NeighborWorks America honors local heroes with community leadership award

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Chicago, IL – (RealEstateRama) – On Oct. 18, NeighborWorks America presented five exemplary individuals with its annual Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership. The award recognizes tremendous contributions from community leaders. The recognition occurred during the Community Leadership Institute in Chicago, an annual event that strengthens the skills of residents and provides seed grants to help them execute action plans when they return home.

NeighborWorks America

NeighborWorks America knows that resident leaders enable communities to create vibrant and welcoming places everyone wants to call home and that every community needs leaders who know the unique opportunities and challenges of their neighborhood. Without them, achieving solid results often is unattainable. That’s why throughout the year NeighborWorks America and its network members work to educate and build the skills of resident leadership.

Dorothy Richardson was a Pittsburgh resident and pioneer in the movement for community-driven affordable housing and whose model for community development more than 50 years ago was the leading force behind the creation of the agency that eventually became NeighborWorks America. Just this week, Dorothy Richardson’s historical marker was unveiled in Pittsburgh, which highlights how integral she was to the history of community development and affordable housing.

“Following in the footsteps of a remarkable resident leader, the honorees for the 2019 Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership observed a problem in their communities and stepped up to provide solutions,” said Marietta Rodriguez, president and CEO of NeighborWorks America. “And like the pioneer for whom the award is named, this year’s awardees serve as role models in their communities. We honor and thank them for their resilience, tenacity and spirit, and recognize them for their hard work and for providing the example of how residents can lead the charge in making their communities and neighborhoods healthy, safe and supportive places for all who live there.”


In 2011, the Oakwood Trails subdivision in the suburbs of Atlanta was hit hard by the housing crisis, job loss and a wave of crime. To address rising rates of crime, residents founded the Oakwood Trails Neighborhood Watch in 2011. Carol Yancey (Atlanta, Georgia) signed up with the intention of passing out flyers and knocking on doors, but the next thing she knew, to her surprise, she was leading the group. The Neighborhood Watch wanted to create an event that would build a stronger sense of community. The Back to School Annual Block Party & Parade and School Supplies Drive was born. Now, more than 1,200 school supply bags have been distributed, and the event’s popularity continues to grow. Carol served on the board of Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership (ANDP), a NeighborWorks network organization and ANDP assisted with creating a survey for Oakwood Trails residents to obtain and assess their needs and concerns.

Christine Cordaro (San Francisco, California) leads the Arab Mothers ESL (English as a second language) and Life Skills program, which serves primarily immigrant women of Arab descent in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. More than 20 women from Christine’s classes have enrolled in college, five women have secured paid employment, five women have obtained U.S. citizenship and six women are attending citizenship classes. Civic engagement is an important part the curriculum. Christine read a story in a local newspaper, describing how a San Francisco transplant created a map to document the poop she saw on the city’s sidewalks. Christine used the idea as a way to teach practical skills such as reading maps and street signs, and creating documentation. Over a six-week period, students were instructed to record what they witnessed in the neighborhood, from fighting to drug dealing to prostitution. Using what they documented, the students wrote to city officials. As a result of the students’ work, the program was awarded $7,500 in discretionary funding from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development. Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC), a NeighborWorks network organization, owns the residential building where the program meets. CCDC has provided funding for childcare services so that the students can focus during the class.

Nine years ago, while Dustin LaFont (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) was volunteering at a community garden in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he met a boy with a beat-up bike who asked for help repairing it. Together, they repaired the bike and the boy rode off. Dustin founded Front Yard Bikes in 2010, which serves youth 6 to 22 years old in Mid City and South Baton Rouge. In addition to learning how to repair and rebuild bicycles, participants also gain valuable workforce skills like welding. Last year, the organization served 303 youth and 313 bikes were earned. Overall, more than 1,000 bikes have been repaired. The program has gained a wide coalition of support from parents, nonprofits, small businesses, neighborhood groups and the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance, a NeighborWorks network organization.

Robert Morales (San Juan, Puerto Rico) serves as the coordinator and supervisor for specialists at PARES, a pilot program that serves people experiencing homelessness in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As a person who experienced homelessness for 18 years and fought substance abuse for 30 years, Robert understands the struggles that his clients face. Now, rehabilitated, he has earned a bachelor’s degree in social work. Many of the specialists he trains to work with PARES have experienced homelessness or substance abuse issues as well. They provide clients with food and access to shelter and help to meet their basic needs, while also connecting them to agencies and programs where they can receive treatment, if needed. Through PARES, Robert has helped to open communication and develop partnerships with other agencies and programs such as NHS of Puerto Rico, where Robert has referred clients for financial stability training.

Sherry Shannon (Minneapolis, Minnesota) has been connecting people and building community for years. Sherry, who previously experienced homelessness, knows what it feels like to be alone. Even though she was working at a security company, Sherry and her two sons found themselves homeless. In the 1990s, she learned about an affordable housing program through Aeon, a community development organization in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that’s part of the NeighborWorks network. She became part of the Aeon community and quickly earned a reputation as a resident leader when she began organizing ways for residents to connect through social events like barbeques and arts-and-crafts activities for kids. Sherry is also a leader with the organization Street Voices of Change, which aims to give people who have experienced homelessness a seat at the table where decisions are being made. Through Street Voices of Change, she is a part of an initiative hoping to develop a community of tiny houses in Minneapolis to provide affordable housing for some of the city’s most vulnerable populations.

Sherry has been part of the team that gives presentations to partners and funders about the housing proposal. She has also helped to write the handbook for the Envision Community.

About NeighborWorks America
For more than 40 years, Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp., a national, nonpartisan nonprofit known as NeighborWorks America, has strived to make every community a place of opportunity. Our network of excellence includes more than 245 members in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. NeighborWorks America offers grant funding, peer-exchange, technical assistance, evaluation tools and access to training, as the nation’s leading trainer of housing and community development professionals. NeighborWorks network organizations provide residents in their communities with affordable homes, owned and rented; financial counseling and coaching; community building through resident engagement; and collaboration in the areas of health, employment and education. In the last five years, our organizations have generated more than $34 billion in investment across the country.

Lindsay Moore


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