in the winters in the Blue Mountains about 90 minutes east.
Schooling and a subsequent career pulled the Kennewickian away from her community, but her family, until recent years, remained there, and dear friends still do. Her connections and roots to the community run deep, and even though she loves where she eventually landed, she misses that feeling of small-town America.
“I miss the connection with people in a smaller town,” says Kirsten. “How people really know you and you know them. I think people are genuinely more hospitable and kind in smaller areas. I miss contributing to the community in small ways, but seeing it have a major impact, quickly.”
And while her career took Kirsten to major cities as a successful corporate business and information technology leader, she always kept tabs on life back home. As time passed, she increasingly became concerned about what she was hearing from family and friends about housing; it was growing more difficult to afford it.
Now, as a longtime resident of Nashville, Tennessee, she was observing the same kind of concerns and stressors in rural Tennessee communities when it came to affordable housing. An opportunity arose a couple of years ago to take the leap and to do something about it and Kirsten was ready and up for the challenge, even despite a worldwide pandemic happening simultaneously. Kirsten is used to doing hard things and making it work. Her career roles set the groundwork.
A key tool she embraced in doing hard things was the servant leader philosophy: she was someone who could share the work, build, lift up, and nurture teams to success. She wanted to take these tools and skills to the next level, to help rural communities thrive.
Here’s how she sees it.
“The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible,” Kirsten explains. “I think most nonprofits have that mindset and that is the role we play in a community as well. This is especially important in affordable housing.”
Kirsten continues, “I started TDA because I knew from friends back home that affordable housing was really hard to find in rural areas. I also know from the growth in Nashville that it is getting harder to find in big cities as well. Many apartment complexes are aging out of HUD and Rural Development (RD) programs. This could make affordable housing literally disappear in some communities all together.
I created TDA as a nonprofit to be uniquely qualified to be a partner to developers of affordable housing. We fill the need for finding and acquiring funding to preserve affordable housing. TDA is also significantly invested in developing communities that are sustainable, inclusive and diverse through resident service program development and fair housing marketing and advertising.”
Today, TDA is a registered business and charitable organization in the states of Tennessee, Oregon, Montana, Washington, California, and Colorado and offers a unique set of services, tools, resources and more. For Kirsten, it goes beyond a labor of love for her roots; she and the TDA team are energized and excited to partner and support organizations to make rural communities and the people that call them home, vibrant, empowered, and hopeful.
“TDA’s future is bright!” exclaims Kirsten. “We will be recipients of several grants in 2023 to preserve affordable housing. We will continue to grow in multiple states in the country offering service, support, and sustainable affordable housing preservation.”
Kirsten continues with a beaming smile, “I plan to lead TDA through growth and change as we expand our footprint. I know together that we can change the face of affordable housing.”
Want to learn more about TDA? Interested in partnering with us? Looking to contribute your time, talents or money to a worthy and important cause? Kirsten and the TDA team enthusiastically encourage you to check out our website and contact us. We’d love to hear from you!
Welcome to TDA and thank you for your support!