Your Allies At Work | Most Impactful Stories of 2020Leave a Comment
While 2020 brought its challenges, both for us and for so many others, it also brought a plethora of new opportunities for our organization to grow and better serve our communities. From adding new staff, to launching new programs, to celebrating the work of our community partners, we have accomplished so much with the help of all of our allies. Check out just some of the progress we’ve made and the impact we’ve had by reflecting back with us on our most read articles of 2020.
We responded to the COVID-19 crisis with innovative interventions such as providing technical assistance for small businesses and connecting students and families to laptops and digital education…
We realized that this pandemic would deeply challenge the future of our communities and economy and as such, have worked to aid businesses in creating additional and creative ways to reach their customers. During this time of crisis, it is more important than ever for small businesses to pivot their business model to include online sales.
Beginning in April, we partnered with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the City of Pittsburgh, and a team of hired technical assistance providers to help nearly 40 small businesses develop an online presence during COVID-19 closures. It was so well-received that we launched a second round where we helped nearly an additional 50 businesses with everything from ecommerce, website design, product photography and more. We continue accepting new businesses to the program in order to prepare them for the present and future challenges of online business.
Early this year, we sought proposals from local organizations to partner with us on creating several digital inclusion centers that would create opportunities for STEM education, digital literacy, and workforce development programming throughout the city. While the pandemic has caused us to change our direct course, our goal remains the same – to bridge the digital divide in Pittsburgh.
We made new connections and partnered with existing allies to get laptops into the hands of the students and families who needed them most. Then, we began tackling lack of access to connectivity and worked to provide internet services for disconnected PPS families. Finally, we launched our LevelUp412 program, aiming to provide virtual education in everything from digital literacy to cyber security as a way to open up new career paths for residents. All of these initiatives make up our ongoing Digital Inclusion work.
In 2020, we launched the Centralized Real Estate Accelerator and hired two new staff members to implement it…
Neighborhood Allies Launches a Revolutionary Community-Based Real Estate Development Pilot with Hiring of New Director of Real Estate Services
After 18 months of research, strategic planning and fund development for our Centralized Real Estate Accelerator, Neighborhood Allies was ecstatic to welcome Matt Madia to our team this year as Director of Real Estate Services. In this role, Matt has begun to lead the efforts to build-out, test and model the products and resources needed to fully launch the Accelerator — a new model that seeks to accelerate, scale, and sustain a more strategic real estate system to benefit all residents through strategic guidance, technical assistance and training, and capitalization support to increase local developer and system-wide capacity.
Thus far, we have made significant progress in supporting several community-driven developers to strengthen their abilities and technical capacity. In fact, we are currently supporting nine for-profit Black developers and eight community-based organizations with development projects in neighborhoods of color! We are excited to continue this journey to creating a more equitable real estate system through innovative tools and ideas. In fact, before the end of 2020, we launched our new Equitable Growth Guarantee Fund — a game-changing tool of the Accelerator that aims to help real estate developers of color, and community-based developers, raise private capital for their projects.
Jael recently joined 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.
Our staff reached new goals and were promoted to new positions within our organization…
DeOndra Parker, who has been our Executive Assistant and Office Manager at Neighborhood Allies, was recently promoted to the position of 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 works to improve quality, productivity, and efficiency.
Ben Emswiler, who has been our Program Associate for Neighborhood Engagement and Community Capacity Building at Neighborhood Allies, has been promoted to the position of 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, Ben also acts as Program Administrator for our real estate work, supporting the Director of Real Estate Services and the functions of the new Centralized Real Estate Accelerator.
Neighborhood Allies President Presley Gillespie Joins Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania Board of Directors
Formed in 1985 as a place for grantmakers to learn and work together to increase community impact, Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania (GWP) is a Philanthropy Serving Organization with a network of organizations and individuals who practice philanthropy. Their mission is to to promote excellence in philanthropy by supporting an effective, growing philanthropic community that strengthens our region. Please join us in congratulating Presley on being appointed to the Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania Board of Directors!
We recommitted to deepening the racial equity, inclusion, and social justice lens in everything we do internally and externally…
Neighborhood Allies Deepens and Reaffirms its Commitment to Equity and Inclusion with the Promotion of Shad Henderson
When Neighborhood Allies re-launched in 2014, we committed to embarking on an exciting journey toward embedding equity into each and every aspect of our organization, both internally and externally. Over the past seven years, we have acted upon this commitment in numerous ways. Some notable highlights include, cultivating a continuous learning environment internally, intentionally diversifying our Board and staff as well as the direct support we provide to Black-led organizations and leaders. In his new role, Shad will proactively be leading the development and implementation of equity, inclusion and advocacy efforts, across our organization’s administrative and programmatic capacities. He will also lead the development of a cohesive vision and an effective strategy that champions a more centralized equity agenda within the community development system as we work alongside our partners in other sectors to advance equity at the regional level.
We held our 4th Annual Healthy Neighborhoods Celebration completely virtually, highlighting each of our 7 awardees through videos, podcasts, and spotlight articles…
‘Steel Smiling’s Beams to Bridges is More Than A Program; It’s a Lifestyle’ | Interview with Hilltop Cohort Leader Rick Bigelow
We honored Steel Smiling as our 2020 Ally of the Year during our weeks-long Healthy Neighborhoods Celebration!
Steel Smiling bridges the gap between Black community members and mental health support through education, advocacy and awareness. A key component of their work is their Beams to Bridges Black Mental Health Workforce Development Program. It prepares residents to become Community Mental Health Advocates who are equipped to care for their own, and their community’s, mental health needs. Check out this Q&A with Hilltop Cohort Leader Rick “Biggs” Bigelow we wrote as part of Steel Smiling’s 2020 Healthy Neighborhoods highlight week!
Cocoapreneur PGH Black Business Relief Fund | Grantee Q&A with Each One Teach One Childcare & Learning Center
We honored Cocoapreneur PGH as our 2020 Market Confidence Awardee during our 4th Annual Healthy Neighborhoods awards.
In response to COVID-19 and increased discussion around race-based disparities in America, Cocoapreneur PGH created the Cocoapreneur Collaborative as another pathway to fulfilling their mission. Aiming to address more social needs of the Black business community, the fund is meant to provide relief and aid to Black owned businesses and Black initiatives that aren’t able to get funding and support through other means. It was initially created to assist businesses that were vandalized after the George Floyd protests in Pittsburgh in May 2020, but has extended its reach to help others facing challenges because of COVID-19, as well. To date, the fund has provided over $50,000 to businesses in the Pittsburgh area! Check out this Q&A we did with Cocoapreneur grantee Each One Teach One Childcare and Learning Center as part of Cocoapreneur’s awardee highlight week!
In 2021, we look forward to working with existing and new partners with greater resolve, intentionality, and urgency to make a serious impact on transforming neighborhoods, racial equity, and begin to move 100,000 low-income Pittsburghers up the economic ladder.