Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rural Leaders Honored: a HAC Tradition Continues

By David R. Dangler, director
NeighborWorks Rural Initiative

Every other year the Housing Assistance Council, or HAC as it is commonly known, presents a series of national awards to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to the quality of life in rural communities.

Two awards given this year were the Skip Jason Community Service Award and the Cochran/Collings Award for Distinguished Service in Housing for the Rural Poor. According to HAC’s web site, The Skip Jason Community Service Award acknowledges people who work "in the trenches" and usually go unrecognized outside their communities. The second award, the Cochran/Collings Award for Distinguished Service in Housing for the Rural Poor, honors individuals who have provided outstanding and enduring service, with national impact, for the betterment of housing conditions for the rural poor.

This year, two NeighborWorks network leaders were called to the dais during a packed award ceremony. Al Gold, the long time executive director of affiliate Community Resources and Housing Development Corporation  in Colorado, and Owynne Gardner, T&MA regional manager of affiliate Little Dixie Community Action Agency in Oklahoma, each won Skip Jason awards.
Owynne Gardner of Little Dixie Community Action Agency

This honor is not the first one for our network. In 1983, the first Skip Jason award was presented to Rose Garcia, executive director of Tierra del Sol in Anthony, New Mexico.  In that same year, the Clay Cochran award went to Elizabeth Herring, co-founder of NCALL Research.  Later, both Tierra del Sol and NCALL Research became chartered NeighborWorks organizations.

Over the years, the association between the NeighborWorks network and HAC’s national awards has continued to grow stronger. Winners of the Cochran/Collings Award include NeighborWorks America's current CEO Eileen Fitzgerald (2000), and many people employed at NeighborWorks affiliates, such as Peter Carey of Self Help Enterprises (2002) and Tom Carew of FAHE (2010). Skip Jason award winners include affiliate staff as well: Steve Mainster, formerly of Centro Campesino (1996), Jack Rivel of FAHE (2004), Lorna Bourg of Southern Mutual Help Association (2006) and Steve Kirk of Rural Neighborhoods Inc. (2006).

Al Gold (center) of Community Resources and Housing Development
Corporation  with Moises Losa (left), HAC's executive director,
and Representative Bennie Thompson (right)
NeighborWorks America has reason to be proud of each and every rural leader associated with the network, and we congratulate Al and Owynne for their recent accomplishments. We also tip our hats to our friends at the Housing Assistance Council who, as Eileen Fitzgerald pointed out during the awards ceremony, have been there for our rural communities since 1971. So much of rural community development work is done without fanfare, known mainly to those whose lives have been improved.  Thanks to HAC, every two years we get to honor a few of our peers and glimpse the bigger picture, a strong and diverse family of networks and individuals working to strengthen communities and improve lives.   

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Umpqua Local Goods: A Unique Approach to Community Development

This post comes to us from affiliate NeighborWorks Umpqua in Oregon. Leave a comment if your organization is promoting local shopping this holiday season!

By Anna Jen
Microenterprise Development
AmeriCorps VISTA at 
NeighborWorks Umpqua
Umpqua Local Goods in Roseburg, Oregon, is a groundbreaking new project aimed at revitalizing community and small business simultaneously. The project, made possible by a partnership between Phoenix Charter School and NeighborWorks Umpqua, takes a multifaceted approach to community development through its retail learning environment, retail space for vendors and commercial kitchen.

A century ago, Roseburg, Oregon, was a bustling country town in the heart of the beautiful Umpqua Valley. For visitors, the Grand Hotel was the place to stay. The 116 rooms featured hot and cold water, steam heat, and phones, all cutting edge in those days. This building was a focal point of Roseburg’s post World War II economy. Over the years, the hotel went through many renovations to accommodate its changing tenants, including a speak-easy card room in the basement during prohibition. After a fire, however, the building remained unoccupied for decades, until NeighborWorks Umpqua purchased it and began a mass renovation in 2002. Today, the building provides 37 apartment units for low-to-moderate-income individuals and families and four commercial spaces for small businesses.

In September 2012, Umpqua Local Goods opened its doors on the bottom floor of the Grand Hotel. With more space (it was previously housed just down the street), the store has been able to accommodate dozens more vendors. Stop by and you’ll find all sorts of unique items made by talented local artisans – from beautiful earrings and stone pendants to scented soaps made with Oregon rainwater, fresh produce, hand-carved wooden cars and airplanes, mouthwatering toffee and much more.

Students from Phoenix Charter School’s Retail Learning Program spend a few afternoons a week at the store to learn valuable job skills such as resume building, interview preparation, working with vendors, and pricing products. “The program creates lots of potential for students,” says Karry Johnson, store manager. “It helps them develop goals, open their minds, and think for themselves.” The program is not just for Phoenix students, but is open to the public; anyone who is looking to gain new skills and experience.

Attached to the store is a licensed commercial kitchen. Stocked with basic restaurant equipment, it provides the perfect work space for food professionals and entrepreneurs. Dana, a Douglas County resident, currently rents the kitchen four days a week and whips up delicious goodies, such as pies, cookies, granola, and brownies, which she sells in the store.

Even in the early stages of operation, Umpqua Local Goods is becoming well-known in the community. It’s initiatives like this that are investing in the local economy, building strong small businesses, and creating future leaders. For more information, please visit or drop by 733 Cass Street to shop local!

Friday, December 14, 2012

NeighborWorks America Announces that the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program Has Served 1.5 Million Homeowners

1.5 million homeowners have received foreclosure prevention counseling by local nonprofits, national intermediaries and state housing finance agencies participating in the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) program administered by NeighborWorks America, one of the nation’s largest community development corporations. The latest report on the NFMC program also found the program has helped save local governments, lenders, and homeowners approximately $920 million.

Watch this inspirational video about the compassionate NFMC-backed foreclosure counselors who are making a difference in the lives of individuals and families.


Also notable in the report, NFMC clients who received a mortgage modification lowered their monthly mortgage payment, on average, $176 more per month than non-NFMC clients which represents $372 million in annual savings to NFMC-counseled homeowners. With more fixed-rate mortgages and lower interest rates, mortgage terms are becoming more favorable for homeowners. The percentage of clients that reported having fixed-rate mortgages with interest rates at or below 8 percent increased from 30 percent in October 2008 to 57 percent in August 2012. Nearly 69 percent of NFMC program clients report holding fixed-rate mortgages.

Jane Sokolowski Receives
Counselor of the Year Award
from Chuck
NeighborWorks America COO
On December 13 NeighborWorks America and the NFMC program sponsored the inaugural NeighborWorks National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) Program Counselor Awards, which recognize the contributions of counselors whose tireless efforts help homeowners maintain homeownership and transition to suitable housing. The winners are the following: Jane Sokolowski - Catholic Charities (NY) for the Counselor of the Year Award; Betsy Carvajal - CredAbility (GA) for the Excellence in Counseling Award; Ali Tarzi - Community HousingWorks (CA) for the Excellence in Outreach & Professional Development Award; Amanda Diaz and Diego Tapia – Hispanic Association of Contractors and Enterprises (HACE) (PA) for the Excellence in Personal Achievement Award; and Rose Marie Roberts – Utica Neighborhood Housing Services NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center (NY) for the Counselor Perseverance Award. More information about the award winners is available here.

To view photos from the event, visit our Flickr page.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

7th Annual NeighborWorks America Northeast Region Reception: 'A Community United'

This blog comes to us from Susan Jouard, Public Affairs and Communications Advisor for NeighborWorks America's Northeast Region.

NeighborWorks America Northeast Region held its seventh annual reception on November 29. This signature event brought leaders from throughout the housing and community development field together to honor “Visionary Leaders in Community Development” under the theme of “A Community United”.

Tina Brooks, Eileen Fitzgerald, Alfred DelliBovi,
Denise Scott, Deborah Boatright, Rev. DeForest Soaries
Over 200 people joined NeighborWorks CEO Eileen Fitzgerald and Regional Director Deborah Boatright as Alfred A. DelliBovi, president & CEO of Federal Home Loan Bank of New York and Denise Scott, managing director of LISC NYC were honored. Citi Community Development hosted the event at their mid-Manhattan headquarters.

Guests included representatives from 23 of the region’s NeighborWorks organizations, who view the annual reception as an invaluable opportunity to network with key partners, funders and colleagues. NeighborWorks’ national office was well-represented by Chuck Wehrwein, COO, Robert Burns, the outgoing director of Field Operations and who received a special recognition at the event, Paul Kealey, director of Training, Jayna Bower, director, NCHEC; Christine McHenry, director, Public Relations and the NeighborWorks development team: Jeanne Wardford, Akilah Watkins-Butler and Jennifer McAllister.

VIPs included two presidents from the NYS Department of Homes and Community Renewal, Mathew Nelson and Marian Zucker, Commissioner Mathew Wambua, NYC Dept. of Housing and Preservation, Marc Jahr, president & CEO, NYC Housing Development Corporation, Bob Annibale, global director, Citi Community Development, Pam Flaherty, president & CEO Citi Foundation, Michael Rubinger, CEO, LISC and Katheryn Wylde, president, Partnership for New York City. The region was especially pleased to welcome several guests from the Philadelphia area where the region has been doing extensive partnership work.

Super Storm Sandy was on many people’s mind, coming just a month before the reception.
“A lot of the conversations in the room are about the impact of the storm, and how we can support each other. Connections are being made, and new collaborations are taking shape,” said Boatright in her remarks. “I am so proud of all of us here—the non-profits, government, financial institutions, national intermediaries, funders and partners. Everyone is stepping up to help families rebuild and neighborhoods rebound.”

These sentiments were echoed by Eileen Fitzgerald: “NeighborWorks America is committed to working with our affiliates and partners to help in the Sandy recovery effort. Together, we will continue on the path to recovery in the next few weeks and months”.

But the evening belonged to the two widely admired visionary leaders in community development, Alfred DelliBovi and Denise Scott.

DelliBovi, who has served at the helm of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York (FHLBNY) for 20 years, is a nationally recognized authority on banking, the lending industry, housing and public finance, and a champion of sustainable homeownership for low and moderate income families. In 2012, the bank awarded $70 million in grants to help build or preserve 5,500 affordable homes and 5,000 affordable rentals; and closed 680 loans for members of the First Home Loan Club.

DelliBovi was introduced by New Jersey’s the Reverend DeForest Soaries, Jr., a member of the FHLBNY’s board of directors and a close partner of NeighborWorks, who spoke about DelliBovi’s business acumen and deep sense of social justice.

In accepting the award, DelliBovi said: “It is more than an honor to work with NeighborWorks America and its leadership -- Deborah Boatright and Eileen Fitzgerald. Thank you for bestowing on me NeighorWorks’ Visionary Leader Award.  I accept this award not as an individual, but as a member of the New York Home Loan Bank team. A team that works every day with our member community lenders to enhance the value of that fundamental element of our culture and society: the home.”

Denise Scott, managing director of LISC New York City, was celebrated as a “go-to” person whenever there is a new challenge facing New York’s neighborhoods. She successfully raises millions of dollars every year in equity and loan capital in support of affordable housing and community and economic development projects.

“One would be hard pressed to find a more, trusted, respected and beloved community developer in New York City than Denise Scott,” said Boatright.

Tina Brooks, executive vice president of LISC, was on hand to help present the award to Scott, talked about her exceptional ability to create private and public partnerships that is admired throughout LISC, and that has been a hallmark of her 30-year career in the field.

Guests lingered long after the two hour reception ended, with more than one guest noting how it always seemed too short because they were so many people to talk to– truly a hallmark of success!

“We started the reception with the goal of bringing the full spectrum of the housing and community development field closer together. Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors every year, there have been no barriers to attendance, and the focus has always been on the building of new relationships in a collegial atmosphere, and the honoring of our heroes,” said Boatright.

To view photos of the 7th Annual Northeast Region Reception, visit our Flickr album at

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Recovering from Hurricane Sandy

This blog comes to us from Donna Blaze, CEO of our affiliate Affordable Housing Alliance in Eatontown New Jersey. We thank her for making time out of her extremely busy schedule to share updates on what’s happening in her community post Hurricane Sandy. 

By Donna Blaze
Affordable Housing Alliance, CEO

Monmouth County, New Jersey, is a seaside region and when Hurricane Sandy struck on October 29, it hit hard.  More than15,000 residents in this community have been personally affected by the disaster. Some of their homes have been blown out to sea, while others were in 8 to 12 feet of water and now uninhabitable.  Making things worse, many local restaurants and businesses catering to tourists have had the same catastrophic losses, leaving some both without a home and job.
A boarded-up home in Monmouth County

My nonprofit, Affordable Housing Alliance, had a full plate prior to the storm. We were in the midst of expanding to two offices, constructing five affordable housing developments, and administering a county-wide utility program.  Now, however, we feel obligated to take on more. After all, these storm victims are our friends, our neighbors and our clients.

One of the biggest challenges right now is a lack of temporary housing within the county. Available homes are located in places like Atlantic City – more than an hour away in some cases. For people who have lost cars or who rely on public transportation, this means added stress and time in their daily commutes.
A beachfront home, devastated by the storm
 Unfortunately, this is just one component of what people are struggling with. Many have lost important mortgage and identification documents, complicating their ability to get help. Even those who are lucky enough to have papers and insurance must deal with the absence of family mementos – a baby footprint, a letter from grandma -- many of those little things that make up who you are.

Last week I took NeighborWorks America’s CEO Eileen Fitzgerald and COO Chuck Wehrwein to see what’s happening here. I introduced them to the residents at Union Beach Disaster Recovery Center, which is a combination of local volunteer efforts and FEMA  disaster center.
Chuck Wehrwein and Eileen Fitzgerald
talking to Union Beach center volunteer

I also took Chuck and Eileen to sites where we hope temporary housing can be made available. Fort Monmouth, an abandoned military site, has 600 potential temporary housing units. We had been considering moving our office to this location prior to the storm, and its size and current vacancy make it an appealing prospect. Another location is a manufactured home park with an estimated 16 spaces available. This could be converted quickly to either temporary or permanent (rent-to-own) housing.

Cards sent from schoolchildren in Virginia decorate
the walls of the Union Beach Disaster Recovery Center
Our current focus is to help people understand what options are available to them and to help them make the right decisions. Sometimes we don’t know the answer, but we are working to find out. We appreciate the tremendous outpouring of support and the $100,000 grant from NeighborWorks America. We also appreciate the chance to learn from cities that have suffered similar disasters. For example, Bill Stallworth, executive director of NeighborWorks affiliate Hope CDA, offered good recovery advice based on his experiences in post-Katrina Biloxi, Mississippi. 

It is by sharing our knowledge and our resources that we can return our residents to homes and to the communities they remember before the storm in a more timely way.  

Note: NeighborWorks America recently made grants to organizations affected by Hurricane Sandy, including,  Affordable Housing Alliance ($100,000), Asian Americans for Equality ($50,000), Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City ($50,000), Community Development Corporation of Long Island ($20,000), NeighborWorks New Horizons ($20,000) and Brand New Day ($10,000). Typically NeighborWorks America grants to organizations serving this area have generated more than $50 in direct local investment for every grant dollar awarded, which would amount to more than $12.5 million in this case.