Just a few minutes around Brenda Cousar, and it will not take long to realize she is a woman on a mission. Her mission: Doing all she can to help ensure the residents of the J. Van Story Branch Apartments located on 11 W. 20th Street are living their best lives.
“This is a beautiful place,” said the 75-year-old Cousar glancing around the ground floor of the apartment building. “Anything I can do to make it nicer, I will. I am here for everybody who wants the help.”
Cousar serves as Tenant Council Board president of the J. Van Story Branch Apartments. Located in the Charles North neighborhood, J. Van Story Branch Apartments offers affordable rental apartments for senior and non-elderly disabled residents.
“I have lived here for 23 years,” said Cousar. “We needed a change. The only way to get a change was to step up to the plate and run. I have been Tenant Council Board president for five years. I am here for the residents. I helped bring about the changes to the building. Years ago, the building was nice, but the residents tore it down. Now, the building has been straightened out, and it’s nice again. I tell the residents, ‘This is our home. We haveto do what we need to do to keep it up.’”
Recent renovations to the 50-unit J. Van Story Branch Apartment building included upgrades to every unit including new doors, flooring, baths, and kitchens. Renovated common spaces included new laundry rooms, community rooms, lobby, hallways, entrances, and outdoor areas.
“We have 350 units in this building,” said Cousar. “And every last one of them are rented out.”
On May 26, 2021, a Pre-Memorial Day lunch organized by Cousar was held on the outdoor grounds. “This is what I do for the residents,” said Cousar, looking around at the gathering, which included music and food. With the COVID pandemic last year, we were not able to do anything. I decided it was time to do something for them. I do what I do because that’s who I am. I love dealing with people. When the good Lord wakes me up, I can do things for the residents. When you feel good about yourself you can feel good about doing things for people.”
Catherine Hartfield said she has lived in the building for 21 years.
“I have seen the ends and outs here, but I am glad I stayed,” said Hartfield. “I love it. I plan to stay here until it’s time for the Lord to take me to my Heavenly Home.” She added, “When it comes to Brenda Cousar, I can write a book about her. She has done so many things. She paid for things out of her pocket when there were no funds. Some don’t want to give her credit for all she’s done, but God knows what she did and is still doing for the people of this building.”
Jean Taylor also resides in the building.
“This is my first year here,” said Taylor. “Brenda Cousar has done so many things since I moved here. The building is really nice.”
Michael Gladden also praised the efforts of Cousar.
“Miss Brenda is always here for the people in this building,” he said. “She’s always having events for people and works hard to get things done.”
Stephanie Washington called Cousar, “The Mother of The Building.” “I just want to salute Miss Brenda,” said Washington. “She is someone I can always talk to and lean on.”
Cousar also had t-shirts with the building’s name printed on them for the residents to wear for the cook-out.
“Ms. Cousar works with the residents and management and is hands-on,” said Kim James, Senior Property Manager. “She is a spokesperson between us and the residents. She is a great president, and even had shirts printed so that we all looked unified. She wants everyone to be one together.”
L. Simpson heads the building’s security.
“What you see under Ms. Brenda’s leadership is a real effort to create a family environment,” he said. “She and her team have created a positive synergy around the residents. That positivity flows throughout the residents.”
Lee Charles is the Assistant Maintenance Supervisor.
“Ms. Cousar makes sure things happen,” he said. “Anything that needs to be done, she’s on top of it.”
Avonte’ McCullough is Assistant Property Manager.
“Ms. Cousar is a pleasure to work with,” said McCulloh. “She is willing to help and assist anyone. We are glad to have her and hope she is President for years to come.”