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Neighborhood Allies


225 Ross Street, Ste. 202
Pittsburgh, PA 15219





Meet Your Allies.


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 Human 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.
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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.
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Talia Piazza

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.
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Shad Henderson

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.
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Zak Thomas

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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Doni Crawford

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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Shikha Jerath

Program Manager, Neighborhood Engagement and Community Capacity Building

Shikha is responsible for strengthening Neighborhood Allies’ practices around civic engagement and social connectivity, defining our role in community capacity building, operationalizing and managing our CDBG contract to benefit neighborhoods and residents, ensuring that residents and their strengths are at the forefront of all we do, and connect with partners and funders in pursuit of community change visions.

She brings experience in the development process of new community initiatives, having led a pilot project and conducted primary and best practice research to substantiate particular structures and approaches. In addition to development, Her work in measuring the social impact of loans helped her learn ways to not only paint a picture of impact and non-impact but also create a system for feedback that informs future action and strategy. At Neighborhood Allies, Shikha is excited to create and innovate in her new role and constantly find ways to better help the neighborhoods and City she loves!

Shikha is a Coro of Public Affairs Alum and holds a Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Emory Goizueta Business School in Atlanta GA.
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Lillian Grate

Community Trauma Fellow

Lillian is responsible for expanding our collective understanding within the area of trauma by researching, examining and strategizing a more comprehensive approach to neighborhood development in order to address long-term, deeply rooted, systemic issues affecting our communities. This work will help strengthen ongoing efforts to advance trauma awareness in community building and help facilitate access to mental and behavioral health services at the neighborhood level.

Prior to her fellowship at Neighborhood Allies, Lillian was a Mental Health Therapist at Renewal Treatment Inc. and a Counselor at Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR). She has significant community development experience as she previously served as the Assistant Director at the Hill House Economic Development Corporation and is the current President of the Penn Plaza Tenant Counsel where she was the key negotiator on the historic agreement between a private landlord and city officials, setting a precedent and new standard for future development in the City of Pittsburgh.

Lillian earned her Master of Science in Professional Counseling from Carlow University and her Bachelor of Arts and Science from the University of Pittsburgh. She expects to receive her license in Professional Counseling by mid to late 2017.
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Cait Lee

Executive Assistant and Office Manager

As Executive Assistant and Office Manager, Cait is responsible for providing high-level administrative support to the President and running the office in a highly efficient and effective manner by handling necessary administrative, organizational, communication, and other functions.

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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Ben Emswiler

PULSE Fellow

As PULSE Fellow, Ben works with the Senior Program Officer for Affordable Housing and Lending to implement strategies and new programs, develop and finance affordable housing and economic development projects, and work to develop the capacity of CDCs and CBOs in low income communities across the city. This work includes assisting with evaluating projects and underwriting projects, researching policies and initiatives in other cities and evaluating policies and initiatives that might work in Pittsburgh, and helping with the preparation of written materials around the work that we do with real estate consultants.

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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Devlin Pippert

Fund My Future Intern

As an intern, Devlin works to assist with the expansion of the Fund My Future Program throughout Allegheny County. The program, initiated by Propel Charter Schools in 2013, encourages adults to open savings accounts for a child’s future education. With each deposit, the adult earns raffle tickets for the chance to win a yearly grand prize and quarterly prices. Devlin will be charged with maintaining communications with community partners, providing ongoing technical assistance to champions, and evaluating the effectiveness of the program model. She is currently a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work with a concentration in community organizing and social administration. With undergraduate degrees in Sociology and Criminology, she hopes to expand her knowledge of how economic development can transform communities. Her past internships have included working as a juvenile probation intern in Florida and as a social work intern in a Pittsburgh Public School.
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Liz Reznikoff

Love My Neighbor! Intern

As the Love My Neighbor! Program Intern, Liz will be working alongside neighborhood residents to create opportunities for community and capacity development, as well as access to local resources and networks for resident-led projects.

Prior to joining Neighborhood Allies, Liz worked in both the US and abroad in various positions focused on the prevention and care of HIV/AIDS, and reducing the stigma surrounding HIV status and accessing mental health services. She received a B.A in Sociology and Comparative Cultures from Alfred University and is currently in her final year of a Masters in Social Work and Masters in Public Health joint degree program at the University of Pittsburgh.

Claire Hortens

Community Trauma Research Intern

As an intern, Claire will serve as a research assistant on the Trauma Informed Community Development project. She will work to explore trauma in community and how it can be used to inform sustainable development decisions. She will conduct interviews with community members and stake holders, help facilitate focus groups and aid in the creation of the final report. Additionally, Claire will assist in the efforts to develop a trauma and reliance care training workshop for practitioners working with youth in Pittsburgh's Hilltop communities.

Perviously, Claire worked with Neighborhood Allies at the Penn Plaza Relocation Office, supporting East Liberty residents in finding safe, affordable housing, and in tracking the barriers residents faced and the outcomes of their overall relocation.

She's a second year MSW student at Pitt's School of Social Work, with a background in political organizing, cross-cultural service learning, and homelessness resource provision.
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Let's be allies!