NeighborWorks America honors long-serving community and housing advocates with Founders Award

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Rev. Norman Fong of San Francisco and Donald R. Phoenix of Atlanta receive NeighborWorks’ highest service award

Washington, D.C. – RealEstateRama – Rev. Norman Fong, immediate past executive director of Chinatown Community Development Center (San Francisco, California), and Donald R. Phoenix (Atlanta, Georgia), former regional vice president for NeighborWorks America’s Southern Region, are the 2023 recipients of the NeighborWorks Founders Award, NeighborWorks America announced today.

The NeighborWorks Founders Award was established in 2022 to recognize the foundational work accomplished by leaders who tremendously impact housing and community development for substantial numbers of people over a 20-plus-year career. The awards will be presented by NeighborWorks Board Chair Martin Gruenberg on March 30 at the organization’s NeighborWorks Executive Symposium in Washington, D.C.

“Rev. Fong and Donald Phoenix are inspiring leaders and innovators in housing and community development,” NeighborWorks America President & CEO Marietta Rodriguez said. “Their outstanding contributions have enriched the lives of so many in their communities. Their commitment and the creative and meaningful solutions they have brought to their neighborhoods will have lasting impact on generations to come.”

Fong said: “To be honored by peers is the best! It’s more of a collaborative and Team Player award. It’s the collective impact of our work through NeighborWorks that really counts, and the neighborhoods we empower. I always thought of myself as just a ‘cheerleader’ for the movement.”

Fong calls himself a third generation “Chinatown kid.” He has laid the foundation for a prosperous and sustainable Chinatown by investing in youth leadership. President Barack Obama recognized Fong as a Champion of Change in 2012. Fong has received many awards that reflect his desire to unite people across racial, social and gender lines. He retired after 30 years of service to the NeighborWorks network, but still maintains the title of “Community Ambassador for Chinatown CDC.”

Phoenix said: “This award is very special to me because it comes from my colleagues and peers, acknowledging my contributions to improving people’s lives in the communities we serve. I was fortunate to be able to play a small role in the many contributions that NeighborWorks and its network have made in the South and across the country.”

Phoenix’s involvement in the NeighborWorks network spanned 43 years before he retired in 2021; 26 of those years were as Southern Region vice president based in Atlanta. Initially his career in banking led him to serve on the board of Neighborhood Housing Services of Savannah and he never looked back. Phoenix was one of the early pioneers of the NeighborWorks Community Leadership Institute (CLI), which has produced numerous community leaders empowered through training to evoke meaningful change and development in their own neighborhoods. He also led the Gulf Coast’s rebuilding efforts in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. For his tireless efforts to expand NeighborWorks’ reach and resources in the aftermath of these hurricanes, Phoenix received a key to the city of New Orleans and special recognition from Congressman John Lewis.

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 nearly 250 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.

Lindsay Moore, NeighborWorks America Media

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