CHIP in about the late 1970s. Bill Murphy and Jim Jessee, two of the founders, standing third and second to the right with other CHIP staff and board members.
For many, college is a place to build lifelong friendships, and for Jim Jessee, Keith Hopkins, Bill Murphy, and Kevin Campbell that was no exception. What makes this group’s story unique is that their friendship managed to create an organization that would continue to impact their community 47 years later. In honor of International Friendship Day we’re highlighting a group of friends that just happens to be CHIP’s founders. As Chico State students and employees, the friends met through volunteering together at a student-lead organization called CAVE (Community Action Volunteers in Education). CAVE continues to provide meaningful volunteer opportunities that impact the community.
If you were to visit CAVE today, you would see they have very lovely office located on the 3rd floor of the Bell Memorial Union (BMU). The staff and students work diligently to connect student volunteers to needs in the community. However, in the 1970’s as CAVE was just getting started, the headquarters were located across the street from Chico State in a house that the volunteers were also living in. During this period, you could find CAVE volunteers sharing this makeshift office and living space, working together to identify the needs of the community. One of those needs identified was the neighborhood south of Chico State. This neighborhood had a lot of homes that were at risk for code enforcement because the owners, many of whom were elderly, were unable to maintain their homes.
In response to this growing need, CAVE started a program to address housing rehabilitation. The friends set out to secure resources to provide home repair services for low-income homeowners. It soon became apparent that access to affordable housing rehabilitation was a needed not just in the neighborhood near Chico State, but that the entire city could benefit from these services. In 1973 the four friends took a big leap when they broke off from CAVE and started their own chartered organization that would eventually be called Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP).
As time went by, these four friends grew in their careers, started families, and moved to different cities and states, but the legacy of their friendship continues to grow in the form of CHIP. Over the years, the organization has grown and evolved, expanding its service area, incorporating rental housing development, the creation of new homeownership opportunities, and resident services. While CHIP no longer provides home rehabilitation, it stays true to the original mission of providing safe, quality housing for those who need it most. These four motivated friends founded an organization that created the first farm labor housing in Butte County, has fought for affordable housing to be available for all people, and has built over 2,700 units of housing.
47 years later, the legacy of this friendship continues to impact our community and region. All this change started when four college friends came together to address a basic need in their community.