Sam Merrick, Employee Number One
Since the day Lincoln Military Housing opened its doors over 15 years ago, Sam Merrick, National Vice President Military Affairs has been a constant presence. He embodies the mindset of serving those who serve and has mentored team members at Lincoln Military Housing and others to grow this industry (Department of Defense privatized housing) into what it is today.
In 2001, Sam Merrick endeavored on another adventure with Lincoln Property Company to assist in the transition of management and operations of Navy Housing in San Diego. At that time, his goals were simple, and he was focused on the mission. However, he soon realized that in order for the military housing project to be successful we wouldn’t be able to simply follow the road map of conventional multifamily housing.
Sam realized we would need to harness the power of our government partner, both local and national organizations, and companies like Lincoln Military Housing, to ensure success. This realization and the turning point came during one of the first events Lincoln Military Housing sponsored for military families that resided in San Diego Family Housing.
Sam thought it would be a great idea to hold a low-key event to welcome families to Lincoln Military Housing. It was a simple event, a pizza party for both parents and children alike. The turnout was phenomenal, mostly moms and their children. The team soon began running around handing out pizza; moms were chatting, and the children were doing what children do best, having fun. During the event, Sam witnessed a mom join the on-going party, and he later learned that she was new to the area and had just said goodbye to her husband who was being deployed. During the welcome party, the mom met families in the same situation.
"At the end of the night, I saw her leaving, and she was holding in her hand a piece of paper with four names and phone numbers of spouses she had met," Merrick said.
"She was clutching that piece of paper. At that particular time, what really hit home is how important those gatherings are.”
Sam quickly came to the realization that events like this are not just about the free pizza, they are about making connections. These connections develop into new friendships and eventually a support network that helps military families during what can be the most difficult times in their lives. Also, the connections and support networks are a key component in ensuring military readiness.
"Everything we do we measure against military readiness because the link quality of life and military readiness is like two sides of the same coin," Merrick said. "You have to do one to do the other."
In the future, when developing new residential communities Lincoln Military Housing remembered and kept the importance of these connections in mind, adding recreation facilities, community centers, and front porches on new homes all to encourage and facilitate the connection between families and neighbors.
"In the military community, families are their own best support group," Merrick said.
"We all want to support them ... but I'm here to tell you that the next-door neighbor who's also a military spouse that's been here for six months, maybe her spouse is a senior enlisted person, and they really know the ropes and know their way around, can be greater support for a spouse than anything else. They just need to meet."
It has been years since that first event, and Sam continues to help Lincoln Military Housing team members understand and live our mission. Sam is the first to welcome new employees, if not in person, through the Lincoln Military Housing orientation training video, and he carries the message of the importance of taking care of our military families. It is people like Sam with a passion and true commitment to military families that have made a difference in the success of the private-public partnerships. Sam has worked tirelessly to foster the relationships with our government partner to ensure communication was at the forefront of decisions that would ultimately impact our military families. He also helped establish the framework for forming partnerships with local military organizations, such as ASYMCA that could continue the support of our military families.
In 2006, Sam established the Privatized Military Housing Committee (PMHC) under the National Apartment Association (NAA). The PMHC has enabled military housing providers and supporting vendors, collectively, to find better solutions and ways to serve military families. Sam served as PMHC Committee Chair for the past nine years.
In 2011, Sam was honored with the Founder’s Award for his work in military housing. The Founder’s Award is PHMA’s highest award bestowed to those special individuals who have made major contributions to both PHMA and their individual military service and whose professional and personal lives exemplify the ideals of the association and their peers.
"Over the last 15 years with Lincoln Military Housing, Sam has developed a passion for serving the men, women, and families who are serving for our freedom every day. His enthusiasm and commitment to our military families is infectious and has helped shape Lincoln's resident-focused approach to providing quality homes and connected communities for our residents and their families to thrive in each day," Philip Rizzo, Vice President of Operations.