Sarah Ford | July 24, 2014

Making a Tangible Impact on Places That Tell Our Nation’s History

As the nation’s leading voice of preservation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is focused on saving America’s historic places. 

From taking direct, on-the-ground action to preserve historic buildings, to advocating on Capitol Hill and in town halls nationwide, to working with individuals who are passionate about saving historic places, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is preserving and protecting the places that tell our stories, offer unique and memorable experiences today, and promise a vibrant future for the generations of tomorrow. In this Q&A, Monica Rhodes, Manager of Volunteer Outreach, shares her role in executing the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s mission.

Q&A With Monica Rhodes:

What attracted you to this job & particular cause?

I received my bachelor’s degree in history and master’s in historic preservation, so I have always had a fascination with the past and how it connects to the built environment. I’ve also found interest in how communities experience their past and why narratives associated with a particular place rise to the level of “the story”  while others are ignored.

As a manager of volunteer outreach, I am responsible for  the Hands-On Preservation Experience or “HOPE Crew” program. This new initiative by the National Trust is designed to connect preservation projects to the national youth corps movement. HOPE Crew creates an opportunity for thousands of youth corps members to work on the rehabilitation of hundreds of sites, acquiring fundamental preservation skills along the way.

This position is a great fit both academically and professionally, I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.

Walk us through a “typical” day in your shoes. How are you making an impact through your work?

There’s no such thing as a typical day! It varies depending on what stage a HOPE Crew project is in. My day could be filled with conference calls and meetings or spent on location at one of the sites.  If a project is just getting started, I make it a point to meet the HOPE Crew members onsite and provide an introduction to the world of historic preservation. I introduce them to concepts like “replace-in-kind” and speak to the importance of National Historic Landmark designation. It all depends on the day! 

What do you find most rewarding about your job at the end of the day?

The opportunity to make a tangible impact on places that tell our nation’s history. Also, I find the ability to engage a younger and diverse audience in historic preservation to be an invaluable experience. 

If you had a list of ‘best-kept secrets’ or advice you’d give to anyone with a similar position, what would it be and why?

My position has a lot of moving pieces, project coordination and partnership cultivation are always ongoing tasks. I also spend my time developing scopes of work, discussing historical significance and building-out the future of HOPE Crew.

Currently there are six HOPE Crew projects underway spanning from New York to as far west as Montana. Since no two preservation projects are ever the same, each site has its own preservation issue and local youth corps involved to complete the work. Perhaps, I should write the book.

Looking out 3 to 5 years, beyond the obvious trends, what do you think will be the next big change in your industry?

It is difficult to say exactly, this is definitely an interesting time to be a part of the preservation movement. The Trust continues to diversify its collection of sites that represent the full breadth of our American history. Our work is attracting a wide array of communities across the country and sparking an interest in younger generations through our on-the-ground work. It’s an honor to be a part of the movement that is protecting the historic places that connect us to our diverse past.  

Our thanks to Monica Rhodes for sharing her time and expertise with us!  To learn more about the impact Monica’s organization is making, visit their website and connect with them at  Click here to support their work with a donation.

The primary goal for any nonprofit is to get people to support that nonprofit’s cause so they can make an impact. But, behind each of those causes are hard-working individuals, actively involved in making that impact happen. Through our Making Impact Blog Series, we’re going behind the scenes with America’s Charities member organizations to learn how they’re making impact happen and share insights and advice from the staff and volunteers supporting these initiatives.


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