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 Inclusion
- Vanessa Buffry, Director of Digital Inclusion
- Matt Madia, Director of Real Estate Services
- Demi Kolke, Senior Program Manager of Corridor Revitalization
- Glenn Grayson Jr. , Senior Program Manager for Neighborhood Development
- Jael Jones, Senior Program Manager for Real Estate Services
- Cait Lee, Program Manager for Grants and Investments
- Tamara Cartwright, Program Manager for Social Impact Design
- DeOndra Parker, Operations and Program Support Manager
- Ben Emswiler, Executive Assistant and Office Manager
- Chelsea Contino, Communications and Outreach Program Coordinator
Presley L. Gillespie
As inaugural President of Neighborhood Allies, Presley is responsible for working collaboratively with the Board of Directors, the community, key funders and staff 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/strategic investments and evaluation/outcomes/quality assurance.
Since taking the helm, Presley has been elevating Neighborhood Allies’ value as a trusted community development partner that is unlike any other organization in Pittsburgh, serving as an investor, thought leader, and catalyst for innovative approaches in order to solve challenges in under-resourced neighborhoods. He has injected new energy into the local community development system, and has built a forward-thinking, solutions-oriented community development organization that brings hope, fresh ideas, expertise and resources to distressed and transitional neighborhoods.
Presley’s background spans corporate and nonprofit leadership. He 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 serves on numerous boards locally and nationally, including the Board of Directors of the Center for Community Progress, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s Community Advisory Council. In 2017 Presley received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Youngstown State University, and was selected by the Smart 50 Awards, which recognizes the top executives of the 50 smartest companies in the Greater Pittsburgh region.
Presley holds a B.A. in organizational communication and management from Youngstown State University. He resided for 18 years in Youngstown, Ohio with his wife Nora and their two children and relocated to Pittsburgh in 2014.
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 Inclusion
As the Director of Equity and Inclusion at Neighborhood Allies, Shad leads the development and implementation of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion efforts across the organization’s administrative and programmatic capacities. In this role, the goal is to assure that Pittsburgh’s lower-wealth residents, communities of color, immigrants and others at risk of being left behind live in healthy, safe, opportunity-rich neighborhoods that reflect their culture and are not displaced from them; connect to economic and ownership opportunities and have voice and influence in the decisions that shape their neighborhoods. Additionally, Shad works to form strategic partnerships, identify policy priorities and community development systems-change opportunities to produce measurable equity advancements throughout the Pittsburgh region.
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 Black males of the East End of Pittsburgh so they could become more actively involved in local neighborhood improvement projects. He has also worked as a Senior Executive Assistant to former state Senator Jim Ferlo where he conducted community outreach activities throughout the 38th PA Senate District to serve as a conduit between constituents, the Senator and other state resources.
Director of Digital Inclusion
Vanessa is the Director of Digital Inclusion, a program area that promotes digital literacy and workforce readiness through credentialing, upskilling, and access to emerging technology. In this role, she coordinates the development of remote programming and brick-and-mortar Digital Inclusion Sites in Pittsburgh, as well as manages the Beyond the Laptops hardware-connectivity- education ecosystem of investments, research, and advocacy.
Vanessa is passionate about finding innovative, sustainable, and scalable models for financial and digital training interventions.
Prior to joining Neighborhood Allies, Vanessa worked as a Strategy and Resource Development Consultant. Before that she taught high school History and Epistemology in the Czech Republic. Vanessa holds a M.S. in Public Policy and Management (cert. 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.
Director of Real Estate Services
As the Director of Real Estate Services, Matt will lead the efforts to build-out, test and model the products and resources needed to fully launch the Centralized Real Estate Accelerator. The Accelerator is a bold new comprehensive and centralized community-based real estate model (pilot) aimed at increasing the capital flow, economic opportunity, and transforming the lives of traditionally underserved residents.
Prior to joining Neighborhood Allies, Matt served as Chief Strategy and Development Officer at Bridgeway Capital where he worked in partnership and service to many of our existing community partners, including Wilkinsburg CDC, McKees Rocks CDC, Operation Better Block, and the Hill District Federal Credit Union by providing leadership and strategy around development opportunities. Matt brings with him a decade of financial tool development in the development sector and has raised nearly $25M in grants and $40M in new debt facilities. Matt also brings expertise in small business, manufacturing, and food related business needs to the team.
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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 for Real Estate Services
Jael joins our team as the Senior Program Manager for Real Estate Services. In this role, Jael will help to build the Centralized Real Estate Accelerator (CREA) program infrastructure, build coalitions to advance change, develop a client pipeline and direct services toward clients, and be a thought leader in regional community development. She will play a key role in Neighborhood Allies’ effort to transform community development in the Pittsburgh region by advancing a systems-level change agenda while also providing ground-up support to communities and small developers.
Prior to joining Neighborhood Allies, Jael served as the Director of Market Research at the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA), an affiliate of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development (ACCD). While managing the PRA real estate and GIS systems, Jael actively maintained relationships with key stakeholders and partners within the development industry. She was responsible for tracking and reporting on the available commercial real estate inventory and trends within the 10-county Southwestern Pennsylvania (SWPA) region. In 2016, Jael earned her real estate license through the Realtor’s Association of Metro Pittsburgh, and in 2017 expanded her skills to include ESRI ArcGIS mapping and data visualization.
In addition to her work at the ACCD, Jael has extensive experience in entrepreneurship, real estate redevelopment and reuse, brokerage operations, site selection consultation and community development services.
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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Operations and Program Support Manager
As Operations and Program Support Manager, DeOndra is responsible for liaising with the Chief Operating Officer to ensure that programs are working in harmony toward production goals, while also meeting quality standards. She supports the operational, financial, and grant-related activities of the organization. DeOndra also analyzes and improves organizational processes, and work to improve quality, productivity, and efficiency.
Prior to joining the Neighborhood Allies team, DeOndra served as the Senior Administrative Assistant for The Pittsburgh Project. She holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in Leadership and Management as well as a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Carlow University. DeOndra is passionate about helping others and making a difference.
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Executive Assistant and Office Manager
As Executive Assistant and Office Manager, Ben is responsible for providing high-level administrative support to the President and running the office in a highly efficient and effective manner. He works closely with all staff on administrative and organizational functions. He also works with senior management and the Board of Directors coordinating Board and committee meetings. In this role as Executive Assistant and Office Manager, Ben actively contributes to the vision and direction of Neighborhood Allies, ensuring the health and reputation of the organization. Beginning in 2020, Ben will also act as Program Administrator for our real estate work. This entails supporting the Director of Real Estate Services and the functions of the new Centralized Real Estate Accelerator.
Prior to his role as Executive Assistant and Office Manager, Ben worked as Program Associate for Neighborhood Engagement and Community Capacity Building, primarily managing our Love My Neighbor! Grant Program and Grassroots Grantmaking Committee. Ben has also served as a PULSE Fellow at Neighborhood Allies and has recently graduated from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs with a Master of Public Administration. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree 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.