TRAVERSE CITY — Marsha Smith, former executive director of Rotary Charities and Rotary Camps & Services of Traverse City, received the Northwest Michigan Housing Leadership Award during the 2019 Northwest Michigan Housing Summit.

Smith was recognized for her work as a champion and supporter of housing initiatives during a 20-year period, according to a release.

“Truly, it’s an honor,” Smith said of the award.

The award is intended to highlight the contributions of individuals in northwest Lower Michigan who have made positive, significant contributions to housing for all residents.

“Part of what’s really exciting to me is that the conversation about housing, particularly all types of housing, all kinds of housing choices, is now at the forefront of our community discussion,” Smith said.

“Because, for many years, it has not been. It’s been kind of a problem that we’ve all kind of hoped would go away. And it’s not. It’s probably not getting any better, but there’s a lot more attention focused on it, and a lot more partners at the table, which is really exciting,” she said.

Rotary Charities, under Smith’s leadership, awarded at least 43 grants to support housing activities, totaling more than $1.3 million during the last two decades. Those grants paved the way for new systems, organizations, programs and research around housing, the release states.

Housing needs assessments funded by Rotary led to the creation of Homestretch, which has built dozens of affordable homes.

Smith’s leadership also helped lay the foundation for an initiative known as Community Housing Choices, a step toward advocating for sound local housing policies among local governments, the public and developers. Community Housing Choices evolved into a larger regional conversation. That led to the creation of Housing North, which launched last year with a multi-year commitment from Rotary Charities.

Housing North Executive Director Sarah Lucas presented the award to Smith on Oct. 18. Smith’s strong voice helped keep housing on the agenda and her influence has helped lead the way to big-picture, collaborative solutions, Lucas said in the release.

The Housing Summit, an annual event coordinated by Networks Northwest and Housing North, is intended to help develop solutions for housing choices in northwest Lower Michigan. More than 200 people attended the 2019 event.

Discussion topics included development tools, land banks and land conservancy tools, housing communications, statewide trends and policy initiatives, and an updated market analysis. Speakers included Aaron Miripol from the Urban Land Conservancy in Denver, Colorado; Sharon Woods from LandUse USA; David Allen from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority; Shannon Morgan and Jill Ferrari, of Renovare Development; Jim Tischler, of the Michigan Land Bank Authority; Woody Smith, of Avenue ISR; and more.

More information on the Housing Summit, including presentations and materials, is available at