By Carol Cohen, RCAC rural development specialist

Photo of award recipients
Moises Loza (left) of HAC presents Brad Bishop (right) and his wife Kelli with the Skip Jason Community Service Award at the HAC Conference on December 4.

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) Rural Housing Awards banquet was an especially festive night for two western grantees, Brad Bishop of Self Help Homes in Provo, Utah, and Martha Mendez of Coachella Valley Housing Coalition in Indio, Calif. Both were awarded the Skip Jason Community Service Award. Brad and Martha received the award alongside colleagues Andres Lazaro Saavedra from Rural LISC in Washington, DC, and Retha Patton of Eastern Eight Community Development Corporation, Johnson City, Tenn.

The Skip Jason Community Service Award acknowledges people whose efforts have improved housing conditions of the rural poor. The award acknowledges people who work “in the trenches” and usually go unrecognized outside their communities.

Criteria for the award include significant achievements and/or contributions in any or all of the following areas:

  • Improving housing conditions of the rural poor in their communities and protecting and enhancing housing rights for the poor
  • Community achievement in community development and/or housing
  • Unrecognized efforts that extend outside the recipient’s community
  • Increasing the number of housing units produced or preserving existing affordable housing
  • Producing innovative or difficult housing
  • Advocating for affordable housing
  • Any other specific and significant community contribution in the field of low-income rural housing
Photo Skip Jason Community Service Award recipients
Martha Mendez (far right) holding the Skip Jason Community Service Award with John Mealey,(far right) Pedro Rodriguez (left) and Maryann Ybarra.

Brad was acknowledged for his work in housing, including the development of 350 self-help homes that impacted more than 1,415 people in rural Utah. In addition, Brad has been involved with farmworker housing development, single-family historic homes and low-income housing for seniors. His contagious smile and positive attitude were noted alongside his leadership abilities. Brad works with a committed and highly skilled staff equally passionate about affordable housing in rural communities and influencing positive change in their clients’ lives.

Martha was honored for her 13 years of transforming lives through rural housing development and advocacy efforts. Martha, as a board member of the Dr. Carreon Foundation and the Indio Rotary Club, encourages students to pursue higher education and personally touches the people and community where she works. RCAC’s Harold Branch works regularly with Martha and says, “It is a pleasure to work with Martha. Her extraordinary professionalism is second only to the care and compassion she demonstrates to the many families she serves.”