Neighborhood Visionary: Beverly Mukes-Gaither

GaitherSuccess in neighborhood development doesn’t happen overnight. It takes dedication, perseverance and a strong desire to make a difference—and nobody knows that better than Beverly Mukes-Gaither.

As Vice President and Enterprise CRA Manager at Fifth-Third Bank, Beverly oversees the corporation’s commitment to helping develop and improve local communities. And it’s a job she absolutely loves, because Beverly has always had a passion for making a difference in communities fighting for positive change.

But positive change doesn’t always come easy—especially in some of Indy’s toughest neighborhoods. Sometimes it takes months or even years to make a significant difference.

“To be successful in community development, you need to be a few things—one of those is persistence. You also need to know that once you get enough people behind an important cause, amazing things happen,” Mukes-Gaither said. “When you have the drive and resolve to make things better, the coordination and necessary commitments to strengthening the community start falling into place.”

If you ask Beverly, the first step toward achieving success in community development is careful listening. That means attending neighborhood meetings and talking to residents face-to-face. “Direct engagement is the best way to identify the hopes and needs of up-and-coming neighborhoods,” Mukes-Gaither said.

“For me, making a difference is what it’s all about. And that’s why I chose a career in community development—it allows me to positively impact people in a way that improves the quality of their lives.”

And making a positive impact is something Beverly has been doing for years. She’s a community development veteran with a career that spans decades. In addition to working for Fifth Third Bank, she’s worked for Eastside Community Investments, the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership, has served on Indianapolis’s City County Council, and has been a volunteer for the Great Indy Neighborhoods Initiative (GINI).

Beverly’s introduction to the world of community development was through the neighborhood activism of her parents and her time spent studying city planning at IUPUI. But it wasn’t until she arrived at Eastside Community Investments that she found community development to be her true calling. And it was here that she learned her most valuable lesson regarding strong neighborhoods.

“At Eastside Community Investments, I learned who I really work for—not the neighborhood development corporation, but the residents themselves,” she said.

Strengthening Indy’s neighborhoods isn’t an easy task, and Beverly acknowledges she’s had lots of support along the way. And one of her biggest partners has been LISC.

“Throughout my many years working in Indianapolis, one organization has been at the forefront of community development, and that organization is LISC,” she said. “They’ve always been quick to lend support and advice for the community development initiatives I’ve been involved with.

“LISC really has the pulse of community development in this city.”

Beverly’s work in community development still isn’t finished—and it likely never will be. But that won’t stop her from giving her best to community development initiatives in Indianapolis and beyond, every single day.