This Woman is Leading with Heart and Making North Park Apartments A Better Place to Live

This Woman is Leading with Heart and Making North Park Apartments A Better Place to Live

Posted on September 30, 2019

Albert Einstein once said, “Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person.” If this is true, then Leighann Clark is a true master of building community. With her leadership, the community of North Park is thriving.

Leighann Clark is the Property Manager for the North Park apartments in Oildale –a census-designated place in Kern County, 3.5 miles northwest of downtown Bakersfield. For Leighann, North Park is not only a place of employment, it’s home.

Leighann and her husband Charles (Chuck) first moved to North Park back in 2000 with a one-month-old baby girl and a 2.5-year-old toddler. “It was hard. Yes, we were on welfare, we had food stamps and we didn’t have a vehicle,” said Leighann. “I remember having to walk a long distance to get groceries in the middle of the summer with both my kids and a double stroller. It was hard but we did all that.” In their early years at North Park, both Chuck and Leighann did everything possible to make ends meet. While her husband worked, Leighann babysat a couple of the kids in the complex. “I looked after a couple of kids and we would go outside to do activities. I didn’t charge very much because I knew my neighbors couldn’t afford it. But I knew they needed a safe place for their kids to be, while they worked.” Through her kindness and generosity, the residents began to gain trust in her.

In 2007, she applied and was hired to do maintenance at North Park. She was tasked with cleaning and painting rooms, which she did diligently. She went on to become Manager of Maintenance in 2012. “I became familiar with all of it. I knew what units had new tubs and sinks.” Her familiarity came in very handy when in 2014, she was hired by AWI to manage the entire complex as the official property manager. She’s the kind of Manager who remembers even the smallest of details. “I am so familiar with my residents. I can tell you which adults live in what units by memory. I can also recall most of their children’s names!” Becoming Property Manager was a huge accomplishment not only for her family but also for the residents of North Park. They loved her and knew they could trust her.  Chuck (Leighann’s husband) was later hired to care for the property’s maintenance. Both are equally as invested in the growth and sustainability of North Park.

“Leighann is a very generous person,” said, Suzanne Fraizer, long-time resident of North Park. “Her and Chuck always do their best to help us out. They’re great, and they are very fair.”

Self-Help Enterprises acquired North Park apartments back in September of 1996. Unlike other SHE rental communities, North Park did not a have a community center. Leighann’s office was previously in a converted formerly 3-bedroom unit, which she also used and offered to her residents for meetings and events. “Bingo was something that I know my residents enjoyed but it was really tight. I was happy to learn the plans to develop a community center for us.”

After years of planning and executing, Self-Help Enterprises opened its doors to the new Stan Keasling Community Center located within North Park and named after Stan Keasling, a national leader in housing and community development, whose nonprofit Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) provided funding to make the community center possible.

The 3,076 square feet building features a 10-station computer lab, full kitchen and laundry, in addition to an office space, two restrooms, a janitor’s closet and storage. The Stan Keasling Community Center is a place that offers valued community services in the heart of the rental community. The resource opportunities are available within walking distance and provide accessibility that otherwise would not be obtainable.

The Community Center allows Leighann to continue to serve her residents in ways that only Leighann can, with genuine love and respect for all.

“Using the food from our community garden, I plan to host healthy cooking classes for our residents. Now with the ample space, I am able to accommodate more activities. We now have a formal pantry where we keep non-perishable food that we offer to all of our residents, especially those who need it the most. I tell them, they will always find at least some kind of pasta to make for dinner.”

The Stan Keasling Community Center will house a new afterschool program for specifically North Park residents, and digital literacy classes, health and wellness programs, financial fitness, homebuyer education classes, and ESL courses that will be open to the entire Oildale community.

“We are going to wear this place down,” Leighann said at the grand opening ceremony where she was also honored with a Service Award from Self-Help Enterprises as a token of appreciation for her contributions to North Park. Through Leighann’s leadership, the North Park community will indeed continue to thrive. “I just try to be a better person every day so others will try to be better too,” said Leighann.

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