The L.I.S.T.E.N. Center (LISTEN Center) is preparing to make joy more accessible to the community with the opening of a new larger building, including an updated, more-accessible Drop-In community center in 2022. LISTEN Center is a nonprofit organization in North Dakota that strives to provide opportunities for all people. Their mission is to provide quality services for people with intellectual disabilities which will help them live as independently as possible. In addition to their Drop-In community center, the organization provides community-based day and residential services, hosts gaming sites, a festival of trees, community theater productions, and more.
“Our community center is what makes us stand out and remain visible in the community,” Executive Director Christy Potts said. “Our organization works to widen everyone’s world for opportunities to find joy, make choices, and take on responsibilities, and I think people see that most clearly when they think about the community center.”
The new building will feature a more-accessible, all-on-one-level space for the organization featuring ceiling lifts to better work with folks with physical disabilities, wide automatic doors, and wider hallways. The opening of the new building could serve as a metaphor for how Potts has approached running the organization since starting as Executive Director in 2018.
“I saw becoming ED at LISTEN Center as such a unique opportunity — I was so excited to be at an organization with such a strong history and community ties, and it was exciting for me to see all the opportunities we had to grow and change for the future,” Potts said.
As is common in the nonprofit sector, even more so in the past few years, Potts took over for an Executive Director who had been with the organization for multiple decades. In this case, 40 years.
Once she was in the role, she knew she needed support in updating staff policies, planning for growth, and building a working relationship with her board. With the support of her board chair, she reached out to Propel’s Strategic Services consultants.
Propel engages with nonprofits as a mutual and trusted partner using a three-step approach: assessing where your board is currently at, coming to an agreement on where you need to be (and how you want to be together), and then establishing an action plan to move forward toward your mission, together. Potts and her board chair have worked with Propel to define what steps need to be taken to move toward durability.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without Propel,” Potts said. “The team has been patient and thoughtful as we build out a plan for where I need to grow, and what I need from my board, and vice-versa, in order to create a stronger and more resilient organization.”
That included creating new policies, updating procedures, and continuing to be flexible and responsive during the pandemic.
“We are a 50-year-old organization, and I want us to be around in another 50 years,” she said. She sees the strong foundation of the organization and is excited to help cultivate the structure it needs to grow and continue to be what the community needs.
“I am so excited about where we are at,” Potts said. “We are growing in the right direction, not only literally with the opening of the new building, but figurately, too. I can tell how this work with the board will impact the whole organization.”
As she prepares for the opening of the new center, Potts sees it as a place where not only more clients can be welcomed, but a place for staff to feel supported as well.
“My colleague has said I move at the speed of light, but I think everything takes time, as long as you keep working on it, we’ll get there together,” she said.