“I’m someone who likes to lean into community; engage and support people around me that are disadvantaged due to societal structures, especially as a black woman,” says Nina Byrd, Co-Chair of Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East’s Ambassador Council: Habitat Ambassadors are leaders and rising leaders in the business community helping Habitat to engage like-minded friends and colleagues to explore strategic partnerships, raise funds, and advocate for issues vital to Habitat’s work.
As a woman driven by intentionality, Nina’s made it her business to connect purpose with action. She’s made a career in corporate strategy and utilizes that keen eye for organizational development in every volunteer role she’s taken on. During her first year with the council, Nina helped raise $80,000 in support of safe and stable communities in Portland. Now as Co-Chair alongside Steven Phan, she says she feels an extra responsibility to facilitate even further growth in strengthening the connections that bond us together as a city.
That growth will only be strengthened by the Ambassador Council’s inclusive design with each member coming from all corners of Portland and beyond.
“I see the Ambassador Council as a think tank, an incubator for experimentation, and a bridge to the larger community,” she says. “We all provide a 360-degree view into Portland. Coming from diverse backgrounds and professions, we’re each a unique puzzle piece of the larger community, the bigger picture.”
For Nina, the newly formed Council is “central to Habitat for Humanity” and she’s exactly right. Not only did they collectively fundraise all throughout last year, each member also volunteered on our build sites and events, prepped lumber for our Playhouse Experience, facilitated group activities at our dedications and summer celebrations, and invited all their friends to a kickoff party to spur Habitat’s Give!Guide campaign. Although jam-packed with ways to engage, Nina never tires from supporting Habitat’s mission.
She first set boots on a Habitat build site back in New York. She was 16 and naturally handy—coming from a family in which community was central to their life’s work—but building a home that would become someone’s sanctuary was a completely different endeavor. Still, her family was full of pioneers and she wasn’t afraid of a challenge. She remembers the weight of the hammer in her hand as she framed living room walls. Nina imagined a family entering that room after a long day and finding solace in a space she helped to create.
“This is going to be someone’s new home,” she said. “You want to make sure that you’ve done your best work.”
It was an incredibly humbling experience and it’s something that stuck with her all these years.
From building in New York to Alabama and Texas, Nina recently anchored her family in Portland and immediately threw out a line to Habitat for Humanity. Having put in hundreds of volunteer hours with Habitat affiliates along the way, she brings a wealth of experience to every opportunity. From fundraising, to organizational development, to community engagement and more, Nina’s toolkit is packed with a long history rich in civic engagement and social justice for vulnerable communities.
Through working with local businesses and civic engagement, Nina feels deeply tied to the Portland community. “I’ve fallen in love with Portland for all that it offers and what I see it can become.” She’s setting roots and making big plans for her and her family’s future.
“It’s clear to me now that I’m investing in a sustainable community for my children and grandchildren to really be proud of,” says the newlywed.
For Nina, everything all ties back to Habitat for Humanity’s vision: a world where everyone has a decent place to call home. During our latest Home Dedication in December, Nina was reminded of that warmth in knowing that all her efforts directly impact the community.
“It’s an experience where people have a sense of true joy,” she says. “It’s the way a kid’s face lights up when they go into the room, they turn on the light and they say, ‘This is my room!” It’s often the first room a child has ever had to themself. “That intangible moment: to be part of an intimate shared experience is unexplainable; we’re part of each other’s lives forever. That’s what makes me want to give more.”