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Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership

The Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership honors the spirit and life's work of Dorothy Mae Richardson, and her neighbors, who sparked a movement in the 1960s in the North Side of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Their leadership resulted in the establishment of the first Neighborhood Housing Services, the forerunner of today's NeighborWorks network, and a new model for resident-led, place-based community development. 
As complex issues continue to face communities across the country, NeighborWorks America has renewed our commitment to comprehensive community development, and to recognize community leaders for the essential role they play in strengthening communities. This work — and award — are more important than ever. 

NeighborWorks is not accepting nominations at this time. Learn more about the selection criteria.

Meet the 2023 Dorothy Richardson Awardees!

Can't see the video below? Watch on YouTube

Celebrating Community Leadership

Empowering communities is how our mission began in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the 1960s. Dorothy Mae Richardson galvanized the residents of her marginalized Central Northside neighborhood to fight for the resources they needed to save their homes and community. Without any formal community development training, Richardson brought regulators and elected officials, bankers and affordable housing advocates to the table to try to remedy the problems of housing affordability, gentrification and redlining. In that effort, a new approach to affordable housing and community development was born. Her work led to the founding of Neighborhood Housing Services of Pittsburgh, which became the national model for NeighborWorks America, founded in 1978.

Origins of the Award

The award is named in honor of Dorothy Mae Richardson, a pioneer in the community-based development movement who was the driving force behind the establishment of Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. in Pittsburgh, the forerunner of today's NeighborWorks network.
Dorothy Mae Richardson: A Visionary
Watch the story, impact and vision behind Dorothy Mae Richardson, the founder of the national model that's become NeighborWorks America.
"I believe people get their roots down when they own their houses...take pride in them. That, in turn, is good for a whole city."   - Dorothy Richardson

Richardson and her neighbors banded together in the 1960s to save their declining Pittsburgh neighborhood from demolition. They recruited partners in local government and the business community. Together, they not only helped revitalize their community, but also set a precedent that changed the nation's approach to urban redevelopment and spawned the new field of community-based development.

Community Leaders

2023 Honorees

CR.pngConsuelo Ramires: Helping a Community Find Its Voice

Consuelo Ramires (Houston, Texas) is helping ensure rights and language justice for Latino immigrants, and elderly and domestic workers in the Northside community. Because of her advocacy during the pandemic to get people engaged civically and participate in the Census, her Census tract had the second highest in participation in Harris County.

J.pngJacklyne Ortiz Velez: At the Center of Community 
Ponce Neighborhood Housing Services 

Jacklyne Ortiz Velez (Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico) founded the Community Electronic Library to help combat low literacy rates. She still manages the library, and has organized numerous community events to promote community engagement and social cohesion. 

DR.pngGladys Muhammad: A Champion for Change
South Bend Heritage Foundation (SBHF)

Gladys Muhammad (South Bend, Indiana)  is known as a champion for change and a problem-solver in her community, Muhammad led the charge to bring a life-sized interactive statue of Harriet Tubman to South Bend, honoring the Underground Railroad's ties to Indiana and Michigan. She also brings people together to forward initiatives.

JP.pngJames Page, Jr.: Giving Time, Sharing Hope

James Page, Jr. (Minneapolis, Minnesota)  used his own recovery experience to become a mentor, recovery coach and spiritual leader who interrupts negative experiences with support and understanding. He founded the Men's Spiritual Circle at the Cultural Wellness Center in South Minneapolis and leads biweekly support groups. 

NG.pngGertrude Naeema Gilyard: Creating and Protecting Community
Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Inc.

G. Naeema Gilyard (Atlanta, Georgia) has focused her work on The Lakes of Cedar Grove, in the City of South Fulton, nearAtlanta. This community has been threatened in recent years by heavy industrial development. She has spent countless hours leading her homeowner's association, successfully advocating for cityhood for South Fulton, serving on City Council and more.

2021-2022 Honorees

Elvira and Jerry Ford: From the street come new H.E.R.O.s
Troy Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (TRIP)

Together in marriage and together in community service, Elvira and Jerry Ford (Troy, New York) wanted to help teens in their community. That's why they started Team H.E.R.O., or Helping Everyone Recognize Opportunities. Team H.E.R.O.'s flagship initiative is the Block Center, a mentorship program that provides after-school meals and activities — and builds trust.

Jaime Pellicier: Growing food, community and opportunity
Ponce Neighborhood Housing Services

Jaime Pellicier (Puerto Rico) has spent his life studying centuries-old techniques in sustainable agriculture. "Going back to our ancestors, they had knowledge about how to use the earth and not damage it," he says. A retired farmer, now he's teaching those techniques to others in his community. He also helps them market and sell their food.

Jackie Sims: Creating better housing opportunities
Affordable Housing Resources Inc.

Jackie Sims (Nashville, Tennessee) is never afraid to ask questions — or to help people find answers. She's been helping low-income Nashvillians find and keep affordable housing since 2008. A community organizer and grassroots advocate, Sims is also a leader for the People's Alliance on Transit, Housing and Employment (PATHE).

Khamar Abdullahi: Mother of Skyline
CommonBond Communities

Khamar Abdullahi (St. Paul, Minnesota), a self-taught leader and a leading voice for the residents of Skyline Tower, a high-rise apartment building, is known as the Mother of Skyline. Abdullahi, who came to America from Somalia 20 years ago, has become a resource for residents as well as their advocate. "If I see you and think you need help, I will help you," she says.

Kavon Ward: Starting a national movement
Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of Los Angeles County

Kavon Ward (Los Angeles, California) used her skills as a lobbyist to start Justice for Bruce's Beach, a campaign to get land returned to descendants of Charles and Willa Bruce, whose property was unjustly seized by the city of Manhattan Beach in the early 1920s. Ward also cofounded Where Is My Land, a nonprofit dedicated to reclaiming Black-owned land. "I feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing in this world," she says.

2020 Honorees

Vanesa Medrano was recognized with the Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership in 2020Vanesa Medrano
Avenue CDC

A college freshman, Vanesa Medrano (Houston, Texas) became interested in community leadership when she helped her mother care for a neighborhood park. Now Medrano, who founded the Millenialz Youth Fest with friends, motivates young people to get involved and make their voices heard.

Rasheada Caldwell was recognized with the Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership in 2020Rasheada Caldwell
Home HeadQuarters Inc.

Rasheada Caldwell (Syracuse, New York) founded Let Me Be Great #44 to honor her son. "It feels good to do something for someone else. If we continue to instill that in our youth, then we make this a better world, we make it a better community, and make the youth better," she says.

Tasha Oliverson was recognized with the Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership in 2020Tasha Oliverson
NeighborWorks Umpqua

Tasha Oliverson (SE Roseburg, Oregon) started the first PFLAG chapter in Roseburg, Oregon. Through her leadership, she has helped build a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community in Roseburg.

Tim Rinne and Kay Walter were recognized with the Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership in 2020Tim Rinne and Kay Walter
NeighborWorks Lincoln

Tim Rinne and Kay Walter (Lincoln, Nebraska) started an urban gardening movement in their neighborhood to help bring neighbors together, provide food and forge community spirit in a place now affectionately known as "Hawley Hamlet."

Evelyn Harrison was recognized with the Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership in 2020Evelyn Harrison
Montgomery Housing Partnership

Evelyn Harrison (Washington, D.C.) never considered herself a leader. But when she found out that there were plans to sell the apartment building she had long called home, she had to act. 

2019 Honorees

Carol YanceyCarol Yancey
Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership

In 2011, the Oakwood Trails subdivision in the suburbs of Atlanta was hit hard by the housing crisis, job loss and a wave of crime. To address rising rates of crime, residents founded the Oakwood Trails Neighborhood Watch in 2011. Carol Yancey (Atlanta, Georgia) signed up with the intention of passing out flyers and knocking on doors, but the next thing she knew, to her surprise, she was leading the group. Watch Carol Yancey's video and read her story.

Christine CardaroChristine Cordaro
Chinatown Community Development Center 

Christine Cordaro (San Francisco, California) leads the Arab Mothers ESL (English as a second language) and Life Skills program, which serves primarily immigrant women of Arab descent in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood. More than 20 women from Christine's classes have enrolled in college, five women have secured paid employment, five women have obtained U.S. citizenship and six women are attending citizenship classes. Civic engagement is an important part the curriculum.  Watch Christine Cordaro's video and read her story.

Dustin LaFontDustin LaFont
Mid City Redevelopment Alliance 

Nine years ago, while Dustin LaFont (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) was volunteering at a community garden in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he met a boy with a beat-up bike who asked for help repairing it. Together, they repaired the bike and the boy rode off. Dustin founded Front Yard Bikes in 2010, which serves youth 6 to 22 years old in Mid City and South Baton Rouge. In addition to learning how to repair and rebuild bicycles, participants also gain valuable workforce skills like welding. Watch Dustin LaFont's video and read his story.

Robert MoralesRobert Morales
NHS of Puerto Rico

Robert Morales (San Juan, Puerto Rico) serves as the coordinator and supervisor for specialists at PARES, a pilot program that serves people experiencing homelessness in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As a person who experienced homelessness for 18 years and fought substance abuse for 30 years, Robert understands the struggles that his clients face. Now, rehabilitated, he has earned a bachelor's degree in social work. Many of the specialists he trains to work with PARES have experienced homelessness or substance abuse issues as well. Watch Robert Morales' video and read his story.

Sherry ShannonSherry Shannon

Sherry Shannon (Minneapolis, Minnesota) has been connecting people and building community for years. Sherry, who previously experienced homelessness, knows what it feels like to be alone. Even though she was working at a security company, Sherry and her two sons found themselves homeless. In the 1990s, she learned about an affordable housing program through Aeon, a community development organization in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that's part of the NeighborWorks network. She became part of the Aeon community and quickly earned a reputation as a resident leader when she began organizing ways for residents to connect through social events like barbeques and arts-and-crafts activities for kids. Watch Sherry Shannon's video and read her story.

2018 Honorees

A black woman wearing sunglasses and a black blazer stands in front of a grey wallJ'Tanya Adams, Charlotte, North Carolina, nominated by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership: Undaunted by challenges such as her duties as a single mother, unemployment and care for a terminally ill father, Adams has become a powerful and effective force for change in her neighborhood. Among her achievements is the development in her community of a dynamic center that includes student housing, community conference space and the first neighborhood café and only non-fast food dining establishment within two miles. Likewise, she spearheaded the founding of Historic West End Partners, a nonprofit that promotes and preserves the cultural identity of the neighborhood. Under Adams' direction, youth are brought in for cultural activities, offering a safe and positive "escape" for neighborhood children. Read J'Tanya's story.

A Hispanic woman wearing a colorful tie-dye shirt stands outsideGloria Cartagena, Philadelphia, nominated by the North Kensington Community Development Corp.: Cartegena has become the "voice" of her neighborhood, securing resources and support for even the most marginalized. She has led a resident group, Somerset Neighbors for Better Living," into becomoing a powerful force for positive change—most recently by negotiating with city officials to respond proactively to a crisis in homelessness and abuse of drugs such as opioids. Read Gloria's story.

Johnny Carter wearing a blue plaid shirt, seated outside on the porchJohnny Carter, Moorhead, Mississippi, nominated by Hope Enterprise Corp.: The Eastmoor neighborhood of the town, like many Mississippi Delta communities, suffers from an inheritance of economic, social and infrastructural inequities. However, Carter organized his fellow residents and "spoke truth to power." Led by Carter, the residents filed a federal lawsuit and forced the county, city and property owner to pave the streets, fix the sewage system and force enforcement of local codes. Today, homes are being rehabiltated and the residents' association is thriving. Read Johnny's story.

A woman with long brown hair wearing a white shirtMichelle Overstreet, Wasilla, Alaska, nominated by NeighborWorks Alaska: Overstreet is a powerhouse who has tackled the challenge of a growing number of suicides, drug abuse and homeless youth in her community in southcentral Alaska. With a passion for life coaching and helping young people grow into their best selves, she confronted this crisis after seeing a forced to sleep in his car, with no safe alternative at home. The centerpiece of her efforts is a nonprofit called MyHouse, which provides housing opportunities, employment training and access to food and other basic needs to homeless and other youth facing challenges. Read Michelle's story.

A black woman wearing a t-shirt smiles at the cameraAudrey Stubbs, Cleveland, nominated by the Famicos Foundation: Her passion is to work with youth to help them develop into community leaders who can make change. Acknowledging that many barriers can stand in their way, Stubbs has broadened her focus to the whole family, targeting issues such as violence and self-esteem. Read Audrey's story.

A Polynesian man wearing a blue button down and a wooden necklace smiles at the cameraAlama Uluave, Salt Lake City, nominated by NeighborWorks Salt Lake: The dropout rate among minority populations in the west side of the city was above 38 percent—an unacceptable fact that inspired Uluave to run as the first Polynesian in the state to serve on the school board. He served two terms and he achieved his vision to build new schools realign districts for more west side representation, giving residents a voice they never had before. Read Alame's story.

2017 Honorees

Marie Miller stands in front of a Salvation Army signMarie Miller
Nuestra Communidad

In the news, it's common to see police and residents at odds. But this police officer sees it as her job to build trust among the most vulnerable residents: senior citizens. And for her work, she received a Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership. Read Marie's story.

Pastor Clegg sits in the pews at his churchRich Clegg
NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire

This 2017 Dorothy Richardson Resident Leadership honoree is a "pastor on a mission"--both with foster children and in distressed communities. Read Rich's story.

Gwyn Guidy sits on a bench in the parkGwyn Guidy

This Florida resident was taught that one person can't make a difference. But she has proven the power of one, and has earned the Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership in return. Read Gwyn's story.

Ana RodriguezAna Rodriguez
Lawrence CommunityWorks

Ana Rodriguez spent her childhood without roots in any one community. That's why now, she invests so much of herself in her adopted home town, including advocating for the mentally and physically challenged. In recognitioni of her work, she has earned the Dorothy Richarson Award for Resident Leadership. Read Ana's story.

Erika Cooper wears a yellow shirt and stands outsideJanet Troutman Simmons

At 90 years old, Janet Troutman Simmons hasn't slowed down; in fact, she has won the Dorothy Richardson Resident Leadership Award for steadfastly fighting for affordable housing for all. Read Janet's story.

Maxine WoodsideMaxine Woodside
CDC of Tampa

For Maxine Delores Hill Woodside, of Tampa, Florida, adversity at a young age bred inspiration and a burning desire to help others. Her good works have earned her the Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership. Read Maxine's story.

2016 Honorees

Debra Stanley stands in front of a potted plantDebra Stanley
South Bend Heritage Foundation

A willingness to empathize with the "other," including those in or recently released from prison, has been a trademark of Debra throughout her life. Today, she lives in South Bend, Indiana, and has extended her compassion to substance abusers, those at risk of AIDS, and other misunderstood and vulnerable individuals. Read Debra's story.

Deeqo Jibril wears a bright yellow cardigan and stands in a storeDeeqo Jibril
Urban Edge

What a long way Deeqo Jibril has come—from fleeing a civil war in her home country of Somalia at the age of 12, to hosting an iftar (a meal to break the fast during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan) with leaders of the Boston Police Department and the FBI. Read Deeqo's story

Don Feist wears a black cap and black jacketDon Feist
NeighborWorks Montana

"Everything is broken and the only way we are going to get it fixed is if we fix it," Don told the local newspaper about the 22-acre manufactured-home community that he lived in. "Everything is going to change now." And it did. Read Don's story.

Maria Elvia Salazar wears a striped shirt and stands in front of a tableMaria Elvia Salazar
People's Self-Help Housing

Elvia's community engagement went way beyond social events and homework help. When the city decided to drop a bus route upon which many residents relied, she swung into action. Read Maria Elvia's story.

Erika Cooper wears a yellow shirt and stands outsideErika Cooper
Neighborhood Housing Services

In 2010, Erika founded Uplifting a Life, essentially an "active parents committee." Its mission is simple: stop talking about problems and start fixing them. It started with movie nights and apple picking. Then it expanded to school volunteering. Read Erika's story.

Erin Sorensen stands outsideErin Sorensen
NeighborWorks Boise

Erin's first major project was the conversion of a vacant lot near her home into a community garden. Looking to recruit participants, she went door to door through the NeighborWorks' apartments across the street. Read Erin's story.

Manfred Reid stands outside, wearing a red tieManfred Reid
New Directions

In Greek mythology, a phoenix is a bird that dies in a "show of flames and combustion," then arises from the ashes to live anew. And Manfred Reid is a modern-day, human phoenix. Read Manfred's story.

Sandra Robertson is a black woman wearing glasses and a denim shirtSandra Robertson
Famicos Foundation

When she bought her first home in the Glenville neighborhood of the city in 1983, it was a food desert and vacant lots marked the area—a consequence of the blight and demolitions triggered by the housing crisis. What better way to use some of the land, Sandra thought, than for a garden the whole neighborhood could contribute to and enjoy? Read Sandra's story.

2015 Honorees

Angela Bannerman Ankoma stands beneath a red umbrella at the Sankofa MarketAngela Bannerman Ankoma
West Elmwood Housing Development Corp.

If anyone is a poster child for the contribution that immigrants make to the American "smorgasbord," Angela Bannerman Ankoka is a strong candidate. Read Angela's story.

Apostle Vanessa Ward wears a gray and blue striped shirt and holds a microphoneApostle Vanessa Ward
NeighborWorks Home Solutions

There are three mindsets that help create and "nurture" high-risk neighborhoods, says Apostle Vanessa Ward:
"I can't make a difference."
"Don't snitch."
"Keep your head down; you might get in trouble." Read Apostle's story.

Billy Palmer stands outside wearing sunglasses and a black shirtBilly Palmer
NeighborWorks Salt Lake

Today, Billy Palmer is a respected resident of Utah's largest city, vice president of NeighborWorks Salt Lake's board of directors, and on track to becoming its president. But he wasn't always so distinguished. His first contact with NeighborWorks Salt Lake was at the age of 16, and it was court-mandated. Read Billy's story.

Diana Lerma Pfeifer wears a colorful shirt and stands next to a busDiana Lerma Pfeifer
Avenue Community Development Corporation

A lot of people look around their neighborhoods and think, "Why is it this way? why can't it be better?" And for most, the questions stay questions. Not for Diana Lerma Pfeifer, however. When she sees something that could be improved, she does her research, recruits others to help and then sets out to change it. Read Diana's story.

Maria Skoczylas stands outside of an apartment buildingMaria Skoczylas
South County Housing

There is a story Maria Skoczylas tells that explains, perhaps better than anything else, why she has devoted so much of her life to helping people who most others try to ignore: the homeless. Read Maria's story.

Mary Jones looks at bags of groceries being offered to the communityMary Jones
AHC of Greater Baltimore

Mary Jones has had to work hard all of her life, sometimes barely scraping by as housekeeper for a hospital and then an aid for an elementary school. When she retired, she had to move in with her son's family while she waited for an affordable apartment to become available. Fortunately for AHC of Greater Baltimore, Mary found a home at its MonteVerde apartments for senior citizens and the disabled—and got right back to work. Read Mary's story.

Sandra Smithers stands outside next to the community poolSandra Smithers
Interfaith Community Housing of Delaware

When Sandra Smithers moved back to the neighborhood where she was born, it was already starting to decline. But that didn't scare her away. Read Sandra's story.

2014 Honorees

Jason Amboo: the unlikely leader at the end of the block
Montgomery Housing Partnership (MHP)

Most adolescents are all about video games, sports and how to get out of chores. Not Jason Amboo. At 14, the Maryland resident is the youngest recipient of a Dorothy Richarson Award from NeighborWorks America, for demonstrating environmental stewardship, mobilizing his community to come together over common goals and mentoring other youth. Read Jason's story.

Paul Bertha: connection in the leading role 
La Casa, Inc.

Paul was hesitant about speaking up at first when his local, Indiana city council debated whether to demolish a historic local school. But then he realized it was his “duty”: If he didn’t speak up about the potential alternative uses for the school’s grand stage, who else would? He did, and the rest is history. Today, the summer academy now held in the school, including drama class led by Paul, has completed its sixth year serving underprivileged children and youth. Read Paul's story.

Sharon Bagley: triumph in the face of tragedy
HANDS (Housing and Neighborhood Development Services, Inc)

Sharon could have been forgiven if she had withdrawn into a cocoon, or lashed out in anger, after her 19-year-old son Malcolm – a scholarship football player home from his freshman year of college – was caught in the crossfire of a gang fight in their New Jersey neighborhood. Instead, she turned her grief into a cause and put all of her energies into making it happen: a safe neighborhood where young people can thrive. Read Sharon's story.

Fred Fife: the relentless hometown ‘kid’
NeighborWorks Salt Lake

Combine a civil engineer’s laser focus on “getting the job done” with a love for one’s community that will never allow a permanent move away, and what do you get? A volunteer who is the dream of every NeighborWorks organization. There are few limits to what Utah resident Fred will do to “get it done” – ranging from running for state office, to bringing together unlikely partners, to getting his hands dirty while beautifying bike paths and “eyesore” properties. Read Fred's story.

Ken Grubbs: the barrier bulldozer
Nuestra Comunidad Development Corp.

With the strife in Ferguson fresh in the news, the relationship between the police and local communities is a top concern in many neighborhoods. But in Boston’s Roxbury, Kenneth (“Kenny”) Grubbs figured out how to change that dynamic from distrust to engagement a long time ago. He lives in the community he polices, combining leadership on issues such as gangs and prostitution with ice cream and karaoke. “I lead by example: If you live in a community, you have to take ownership and responsibility." Read Ken's story.

Chip Rogalinski: pioneer of inclusive redevelopment
New Directions Housing Corp.

Three years ago, Louisville’s Shelby Park was perceived as a small, depressed pocket of Louisville. It was marred by crime, trash and vacant or dilapidated properties. Today, however, crime is down, young professionals are moving in and Insider Louisville recently wrote, “…People with passion can accomplish a great deal, and those Shelby Park leaders have incredible passion.” Much of that success is due to Chip, president of the Shelby Park Neighborhood Assn, and his inclusive approach to revitalization. Read Chip's story.

Marcy Tanger: the weatherization warrior
NeighborWorks of Western Vermont

NeighborWorks of Western Vermont attributes much of its success in championing home energy efficiency in Rutland County to “the Marcy Tanger effect.” You won’t find it in any textbooks, but it’s real. She is a one-woman “weatherization warrior,” recruiting others to the cause, saving her community thousands of dollars and doing her part to protect the environment. “That’s what I love about this work. I love to see people after they have weatherized, because they are ecstatic.” Read Marcy's story.

Gloria Zamudio: the champion fighter
Neighborhood Housing Services Silicon Valley

It’s easy to be an armchair critic, waiting for a leader to step forward to solve local problems. But as Gloria proves, sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands – and can be remarkably effective. When her California neighborhood was traumatized by drug-dealing tenants, Gloria sought the training she needed to marshal all of the community’s resources and convince the absentee landlord to replace them with residents who would put down roots, not trash it. Read Gloria's story.

2013 Honorees

Rosa Ramirez

Rosa Ramirez
St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society
Northeast Region

Rosa Ramirez moved from Puerto Rico to Camden, NJ with her family in the early 1950s at a time when “Latinos were seen and not heard.” She became a community activist and leader from a young age and has inspired a generation of Latino leaders in the city. Ramirez was involved in the early days of St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society and has been a board member for 24 years. Her accomplishments include developing a vision for Camden that led to the Camden Recovery Act and helping to bring community policing, the Camden Home Improvement Program, and over 900 units of affordable housing to Camden.

“My community and I have worked very hard, and I accept this award not in my name, but in the name of the people that have worked so hard with the Carpenter Society. I am very proud of this award, but when I come back home, I want to go back and tell the people in Camden, 'this is what we got, our work was recognized!', and that means a lot to me and to our neighbors.”

Edith DesmaraisEdith DesMarais
Laconia Area Community Land Trust
Northeast Region

Edith "Edie" DesMarais moved to Wolfeboro, NH in the late 1960s and has been an active community leader and volunteer there for 45 years. In 1973, after a community survey determined a pressing need for quality affordable day care services, DesMarais and a small group of local women stepped forward and eventually founded the nonprofit Wolfeboro Area Children’s Center. Today, the center is the area's tenth largest employer, providing local employment and economic benefits in a rural area. It has served more than 5,000 families and more than 7,000 children. DesMarais next turned her attention to the quality of affordable housing. Over several years, she helped build regional support to change zoning and land use laws that blocked the creation of affordable housing. Edie also founded the Eastern Lakes Affordable Housing Coalition and successfully raised $250,000 in donations to secure land for their first housing project.

“My community is important to me because I live here and I love its people and how they are willing to work together to improve it. I raised my children here, and appreciate the education they received, and how they feel safe and learn from the people around.”

Nancy GraysonNancy Grayson
NeighborWorks Waco
Rocky Mountain Region

Nancy Grayson, a teacher and small business owner, has dedicated her life to creating positive change in her community. Starting with 16 small children in a basement of a church, she began a school for disadvantaged children, which has now grown to more than 500 students in pre-K through twelfth grade. Due to high parent involvement, 100 percent of students graduate and enroll in higher education. Grayson’s vision has now taken her from the formation of the school to ensuring a bright future for East Waco and especially the Elm Avenue area. Grayson has now opened "Lula Jane's," a bakery on the avenue, to help bolster the local economy and contribute to the sense of local pride.

“Make mistakes, make a lot of mistakes, they are your best way to learn that there is a better way to do it. I am a mistake celebrator, if we think we’ve got it right, we’ll never grow and get better. I always try my hardest to get things right, but I also am not afraid to take risks and make mistakes.”

Fronie JonesFronie Jones
Orlando Neighborhood Improvement Corporation
Southern Region

Fronie Jones moved to Palm Grove in 1995 and immediately engaged herself in the community. Over the past 20 years, she has become such a presence that she is seen as the "glue" that connects residents with one another, and the "grandmother" who knows all the children and ensures their needs are met in a community that is a safe place to live, work and play. Jones has worked with KaBOOM to build six playgrounds and recruited 50 percent of the young participants in the Prodigy cultural arts' after-school program at Palm Grove. Additionally, Jones has brought her neighborhood association into a Neighborhood Alliance Network, which focuses on eliminating crime and drugs while instilling pride and safe opportunities for community building activities and events. She serves on multiple boards, including that of Orlando Neighborhood Improvement Corporation. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer recently recognized her as the 2013 Community Builder of Orlando.

“My faith has been my inspiration. When you are working with people you learn to love them and it is easier on you to love their good things and not the faults. You have to have patience to do community work, find people who can help you. This is a community effort and you can’t do it alone.”

Jenifer ShererJenifer Scherer
CommonBond Communities
Midwest Region

Jenifer Scherer, a former teacher, has not allowed Multiple Sclerosis to deter her from being an active spokesperson in her neighborhood and for others with MS. Scherer organizes movie nights and welcome wagons for new residents of Kinsley Commons. Scherer has also made a difference by helping to secure funding for a free handicap-accessible neighborhood bus ride system, and an improved wheelchair and foot access at the railway city street intersection. She helped to develop the “Take the Great Mobility Challenge” and is now recognized by the city of Minneapolis for her expertise on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Don’t be afraid of being wrong. It is important to share the ideas with other people in your community. Ideally a community should be a group of people that work together to help make the place they live better for themselves as well as others.”

Stephanie FrancisStephanie Francis
NeighborWorks Homeownership Center Sacramento
Pacific Region

Stephanie Francis is a single mother of an 8-year-old son and her desire to create a safe and healthy environment for her family has led her to work on neighborhood, school, and environmental issues at the city level. Under Stephanie's leadership, the Fruitridge Manor Neighborhood Association has been a vital resource in WALKSacramento's efforts to involve residents in enhancing pedestrian and bicycling safety in the South Sacramento area. She has also participated in the California Endowment's Building Healthy Communities initiative as co-chair of the evaluation committee. Francis has devoted countless hours to NeighborWorks Homeownership Center Sacramento, her neighborhood, and her community to enhance quality of life for all. She has been instrumental in revitalizing her neighborhood association through her personal outreach and inspiration that sparks involvement of other residents.

“I live in a very culturally linguistically diverse community. So there is a constant need to find common ground that connects, because at the end of the day, everyone wants the same for their families."

2012 Honorees

Georgia Burrell
Resources for Residents and Communities (RRC)
Atlanta, Georgia

Georgia Burrell is known affectionately as the unofficial “Mayor” of Reynoldstown, a community in east Atlanta where she has lived for more than 52 years. Through her 20-year service on the Board of the Reynoldstown Civic Improvement League, she worked tirelessly to bring public transportation options to her neighborhood.  Burrell also played a critical role in preserving the Lang Carson Community Center, which has served as NeighborWorks America affiliate RRC’s headquarters for over 23 years. When asked what inspired her work Burrell said: “I really enjoy volunteering and being around people. I grew up in this community and it offered me so much as a child, and now there are a lot of senior citizens and young people that need my help. I had those role models in my life and I want to be that inspiration for others.”

Sharon Curry
Urban Edge of Boston
Roxbury, Massachusetts

Sharon Curry believes that “the way to create a healthy environment for every child to grow up in is to do for your neighbors’ children as you would do for your own.”  One of the projects she championed was to start a local branch of the Boston Red Sox baseball Rookie League, and one of the proudest moments of her life came when that team won the local championship. When asked how she inspires others to get involved, Curry said simply “I listen.  I tell folks it’s important to listen, and we just don’t listen enough, but when we listen the answer is right there.  It takes very little for a person to be a leader; it’s just like a tiny mustard seed that can grow into something big.”

Robert Fontaine
Columbus, Ohio

Bob Fontaine, former Cleveland Ohio Man of the Year,  says, “I can’t be in any community unless I’m active; there is a need everywhere.”  He has been especially motivated to work with the young people of the community whom he recognizes as the future leaders.  He formed an active Teen Council and also became president of the Pheasant Run Resident Council in Columbus, Ohio.  Fontaine’s latest project with the young people is to start a basketball league.  Using his infectious enthusiasm, he persuaded a former professional basketball player to help him sign up dozens of boys and girls to take part in the league.  Fontaine says, “Young people WANT to latch onto something, so we need to give them something positive to latch onto.  We can be a role model for them and let them know they can be successful.”

Alice Goggins
Affordable Housing Alliance
Eatontown, New Jersey

Alice Goggins has lived and volunteered in her community and her home in the Grandview Apartment complex in Keansburg, NJ for over 40 years, so when the owners announced in 1995 that they were planning to sell the complex, Goggins took action. She formed an ad hoc tenants’ association that persuaded the owners to sell the property to a nonprofit agency resulting in a strong, sustained community at Grandview.  Throughout, Goggins has been a motivator and a leader in the growth and expansion of this vibrant community. She has impacted the lives of generations of residents and inspired countless individuals to actively participate in their communities and to stand up for what they believe.  

Herb Matlock
Little Dixie Community Action
Hugo, Oklahoma

Herb Matlock has been active in community and public service for more than 65 years. After working in the military and the Federal Aviation Administration, Matlock returned to his hometown and focused on local efforts. Knowing that his town would never be able to attract investment and grow without a public sewer system, he ran for public office, won, and eventually worked with Oklahoma’s governor to bring sewer and water upgrades to the community.  Since then, the town’s population has doubled. Matlock’s passion for helping others is chronicled in his book, “Turning the Lights on in Southeast Oklahoma,” which won a national prize for history in 2011.  Matlock’s advice for others interested in community engagement is, “Make sure you do it from your heart, make sure you are committed and are doing it because you have a passion to help people.”

Terry Miller
NeighborWorks Great Falls
Great Falls, Montana

Terry Miller has been a volunteer in Black Eagle, Montana for more than 30 years and she has played a leadership role in several organizations, such as the Civic Club and the Fire Department Auxiliary. Her efforts, such as developing a city-wide Neighborhood Watch program and initiating the annual spring community clean-up, have helped make Black Eagle a community of choice. Miller’s advice to others interested in volunteering was, “Volunteerism is very fulfilling. Get involved in things you feel passionate about and things that make a difference in your community and your neighborhood.”

Rosa Peñaflor
Community Housing Works of San Diego
San Diego, California

Six years ago, Rosa Peñaflor volunteered with the Crown Heights Neighborhood Group and today, she’s the president. Each month, Peñaflor brings together area residents, local police and staff from nonprofits like NeighborWorks affiliate Community Housing Works to discuss community concerns and develop collaborative solutions. This approach proved vital in reversing a city plan to remove the neighborhood school bus.  Instead of losing the bus, Peñaflor and her constituents talked the local school district resulting into allowing residents to get a subsidized bus fee if they agreed to do monthly community cleanups.  When asked to share a word of advice, Peñaflor said, “You will find many obstacles when you have an agenda you want to get done, but keep fighting for your goal and find your leadership strength, Don’t ever let the problems and roadblocks divert you from your goal."

2011 Honorees

Joseph Bryant
Home HeadQuarters
Syracuse, NY

While many young adults choose to leave Syracuse for opportunities elsewhere, Joseph Bryant has decided to stay, and work to create opportunities in his hometown. His ability to bring together stakeholders has led to an impressive list of developments: the South Side Communication Center, green infrastructure developments, free wireless access to neighborhood businesses, and, most significantly, the development of a community-owned grocery store. Joseph is a champion of the Southside neighborhood's rebirth and revitalization, raising the hopes of its residents in the process.

Denese Meteye James
CDC of Tampa
Tampa, FL

As a board member for the CDC of Tampa and other organizations, Denese Meteye James is a vocal advocate for the revitalization of the East Tampa Community. Her advocacy has helped create more than $30 million in development projects. She also led the creation of an annual tree lighting celebration, which in 2010 resulted in more than 100 bikes and backpacks being given to local youth.Her volunteer commitment follows a 32-year career in healthcare, where she fought to ensure that residents receiving services at the health department were treated with respect and dignity.

Sophia Jeffrey
Springfield Neighborhood Housing Services
Springfield, MA

Sophia Jeffrey is the first and only board president of Springfield NHS. As the organization has evolved, expanded and changed its name, Sophia has been a constant, for 33 years. During this time, Sophia has been committed to working with others to give a voice not only to the members of her community but to all residents of the city of Springfield. Her efforts were even recognized by President George H. W. Bush, who named her as one of the Thousand Points of Light. Sophia Jeffrey personifies leadership, dedicating her life to improving the lives of her neighbors.

Kris Kumaroo
Montgomery Housing Partnership
Silver Spring, MD

Frustrated with the level of crime, foreclosure and lack of resident involvement in his community, Kris Kumaroo decided to take action. With the assistance of Montgomery Housing Partnership, he formed the Greater Glenmont Civic Association in 2008 to organize neighbors and explore solutions. In a few short years, the group has tripled in size, and the crime rate in some areas has dropped by 40 percent. The group has also tackled foreclosures and loan scams, and under Kris’ guidance, residents have a heightened awareness that they can solve problems and improve their community.

Wing Hoo Leung
Chinatown CDC
San Francisco, CA

When the new owner of his apartment building announced plans to evict the building’s residents and remove the building from the rental market, Wing Hoo Leung and other tenants decided to take a stand. Leung emerged as a leader, uniting the tenants and motivating them to fight. With support from the Community Tenants Association and Chinatown CDC, they won their fight and were able to remain in their homes. That struggle inspired him to continue to fight on behalf of others in his community. Under Leung’s leadership, volunteers are sharpening their community organizing skills and serving as advocates for the city’s most vulnerable immigrant populations.

Keith Pamperin
NeighborWorks Green Bay
Green Bay, WI

Keith Pamperin’s passion for housing and community development has led him to a life of service. He is the founder of NHS of Green Bay, now known as NeighborWorks Green Bay. He has served on the organization’s board for almost 30 years and has been involved in every one if its programs and projects over that time. Keith is known for experimentation and promoting new ideas. He was an early advocate of environmental conservation, equal access for those with disabilities, housing choice vouchers and grooming neighborhood residents for board positions. Many advances throughout the city of Green Bay can be credited to Keith’s innovative thinking and persistence.

Tiffany Sandberg
NeighborWorks Salt Lake
Salt Lake City, UT

When Tiffany Sandberg sees a problem, she steps up to fix it. She’s been instrumental in bringing in a millions of dollars of development, while rallying her neighbors against businesses that are detrimental to community stability. She has consistently taken leadership roles within the agency and in the broader community, and routinely engages young people to get involved in advocating for their community. After attending a CLI, she and her group formed a storytelling initiative called the Urban Pioneers. The group was invited to Athens, Greece, to share their concept, showing that the principles of grassroots community leadership resonate with people worldwide.

2010 Honorees

Victor Aguilar
Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation
Oxnard, California
Pacific Region

Victor Aguilar is a true leader. He didn’t stop at organizing youth graffiti offenders to clean up and paint murals; he went all the way to City Hall to advocate for their fair treatment. In the process, he developed confidence in his own abilities as he prepares for his future.

Linda Miller Allen
Neighborhood Housing Services of Birmingham
Birmingham, Alabama
Southern Region

Linda Miller Allen is a tireless advocate for her community, serving on a dozen local boards and committees to spur investment and development. Whether fighting foreclosure, beautifying her neighborhood, working with youth or promoting education, Linda doesn’t stop until she gets results for her neighbors.

Jesse Clayton
New Kensington Community Development Corporation
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Northeast Region

When a beloved local park became a drug hangout, Jesse Clayton stepped up to lead a team of volunteers to reclaim it and convert it to a skate park. Within a few months, crime was down, business was up, and a community had been transformed.

Tammy Hoth
NeighborWorks Montana
Great Falls, Montana
Rocky Mountain Region

When their trailer park was listed for sale, Tammy Hoth mobilized her neighbors to organize into a resident association and apply for grant funds to purchase the property. Today, their cooperative is about to become the owner of Mountain Springs Villa, the former trailer park turned into a beautiful subdivision, with Tammy as its president.

Paul Lopez
NHS of Chicago
Chicago, Illinois
Midwest Region

Paul Lopez exemplifies community service, bringing investment and business opportunities to the community where he grew up. Because of his tenacity, the community has a multi-million dollar banking facility that also houses the first bilingual NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center. He also works with at-risk youth to provide educational opportunities and provide alternatives to gang activity.

Marron McLeod
UNHS NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center
Utica, New York
Northeast Region

For 20 years, Marron McLeod has managed the Cornhill Community Garden. Under his leadership, the garden has had a domino effect on the neighborhood, inspiring neighbors to improve their own properties. His work has led to increased opportunities in education, innovation, restoration, feeding the hungry, green lifestyle and youth engagement.

Emily MacRae
Twin Cities Community Development Corporation
Fitchburg, Massachusetts
Northeast Region

Emily MacRae is the quintessential consensus builder. Under her leadership on the board of directors, Twin Cities CDC helped forge partnerships among elected officials, business leaders and community residents. These partnerships have been successful in reclaiming blighted areas, reducing crime, preventing foreclosure and promoting responsible homeownership.

David Pottinger
LaCasa, Inc.
Goshen, Indiana
Midwest Region

Dave Pottinger has played a major role in renovating Goshen’s downtown district. He has devoted untold time and talent to revitalizing Goshen, focusing not only on bricks and mortar, but on the people who live and work in his buildings. Largely because of Dave and his partners, Goshen boasts a vibrant economic city center.