Monday, March 31, 2014

Dorothy Richardson legacy extends to next generation

Dorothy Richardson
By Brian Levinson, senior regional public affairs and communications adviser (Midwest Region)

The legacy of Dorothy Richardson, whose efforts to save her Pittsburgh neighborhood led to the creation of what is now NeighborWorks America, has special meaning for one member of the NeighborWorks network.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh’s North Side, Tanisha Rush is proud of her ties to the city and her old neighborhood.

“The pride comes from knowing that the area used to be plagued with deteriorating housing and is now a vibrant neighborhood that includes new residential properties and restored historic homes,” she said of the area just north of downtown Pittsburgh. “It’s completely different from what it used to be.”

The neighborhood that Dorothy Richardson fought to preserve is now home to the Andy Warhol Museum, Heinz Field (where the Pittsburgh Steelers play) and PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates), as well as many other attractions.

“When I was growing up the area was primarily black and low-to-moderate income, with quite a few Section 8 housing projects and a lot of crime,” Rush said. “It started to change in the late ‘90s, which meant uprooting a lot of residents. The city saw the area’s potential because of its proximity to downtown and the nexus of all major transportation arteries.”

Rush moved from Pittsburgh to Cleveland nearly 20 years ago after graduating from college, and ultimately became a Community Reinvestment Act officer with a major bank. Her responsibilities included working with community-based organizations throughout northeast Ohio, including network member Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland.

Tanisha Rush with
Lou Tisler, executive
director of NHS of
Greater Cleveland
“NHS of Greater Cleveland always stood out to me … knowing that Cleveland was one of the epicenters of the foreclosure crisis and seeing NHS helping so many residents,” Rush said. “NHS of Greater Cleveland was always there, so I’m honored to have an opportunity to serve on the board.”

Rush joined the NHS of Greater Cleveland board four years ago and went through an orientation in which Relationship Manager Angela Rohs presented the NeighborWorks history.

“When Angela started giving information about NeighborWorks and how it started and telling the story of Dorothy Richardson, my heart started pounding,” Rush said. “I said to myself, ‘that’s where I was born, how did I not know this,’ and I had an epiphany. I realized that NeighborWorks was ‘born’ in my neighborhood.”

Today, Rush is chair of the board of NHS of Greater Cleveland. However, she regularly makes the two-hour drive back to the North Side because her parents and many other relatives still live there. Many of her cousins, who had to move when the North Side started to revitalize have all “made their pilgrimage back,” Rush said. “Everybody lives within walking distance of each other.”

Rush said her service to NHS of Greater Cleveland is her way of giving back, not only to Cleveland but also to the North Side.

“My situation is very unique from a lot of my family. They didn’t get to walk the same path I walked. They are still living in affordable housing, still in need of assistance (in Dorothy Richardson’s old neighborhood), so it is only right for me to serve in any way that I can, and how fitting that I have gone full circle and can now serve NHS of Greater Cleveland.”

Rush adds, “I think serving NHS of Greater Cleveland is the ultimate reward. I’m associated with an organization that is really helping to make an impact on the community. I think of all the homebuyers we have educated, the free tax preparation services we have provided, and the number of homeowners we have created … Then I multiply that by all of the NeighborWorks organizations throughout the country. This is all happening because of this one woman in a neighborhood who launched this grassroots effort to say our homes are worth saving, our people are worth saving.”