Skip Jason Community Service Award
The Skip Jason Community Service Award acknowledges people whose efforts have improved the housing conditions of the rural poor in their communities.
The award acknowledges people who work “in the trenches” and usually go unrecognized outside their communities. The award was originally called the Community Service Award and was named for Robert “Skip” Jason, a long-time housing activist with considerable community experience, after he died in 1982 while employed as HAC’s Government Services Director.
SKIP JASON (1939-1982)
Robert Mayer (Skip) Jason, a former HAC employee and housing advocate, was committed to improving living conditions for the rural poor.
Skip was a native of Bluefield, West Virginia where he first learned about the challenges facing poor rural residents. In 1963, he became one of the first Peace Corp Volunteers to be sent to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
Upon his return to the United States, he worked for community action agencies in Indiana, West Virginia, Vermont, and the District of Columbia. In 1974, he helped to set up Buffalo Housing, Inc. in southern West Virginia, a nonprofit organization established to help victims of the Buffalo Creek flood disaster.
Skip first joined HAC in its Atlanta office. In 1978, he moved to HAC’s Government Services Division in Washington, D.C. As a HAC employee, he worked on the Community Development Block Grant program, which included a set-aside for small cities and rural communities. Skip was also instrumental in developing the Farmers Home Administration’s Homeownership Assistance Program which, although never funded, resulted in a Congress that was more supportive and more aware of rural housing issues.
Cochran/Collings Award for Distinguished Service in Housing
The Cochran/Collings Award for Distinguished Service in Housing honors individuals who have provided outstanding and enduring service, with national impact, for the betterment of housing conditions for the rural poor.
The award is named for two men who dedicated their careers to improving housing for rural Americans.
CLAY COCHRAN (1915-1982)
Clay L. Cochran was a fierce housing advocate who has often been credited as the founder of the U.S. rural housing movement. Clay, a fiery commentator on housing and basic needs, strongly believed that the federal government must not shirk its responsibility of providing basic shelter for low-income rural people. He also believed that the people, given the power to govern themselves, had the capacity to “create a society where there is less human anguish than yesterday.”
Some of his many accomplishments were to organize the Rural Housing Alliance, Rural America, the National Rural Housing Coalition, and the International Self-Help Housing Association. He claimed that his enthusiasm for decent housing resulted from a winter during his teens when his family lost its farm and lived out the coldest months in a tent on the West Texas plains.
ART COLLINGS (1928-2010)
Arthur M. (Art) Collings, Jr. began working in rural housing in 1955. He started in New Jersey as an assistant county supervisor at the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA), quickly moving up to county supervisor and then to a variety of other positions in New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
Beginning in 1972, the year in which the newly created Housing Assistance Council began hiring staff, Art’s jobs at FmHA alternated with periods at HAC. He served as special assistant to FmHA Administrator Gordon Cavanaugh from 1977 to 1980. From 1986 until his reluctant retirement at the end of 2004, Art served as HAC’s senior housing specialist.
Gordon Cavanaugh, HAC’s first executive director, once explained that he hired Art because he was told Art was the most liberal staffer at FmHA. “He taught the rest of us everything we knew,” said Cavanaugh. “Arthur was just extraordinarily dedicated, well informed, and a good-humored gentleman.”
Art wrote dozens of publications about USDA’s rural housing programs, from manuals on how to use them to analyses of how they could be improved. He authored a number of amendments to these programs, advised people all over the country on their use, and conducted countless training sessions.
Art’s dedication to improving housing conditions for low-income rural Americans was unmatched. His feistiness and humor, added to his extensive knowledge of USDA’s rural housing programs, made him unique, sometimes frustrating to work with, and well-loved around the country.
Henry B. González Award
The Henry B. González Award recognizes individuals who have contributed to the improvement of housing conditions for low-income rural Americans through elected office.
REP. HENRY B. GONZALEZ
The award is named for Rep. Henry B. González, who represented the 20th District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1961 until ill health forced him to retire in 1998.
Beginning in 1981, he chaired first the House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Development and eventually the full Committee on Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs (now the Financial Services Committee). In these powerful positions he championed numerous bills to improve housing conditions for people in both urban and rural areas. Rep. Gonzalez passed away in 2000.