Neighborhood Allies puts $540k into Black community ‘capital’Leave a Comment
Living up to its core focus of investing in the education, talent and leadership of African American neighborhoods that have been left behind and where “capacity is limited, opportunities are few, and physical conditions have continued to deteriorate,”
Neighborhood Allies recently awarded $540,000 to eight nonprofits across Pittsburgh and in Wilkinsburg.
Among the recipients was Operation Better Block, which received $75,000 to do maintenance repairs and façade improvements to occupied homes along Tioga Street in Homewood, maintain six vacant lots and to create a small greenspace.
Jerry Jackson, OBB executive director, said the grant is the largest they’ve received from Neighborhood Allies, and is greatly appreciated.
“They have really recommitted to their core value of investing in Black communities,” he said. “And in this case, if we do our part correctly, it will make attracting investment dollars easier.”
Jackson said OBB had failed to win tax credit funding to build six houses on the vacant properties last year, but developed another approach that Neighborhood Allies approved.
“Hey, we tested our Cluster Planning idea here. So now we’re going to test another idea,” he said. “Our plan is to help the poor homeowners improve their properties so that new homes built in the vacant spaces will not look out of place, and potential buyers would not be seeing run-down properties next door. We’re testing if priming the pump by fixing existing structures attracts developers.”
Like OBB, Homewood’s Community Empowerment Association also won a $75,000 grant to further its work construction industry training and job placement for Homewood residents and to assist local public and private developers and contractors to recruit and retain qualified community residents
Rashad Byrdsong, CEA president and CEO, said the grant reflects Neighborhood Allies holistic approach to community development—a concept Byrdsong, himself, has worked to advance.
“There hasn’t been a lot of investment in the social capital of the community—now it’s happened,” he said. “This is a new initiative and direction under new President Presley Gillespie. He sees the broader picture, and they’ve put their money where their mouth is.
They’re also sponsoring leadership development plans to increase community competencies. Hopefully, this can be a new model for corporate responsibility.”
Gillespie, a former vice president with KeyBank and the founding executive director of the Youngstown (Ohio) Neighborhood Development Corporation, took over as Neighborhood Allies’ inaugural president when it re-invented itself in 2014. It was previously called the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development.
Gillespie said his mandate is simple.
“Our goal is to disrupt the status quo,” he said. “We need to create new ways of thinking about our neighborhoods, changing the language of community development. We have talent and people here who can get things done. What we lack is regular connections across neighborhoods and sectors.”
Gillespie said investment has to look beyond the built environment, beyond housing. It has to include people’s sense of wellbeing.
“We call it ‘complete capital,’” he said. “We have to be able to test things, like an urban laboratory. We need a culture of risk and innovation. We can’t be afraid to make mistakes. We plan to be adaptive.”
The other grants awarded June 4 were:
- $75,000 to Made Right Here for a yearlong youth maker training and professional development program with Larimer Youth;
- $50,000 to FOCUS Pittsburgh to create, convene and manage a local advisory board made up of high-level experts and professionals who will inform the implementation of a pilot trauma-informed community development strategy in the Hill District;
- $75,000 to Hosanna House Inc. to implement a placemaking strategy that will complete beautification and infrastructure improvements that will connect the services Hosanna House offers at their facility with the Penn Avenue business district;
- $65,000 to the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation to support a small business marketing/promotion and investment attraction program that incorporates physical façade and building improvements with tools that both current and prospective entrepreneurs can use to grow and maintain their businesses;
- $50,000 to The Mission Continues to deploy a service platoon of 40-60 returning veterans to work with community leaders to plan and execute service missions throughout our focus neighborhoods; and
- $75,000 to Vibrant Pittsburgh to implement a pilot diversity advancement project that will create an online platform to identify, source and pool diverse talent and formalize a partnership with leaders to recruit and place that talent locally.
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