Meet Your Allies.
- Presley L. Gillespie, President
- Stephanie Chernay, Chief Operating Officer
- Sarah Dieleman Perry, Director of Economic Opportunity
- Talia DePasquale, Senior Program Manager for Communications and Marketing
- Shad Henderson, Director of Community Partnerships and Investments
- Zak Thomas, Senior Program Officer, Community Development Lending
- Doni Crawford, Program Manager for Research, Evaluation and Policy
- Cait Lee, Program Manager for Community Trauma
- DeOndra Parker, Executive Assistant/Office Manager
- Ben Emswiler, Program Associate for Neighborhood Engagement and Community Capacity Building
- Talia Landerman, Economic Opportunity Intern
- Chelsea Contino, PULSE Fellow
Presley L. Gillespie
As the inaugural president of Neighborhood Allies, Presley is responsible for working collaboratively with the Board of Directors, the community, key funders and staff to launch this new entity, and has ultimate responsibility for the overall management of the organization, including but not limited to operations, fundraising, financial management, hiring and personnel management, board and external relations, vendor management, grant making and strategic investments and organizational performance.
Presley is a nationally recognized leader in the field of community and economic development and was most recently the founding executive director of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC), the first city-wide community development corporation in Youngstown, OH. Presley came to the non-profit sector after a successful 18- year banking career, primarily focused on community development lending and community revitalization. Previously, he served as Vice President for KeyBank where he was responsible for identifying, structuring and closing community development/commercial real estate loans that ultimately led to the creation of affordable housing, economic development and job creation.
Presley has served on numerous boards locally and nationally, and currently serves on the national Board of Directors of The Center for Community Progress, Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center Advisory Board and the City of Pittsburgh Advisory Committee on Community Based Organizations (ACCBO). In 2017 Presley received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Youngstown State University, and in 2015, he was selected by Mayor William Peduto as a Daniel Rose Fellow with the Rose Center for Public Leadership, a fellowship established to encourage and support excellence in land use decision making by local governments.
Chief Operating Officer
Stephanie Chernay is the Chief Operating Officer at Neighborhood Allies. In this role, Stephanie will serve as a key member of the executive team that is directly responsible for the day-to-day responsibility of planning, implementing, and managing operational and financial-related activities of the organization. Stephanie will ensure that organizational systems are aligned to provide the best-in-class measurements and outcomes.
Over the last 15 years, Stephanie has held several leadership roles in the non-profit sector with a focus on leveraging economic resources to create meaningful prosperity in disadvantaged communities. Stephanie also possesses a strong knowledge of financial management, real estate, and capacity-building, along with experience in marketing, business development, and consulting. Prior to joining Neighborhood Allies, Stephanie briefly worked for UPMC as a proposal manager/writer and quality assurance manager. Prior to that, Stephanie served as the Deputy Director of Economic Development South (EDS), the first multi-municipal economic development corporation in Allegheny County. Stephanie was directly responsible for operational and financial oversight in direct partnership with the executive director through shared impact projects and initiatives across 13 South Pittsburgh/South Hills communities. During her tenure at EDS, Stephanie help secure over $22 million in grants.
Stephanie holds a master’s degree in business administration from Hood College and a bachelor’s degree in urban studies and comparative urbanism from the University of Pittsburgh. Stephanie recently obtained her Economic Development Finance Professional certification from the National Development Council. In addition to her professional efforts, Stephanie was recently appointed to the New Penn Financial Advisory Council and is an active volunteer with the University Economic Development Association (UEDA), and in the Brookline community.
Sarah Dieleman Perry
Director of Economic Opportunity
As Program Manager, Economic Opportunity, Sarah works with partners to develop and implement initiatives that offer opportunities to residents to increase their resources and improve their quality of life. She oversees and integrates leadership building, community engagement, employment services, education, and wealth building into the community development system. As a connector, she provides resources to communities based on opportunities, needs, and data-driven strategies.
Sarah served Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development as a program officer from 2001 until its transition to Neighborhood Allies. Prior to her role at PPND, Sarah worked as a project manager with Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, implementing a housing strategy with resident involvement in Homestead, PA. She worked as a community organizer in Oakland for a summer while in graduate school. She got her start in community development as a community liaison for World Renew in Guatemala, assisting the national team in rural areas to make improvements in agriculture, health, and education. As an AmeriCorps VISTA member in Grand Rapids, Michigan, she organized the residents in a diverse neighborhood for new businesses and parks.
Senior Program Manager for Communications and Marketing
Talia is responsible for guiding and executing the strategy for all communications, website and social media, and public relations messages and marketing collateral to consistently articulate Neighborhood Allies' mission and results. This includes the development and execution of social media monitoring tools, proactive digital communications and new media outreach strategies. She supports the community development system by telling the success stories of our neighborhoods and managing and sharing a bank of community/economic development resources that can be used to build a better Pittsburgh.
She also serves on both the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation MWCDC) Board of Directors, as the Vice President and Chair of the Emerald View Park Committee and the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation (MRCDC), chairing the Governance Committee. Talia also serves on the Community Engagement Committee of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.
Talia served Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development as a Program Coordinator since 2008 prior to its transition to Neighborhood Allies. Talia holds a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) as well as a Bachelor’s of Art in Legal Studies and Political Science from Gannon University in Erie, PA and is a Leadership Pittsburgh Inc. LDI XVIII alum.
Director of Community Partnerships and Investments
Shad oversees and manages programs and investments related to neighborhood advocacy, capacity-building, system alignment and strategic integration of community development activities, including comprehensive community planning and development. He coordinates Neighborhood Allies CDC and CBO partnerships in a manner that produces new frameworks in understanding neighborhood changes and integrates all place-based and social development strategies to build vibrant, resilient, and sustainable neighborhoods for all residents. As a grant-maker, he supports neighborhoods and their residents by administering and managing Neighborhood Allies financial support via the Catalytic and Small & Simple Grant Programs. Shad manages the day-to-day operations of our grantmaking to ensure that our investments are aligned with our strategic priorities and that program progress is tracked, measured, and communicated effectively.
Prior to joining the Neighborhood Allies team, Shad served as an Educator of 4-H Youth Development for the Penn State Center in Pittsburgh. There he piloted a leadership initiative for young African-American males of the East End of Pittsburgh so they could become actively engaged in the assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation of local neighborhood improvement projects. He has also worked as a Senior Executive Assistant to PA Senator Jim Ferlo where he conducted outreach activities throughout the 38th PA Senate District to serve as a conduit between constituents, the Senator and other state resources.
Senior Program Officer, Community Development Lending
Zak is responsible for launching and managing the LISC and Neighborhood Allies lending and investing partnership to increase investment in real estate, small business and other development initiatives to help revitalize Pittsburgh's most distressed neighborhoods. He manages the underwriting, documentation and administration of all pre-development, acquisition, construction, bridge, commercial and term financing, as well as grants provide for real estate developments sponsored by non-profit organizations and other community development partners of LISC and Neighborhood Allies.
Prior to joining the Neighborhood Allies team, Zak served as Shareholder in the Financial Institutions, Bankruptcy and Real Estate Section, for Buchananan Ingersoll & Rooney Law Firm, concentrating his practice in the areas of banking, loan restructurings, insolvency and cash management. His legal career started in 2000 at Klett Rooney Lieber & Schorling, which later merged to become Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. He was elected to the shareholder position in 2013. In addition to his professional efforts, Mr. Thomas serves on the Board of Directors of The Chuck Cooper Foundation and the Parkinson Foundation of Western PA and the Board of Advisors of PublicSource. He is a graduate of the most recent Leadership Pittsburgh Class (XXXI) and an active volunteer for the Veterans Leadership Program for Western Pennsylvania.
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Program Manager for Research, Evaluation and Policy
Doni researches and deploys national best practices, co-administers our catalytic grant program and manages the evaluation of our programming. She is a core team member of our equitable development and policy work and co-manages our fundraising strategy. Doni also works with community partners to develop Neighborhood Level Strategies that inform the organization’s investments, programs and projects.
Prior to joining Neighborhood Allies, Doni worked at the Center for Democracy in the Americas focusing on U.S.-Cuba policy. She earned her Master of Public and International Affairs at GSPIA and B.A. in Political Science and Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a current participant of Leadership Pittsburgh Inc.’s Leadership Development Initiative XXIV Program.
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Program Manager for Community Trauma
As Program Manger for Community Trauma, Cait will continue the work of our Community Trauma Fellowship, to research and address historical trauma that has occurred in several city neighborhoods. She will also examine how mental health intersects with physical health and social determinants to foster quality of life in a community.
Prior to joining the Neighborhood Allies team, Cait worked as a Grants Management Intern at the Birmingham Foundation, a private community-based foundation in South Pittsburgh where she worked extensively with the board of directors, managed the foundation’s grant software and supported community engagement efforts. She also completed an internship with the Office of PittServes, the University of Pittsburgh’s department for volunteerism and civic engagement.
Cait holds a Master of Social Work with a COSA (Community Organizing and Social Action) emphasis from the University of Pittsburgh, in addition to a Human Services Management Certificate. She received her Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh as well. Cait's professional interests lie in philanthropy, and the intersection of business and social work.
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Executive Assistant/Office Manager
DeOndra joins our team as the Executive Assistant/Office Manager and will be responsible for providing high-level administrative support to the President and running the office in a highly efficient and effective manner. She will work closely with all staff on administrative and organizational functions, communications, grants management, and assists with all aspects of the organization’s work under the direction of the President.
Prior to joining the Neighborhood Allies team, DeOndra served as the Senior Administrative Assistant for The Pittsburgh Project. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) in Leadership and Management at Carlow University. She also earned a Bachelors of Science in Business Management from Carlow University. DeOndra is passionate about helping others and making a difference.
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Program Associate for Neighborhood Engagement and Community Capacity Building
As a part-time Program Associate for Neighborhood Engagement and Community Capacity Building, Ben works to increase our organization's engagement with resident populations and neighborhood groups. As part of this role, he researches and analyzes community plans, nationwide best practices, and policy issues pertaining to grassroots community development. Ben also assists in managing our Love My Neighbor! Grant Program and Grassroots Grantmaking Committee, which invests in resident-led projects by working alongside community leaders and focusing on the ingenuity, talent, creativity, and hope that exists directly in our city’s neighborhoods.
Prior to his current role, Ben served as a PULSE Fellow at Neighborhood Allies. He is currently pursuing a Master of International Development degree at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Ben earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religious and Intercultural studies from Eastern Mennonite University. Prior to moving to Pittsburgh, he spent time serving in East Africa and has significant experience working with international communities, specifically recently resettled Congolese and Syrian refugees.
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Economic Opportunity Intern
As Economic Opportunity Intern, working in partnership with the Director of Economic Opportunity, Talia is supporting several different financial empowerment and wealth-building programs and initiatives, such as Fund My Future and Bank On, and assisting in the development and implementation of Financial Empowerment Centers (FECs) in the City of Pittsburgh.
Talia earned her B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh in Political Science with a minor in Sociology and a certificate in Global Studies. She previously worked at South Hills Interfaith Movement (SHIM), as part of the 11-month national service program Compass Americorps, in the role of ISAC (Immigrant Services and Connections) Program Navigator- primarily assisting refugees and immigrants in connecting to local resources and acquiring social services, as well as mentoring and planning programming for refugee youth. Currently, Talia is enrolled in a Master of Social Work (MSW) Program at the University of Pittsburgh, where her specialization is in Community Organizing and Social Administration (COSA) in addition to pursuing the Human Services Management Certificate. As part of her first-year MSW fieldwork assignment, Talia worked at Heritage Community Initiatives in Braddock, PA as their Business Development Assistant, focusing primarily on community outreach and communication, research, and programming, as well as during the summer as their Summer Nutrition Program Manager.
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As PULSE fellow, Chelsea works with the Senior Program Manager for Communications and Marketing to convey the organization’s overall message and impact and assist in specific program outreach and communication strategy making. This work includes drafting content for social media outlets and other communication channels, tracking audience engagement and outreach effectiveness, and coordinating special events and meetings. She also works closely with the Economic Opportunity Program team and the Grassroots Grantmaking Committee in order to promote program offerings and share partner and grantee stories of success.
Chelsea received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Allegheny College. During her time as an undergraduate, she gained experience in ethnographic interviewing, fundraising, outreach, and event planning through specific course work and student organization leadership roles. She is most passionate about collecting and sharing others’ stories as a way of getting to know communities more deeply.