Meet Your Allies.
- Presley L. Gillespie, President
- Stephanie Chernay, Chief Operating Officer
- Sarah Dieleman Perry, Director of Economic Opportunity
- Talia DePasquale, Director of Communications and Storytelling
- Shad Henderson, Director of Equity and Community Partnerships
- Demi Kolke, Senior Program Manager of Corridor Revitalization
- Glenn Grayson Jr. , Senior Program Manager for Neighborhood Development
- Vanessa Buffry, Senior Program Manager, Digital Inclusion
- Cait Lee, Program Manager for Grants and Investments
- Tamara Cartwright, Program Manager for Social Impact Design
- DeOndra Parker, Executive Assistant/Office Manager
- Ben Emswiler, Program Associate for Neighborhood Engagement and Community Capacity Building
- Chelsea Contino, Communications and Outreach Program Coordinator
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 serves as a key member of the executive team 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 currently serves on the advisory council for New Penn Landing.
Sarah Dieleman Perry
Director of Economic Opportunity
Sarah Dieleman Perry is the Director of Economic Opportunity, a program area that integrates individual and family wealth and asset building into community development so all Pittsburghers can thrive financially. In this role, she develops strategic partnerships, raises philanthropic and government funding, launches successful national programs, creates new initiatives and analyzes data to track outcomes. She facilitates the Asset Building Network, manages the Financial Opportunity Center and Financial Empowerment Center initiatives and supports Bank On Pittsburgh, Fund My Future and the Financial Counseling Cohort.
Sarah served Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development as a program officer since 2001 prior to its transition to Neighborhood Allies. Prior to her role at PPND, Sarah worked as a project manager in the Housing Division of Allegheny County Department of Economic Development and as a community organizer at Oakland Planning & Development Corporation. She got her start in community development as a community liaison in Guatemala for World Renew, and as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in Michigan.
Sarah holds a Master’s in Economic and Social Development and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.
Director of Communications and Storytelling
Talia is responsible for developing, guiding and executing all communications and marketing strategies to consistently articulate Neighborhood Allies' mission, role and impact. This includes documenting and storytelling with internal and external audiences around Neighborhood Allies and our partner's work, lifting up best practices and promising initiatives that are creating positive change in our neighborhoods and showcasing results that community and economic development initiatives are having on the ground in neighborhoods. 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.
Talia serves on the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation (MRCDC), chairing the Governance Committee as well as the Community Engagement Committee of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the Advisory Board of the Bakery Society of Pittsburgh (TBSP). Previously, she served as the Vice President of the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) Board of Directors and Chair of the Emerald View Park Committee.
Talia has served in multiple roles at Neighborhood Allies and Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development, our predecessor organization since 2008. Her positions have ranged from Program and Administrative Manager, to Program Officer, to Director of Communications. She 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 Equity and Community Partnerships
As the Director of Equity and Community Partnerships at Neighborhood Allies, Shad works to build cross-sector, multi-disciplinary partnerships to foster healthier neighborhoods; leads the organizations’ equitable development initiatives and directs community outreach activities to help neighborhoods achieve their priorities, dreams and objectives.
Before joining the Neighborhood Allies team, Shad served as an Educator of 4-H Youth Development at 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 Manager of Corridor Revitalization
Demi Kolke joined Neighborhood Allies in May of 2019 to serve as the Senior Program Manager of Corridor Revitalization. In this role, Demi works to enhance Homewood’s neighborhood business district through small business support, physical improvements, marketing and events. She works alongside community-based organizations to achieve equitable economic growth for the neighborhood.
Demi also serves as an advisory member to the Homewood-Brushton Business Association and is the Founder and Owner of Kenny’s, an outdoor community and cultural celebration space in Homewood.
She has served the neighborhood of Homewood for 10 years, first at the Homewood YMCA, then several years at Operation Better Block, Inc., and most recently, as a Senior Planner for the City of Pittsburgh. Demi has a Master’s degree in Social Work from University of Pittsburgh and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from North Dakota State University.
Glenn Grayson Jr.
Senior Program Manager for Neighborhood Development
As Senior Program Manager for Neighborhood Development, Glenn will support our efforts to advance policies and build strong community partnerships through a focused lens of equitable development, as well as support the planning, research analysis, data management, advocacy, organizing and evaluation efforts to advance the policy and program agenda of the All-In Pittsburgh Equitable Development Collaborative. His position also includes seeking solutions to accelerate and scale the efforts of community-based organizations and multi-sector collaborations to raise, leverage and absorb capital towards equitable neighborhood development initiatives, and more. Overall, Glenn’s role will support internal strategies around community participation and equitable development.
Prior to joining the Neighborhood Allies team, Glenn was the Lead Community Organizer for One Pennsylvania. He brings over 10 years of community development and engagement experience to Neighborhood Allies, along with a personal passion and an unwavering commitment to improve the communities that we serve. Glenn graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration and a Concentration in Marketing from Winston-Salem State University.
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Senior Program Manager, Digital Inclusion
Vanessa is the Senior Program Manager for Digital Inclusion, a program area under Economic Opportunity that promotes digital literacy and workforce readiness through credentialing, upskilling, and access to emerging technology. In this role, she manages the selection, development, curriculum, and data-driven maintenance of four Digital Inclusion Centers in the City of Pittsburgh. She also manages Neighborhood Allies' Accredited Financial Counseling Training Cohort and supports the operations of Neighborhood Allies' broader financial counseling network.
Vanessa is passionate about finding innovative, sustainable, and scalable models for financial and digital training interventions. To do this she uses design thinking to explore what users really want. Next, she leverages a strong background in business and financial planning to build a model that delivers that value at the lowest price point. Finally, she collects data on user progress so Neighborhood Allies and our partners can improve services and lobby for effective policy interventions, which start to dismantle the structural barriers that stand in the way of equitable development.
Prior to coming to Neighborhood Allies, Vanessa worked as a Strategy and Resource Development Consultant. Before that she taught Global History at a leading high school in the Czech Republic. Vanessa holds a M.S. in Public Policy and Management (with a certificate in Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation) from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.A. in Comparative History from Central European University, and a B.A. in International Relations from American University.
Program Manager for Grants and Investments
As Program Manager for Grants and Investments, Cait administers the Catalytic Grants Program, which strives to build capacity across the local Community Development sector. She manages the day-to-day operations of our grantmaking to ensure that our investments are aligned with our Healthy Neighborhoods Framework and other strategic priorities, and that program progress is tracked, measured, and communicated effectively.
Prior to joining the Neighborhood Allies team, Cait worked as a Grants Management Intern at the Birmingham Foundation, a health-conversion foundation in South Pittsburgh. In this role, she managed the foundation’s grant software, supported community engagement efforts and provided direct support to the Executive Director. 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) focus from the University of Pittsburgh, in addition to a Human Services Management Certificate. She also received her Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh as well.
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Program Manager for Social Impact Design
As Program Manager for Social Impact Design, Tamara directs the activities of the Love My Neighbor! Grant program and the Grassroots Grantmaking Committee. This includes deep program analysis and extensive evaluation, needs assessments of Pittsburgh neighborhoods using principles of urban design (including GIS, asset mapping, scenario planning, etc.) and knowledge of communities, managing GGC members, working with residents, and more. In addition, she strengthens the community capacity building arm at Neighborhood Allies by connecting with residents through the use of engaging community outreach techniques. She develops storytelling strategies surrounding the Love My Neighbor! program, and works to deploy technical assistance and extra support to help grantees bring their projects to fruition.
Prior to joining Neighborhood Allies, Tamara spent 3 years living in the Pittsburgh area carrying out work in our communities. She holds Masters degrees in both Architecture and Urban Design from Drury University and Carnegie Mellon University, respectively. Tamara originally moved to Pittsburgh as a UDream fellow, a Remaking Cities Institute program focused on introducing and promoting minorities in the fields of urban design nationally, and in the Pittsburgh region specifically. Her work and interest in urban design began to strengthen as she worked as the Community Programs Manager at the Design Center Pittsburgh, during her Optional Practical Training. From 2016 to 2018, Tamara was awarded a UDREAM scholarship to attend Carnegie Mellon University and enroll in their Urban Design program. Her background, skills, and knowledge in equitable community development made the wait for her H1B visa worth while.
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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.
Phone412 471 3727
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 Public Administration 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.
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Communications and Outreach Program Coordinator
As Communications and Outreach Program Coordinator Chelsea assists with program-specific messaging, outreach and storytelling for both Neighborhood Allies and our external partners, outside organizations in managing effective communications strategies, tactics and tools, and in crafting our organization’s overall messaging and impact in fundraising efforts. Chelsea works with the Director of Communications and Storytelling to convey the organization’s overall message and impact and assist in specific program outreach and communication strategy making.
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 also a PULSE Alumni and is most passionate about collecting and sharing others’ stories as a way of getting to know communities more deeply.