Do you know a Good Neighbor? Nominations open for Celebration of Rochester Neighbors

NeighborWorks® Rochester is organizing its 3rd Annual Celebration of Rochester Neighbors, to be held in June of 2018. The free event will be held at the iconic City of Rochester Public Market, celebrates the great people that make our neighborhoods strong. Volunteers who are making a difference in each of the city’s four quadrants at neighborhood level, as well as one leader in the overall Rochester community will be recognized. City of Rochester residents who exemplify a vision for a better Rochester, who work to better their neighborhood or spark change by engagning others will be considered. Full nomination details are available on the webpage:  Anyone can nominate a City of Rochester neighbor for consideration! Fill out a nomination form today!

The event will recognize four Community Champions – individuals from each of the four quadrants of the city for their contributions to their community. The Community Leadership Award award, which recognizes volunteer leaders who work to improve the entire community of Rochester.

Celebration of Rochester Neighbors is much like a block party for the entire city. The event will also kick off NeighborWorks® Week in Rochester and will feature live music, food, and children’s activities. Admission to the event is free. NeighborWorks® Rochester, a non-profit organization, builds strong neighborhoods by educating and counseling new homeowners, providing loan services and energy-savings programs to homeowners and targeted neighborhood revitalization through the Healthy Blocks Neighborhood Initiative. Volunteers who wish to help with the event, or local business interested in sponrorship can contact Kelly Hallenbeck, Resource Development Manager at 327-4170, or

Is Your New Year’s Resolution To Take Control of Debt?

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution? Many people make resolutions for the New Year such as eating healthy, losing weight, increasing savings, getting out of debt, quitting smoking, etc. Was yours to make better decisions about money?

If your goal is to take better control of your finances, here are some quick tips for staying on track:

  1. Have a vision board with your written goals on it. As items are completed, check them off. A vision board is a constant reminder of your goals. People who have vision boards are reminded every day of their goals, and are most likely to complete them. It might be on your refrigerator, or on your bathroom mirror, on your car’s sun visor or at your desk at work.
  2. Know what your total debt is. Add up your total net income. Add up your current household expenses. Is there money left over after all the bills are paid? If not, then there are two options: increase income or current expenses need to be reduced.
  3. Are any of your current expenses “Want” instead of a “Need”? Is cable TV an absolute must-have for you or your family or can you cut it out of your budget? Can you make more meals at home rather than dining out? Do you purchase coffee on your way to work every day? Make a cup at home to reduce your daily expenses. It all adds up over time.
  4. Have you had an Energy Assessment done on your home? It could save you money on your monthly utility bills and cost you nothing. Visit NeighborWorks Energy Services to learn more.
  5. Look for ways to earn extra income. Working over-time, internet income opportunities, obtaining a better-paying job, selling some stored items in your attic or garage are all ways to increase your bottom line. Do you have items that are collecting dust that you do not use can be sold? Start preparing for a garage sale, virtual or real.
  6. Use any extra money you make or receive -a bonus, commissions, tax refunds – to start paying down your debt. Pay the bills with the smallest balances first and/ or pay bills with the highest interest rates first.
  7. Always make sure you pay your bills on time to avoid the extra late charges.


Once you start paying down your debt, your stress levels will reduce, and you will feel much better once you achieve your goal. And isn’t that what resolutions are all about?

If you feel you need more help to take charge of your debt, sign up for one of our Financial Fitness Classes by creating a Compass Account. Or give us a call at 585-325-4170.

Everyone Deserves a Home For the Holidays

You can help create opportunities for people to improve their lives and strengthen their communities by joining us in the belief that every family should have a safe and healthy home to create their own memories. Your support is a key factor in allowing us to continue building strong communities, one neighbor at a time. As the holiday season approaches, we are hoping that you will consider adding a gift to NeighborWorks Rochester to your holiday to-do list. Every dollar donated to Home For the Holidays supports our work in the Rochester community.

Here are a few ways in which your support will have impact:

Support future homeowners. By working hand in hand with citizens whose dream is to own their first home, we help to develop informed, long-term, sustainable homeowners. For many, it will be an opportunity to achieve financial stability through our education services, counseling, and affordable lending options. These educated and involved neighbors are much more likely to nurture and sustain a healthy neighborhood environment.

Identify and support neighborhood leaders. We work with residents and community stakeholders to improve neighborhoods through housing, community-building and place-making strategies. We identify emerging community leaders and provide them with training and support to affect positive change in their neighborhoods.

Promote energy equity. An important component to maintaining healthy, vibrant and green friendly neighborhoods is an investment in energy conservation. We work with homeowners to analyze their home from top to bottom, providing an honest assessment of how they may be able to live more comfortably and how to invest wisely in their home to save money and energy.

Improve housing and neighborhood conditions. As a Community Development Financial Institution, we provide guidance and resources for homeowners to make important repairs to their homes, with an emphasis on neighborhoods that need the most critical support. In addition, we are certified by the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct lead paint Risk Assessments and Clearance Reports to improve living conditions for families.

 Encourage collaborations. Collaborations blend resources and expertise, leading to improved collective impact. We work with a network of bank partners, and non-profit and for-profit organizations to maximize funding available to income-eligible homeowners. By working together, we help Rochester homeowners live in safer, healthier, and more efficient homes.

In 2017, NeighborWorks® Rochester is on track to directly impact more than 1,000 families with our services. In 2018, we hope to exceed this achievement, but we cannot do this without you. The Annual Home for the Holidays campaign is your chance to support NeighborWorks® Rochester’s mission of building great communities.

Your gift won’t just help the people of our community, and the environment; you will also be making a direct impact on your local economy, stabilizing neighborhoods, and, in turn, supporting local businesses.

Now, more than ever, your support is essential for NeighborWorks® Rochester. By investing in our work, you are making a difference in your community. Without your caring and generous gift, the dream of homeownership for many in our community may slip away. Through your generosity, homeowners in need can access resources necessary to maintain a healthy home for their family, ensuring a safe, warm environment for families to thrive and memories to be made.

Please consider making your gift now. Your investment will have a lasting impact on the community you care about most – yours.

10 Tips for your Holiday Budget

The Holiday season is meant for quality time with family, and friends creating wonderful memories. It’s also a time where we spend more money than usual – the average family spends about $700.00 more during Holiday season. The last thing you want to do is let money worries add stress to your holidays.   

To keep you on track and keep stress away, here are 10 Holiday Budgeting tips to make your holidays less stressful:

  1. Pay your regular bills on time to avoid the extra late charges. If you can, pay more than the minimum charges.
  2. Set up automatic bill pay thru your bank.
  3. Pay with Cash or Debit card. Leave the credit cards at home. You can even give each household member an envelope with their holiday spending cash – when it’s gone, it’s gone.
  4. Don’t add on more debt to your current debt load.
  5. Have a budget in place and stick to it. Be honest and realistic when planning your budget and include EVERYTHING including wrapping paper, greeting cards, even the cost of gas or the bus for your shopping. You can use any down time immediately after the holidays to set a plan in place for next year.
  6. Find creative ways to spend less money on gifts. Consider making your own gifts – sometimes a handmade gift can be more personal and memorable.
  7. Shop early, look for discount coupons, comparative shop. Sign up for email alerts from retailers that will let you know when items go on sale, and they may even give you special offers for signing up.
  8. Set a spending limit and a create a list for gift giving.
  9. If entertaining, use coupons for food purchases and/ or shop in bulk. Planning your purchases in advance will go a long way towards helping you save money.
  10. Look at the current services you have to see if you can reduce your current household expenses. Are any of the entertainment services (cable, internet, etc.) offering discounts for the new year? You may never know unless you ask.

Remember to take time for yourself to relax, read a good book, listen to music or whatever puts you in a your place of zen. The less stressed you are, the more you can enjoy this special time with family and friends.

PS: Did you know NeighborWorks Rochester offers classes on budgeting, fixing your credit and much more? We’re here to help.


Triangle Neighborhood Releases Unique Video Series

The Triangle neighborhood, bordered by Culver, Merchants, and East Main Street, is a unique and vibrant area nestled within larger North Winton Village. The area is known by residents, business owners, and visitors as “rich with Rochester essence and flavor”—architecturally charming yet affordable to first-time homebuyers, walkable and bikeable, and home to Rochester landmarks: the last cobblestone house, James Brown’s Place, and L&M Lanes. This past summer, with support from NeighborWorks® Rochester’s Healthy Blocks initiative and a Pride in Place grant from NeighborWorks® America, the Triangle created three professional-quality neighborhood showcase videos: Home & Community, Relax & Play, and Neighborhood Schools. The videos are the first of their kind to be made by any Rochester neighborhood.

The Home & Community video features both long-time and newer Triangle residents. Zirrus, a Garson Avenue resident, features “diversity, friendliness, and activity” as the three standout qualities of the Triangle. Melville Street dweller Mikey mentions how accepting the neighborhood is compared to other areas in the City, and Joyce from Garson Avenue points out the Triangle’s proximity to “everything we could possibly want”. Walkability and safety are also prominently featured. Check out the video here:

Relax & Play features local Triangle businesses, both well-known and under-the-radar. James Brown of James Brown’s Place diner, John Savino of Johnny’s Irish Pub, and Gary Stubbings of L&M Lanes give interviews; other staples such as Nino’s Pizzeria, Merchants Grill, and the East Main Salvatore’s (the local chain’s oldest location) also make an appearance. The short film is a great reminder that not only is the Triangle a great place to live, but it is also a destination for visitors looking to eat, drink, and be entertained—from Rochester and beyond! Watch Relax & Play here:

The film about Neighborhood Schools tackles a question often sidestepped in discussions of revitalization in the City of Rochester: is it possible for kids in the Rochester City School District to get a good, competitive education? RocCity Coalition Education Team member Kevin Kelley says yes! The solution is that “people need to be educated…about the quality of [the] options.” While the message remains options—private, public, and charter—the content of the video focuses on two schools proximate to Triangle neighborhood, Frank Fowler Dow School No. 52 and East High School. The film emphasizes the schools’ assets—such as School 52’s strong community and good test scores and East High’s career preparation tracks through the University of Rochester—while also highlighting benefits of the RCSD as a whole, such as scholarships available to the U of R and RIT. Look here:

In the few months since their release, the videos have already gathered over 4,500 views and received acclaim from a wide variety of organizations, including Celebrate City Living, who are exploring how other neighborhoods can undertake similar projects. All three videos, plus a 30-second trailer, were filmed and edited by videographer Justin Freeman, a North Winton Village resident. Interviews were conducted by Monica Finger, who coordinates NeighborWorks® Rochester’s Healthy Blocks initiative. To learn more about the Triangle, please visit or check out their Facebook page for regular updates:

Thanks to Rochester Safe and Efficient Homes Initiative, Rochester Homeowner can make needed repairs

Nate Sheppard from ABC and Al Rayburn, Technical Services Manager at NeighborWorks Rochester, with homeowner, Joyce Vereecke.

The following was written by guest-blogger, Elizabeth McDade, Program Coordinator for the Rochester Safe and Efficient Homes Initiative (RSEHI)

In December 2014, Joyce Vereecke was served with divorce papers and asked to vacate her home with her two daughters. It was just before Christmas and the younger daughter was a senior in high school. Joyce, her daughters, and two dogs moved into a hotel room where they lived for over two months while Joyce searched for a new home. After deciding to buy a house and moving into it, it was discovered that the person who sold it to her did not have the right to do so. Once again, they had to move.

The family moved into a home on Dickinson Street in Rochester two years ago. The house was nice but needed some repairs and, as Joyce says, she was “not handy.” There was also the question of finding time to do home repairs—in addition to working part time and taking care of her children, Joyce also helped care for her mother who was in assisted living and suffering from dementia.

From the day they moved in, Joyce has slept downstairs in the living room because “one window fell right into the house when the wind blew” and the other window “couldn’t fully close or be locked.” Joyce slept on the couch because “If someone came in the house through one of those windows, I wouldn’t have heard them upstairs in my room…and I have two daughters!”

Joyce worked with NeighborWorks Rochester in Spring 2017 because her sewer line was backed up and needed repair. “We couldn’t flush the toilet or take a shower. You can’t show up at work if you don’t take a shower.” NeighborWorks brought this project to the RSEHI table because they couldn’t do weatherization work without getting the sewer line replaced, but their funding did not cover that scope of work. RSEHI approved a new sewer line (and sidewalk replacement) at $3,650.00. NeighborWorks was able to provide $7,365.99 worth of insulation and health and safety interventions for a total of $10,995.99.

This Fall, Joyce qualified for the ABC Weatherization program. ABC suggested that Joyce apply for the City of Rochester Window’s Program. ABC installed a new furnace and various health and safety items worth $3,168.00. The City of Rochester provided windows valued at $1,316.00 and RSEHI provided $1,600.00 to install the windows for a total of $6,084.00 worth of work.

Through various programs with NeighborWorks Rochester, Action for a Better Community, City of Rochester Windows Program, and the Rochester Safe and Efficient Homes Initiative, Joyce and her family have received a new sewer line, insulation, a high efficiency furnace, air sealing, a new door, other health/safety and weatherization interventions, AND eight new windows that close and lock.

For the first time in two years Joyce is sleeping upstairs in her own bed.

Learn more about the RSEHI program

Learn more about NeighborWorks Rochester Energy Services

First Annual Cobbleween a Smashing Success!

If you’ve spent much time in the Triangle neighborhood, you’ll know that one of its major sources of pride is the last-standing cobblestone house in the City of Rochester, located at Culver Road and Grand Avenue. The house, built in the mid-1800s, suffers from both a mid-19th century addition on the south side (somewhat unattractive) and a large plaza built adjacent on the north side (very unattractive). Nonetheless, although it has been vacant for over a decade, the structural integrity of the cobblestone walls has remained, and so has the neighborhood’s interest in the property’s revitalization. The scoop: the owner is now in conversation with the Landmark Society (who included the property on their 2015 “Five to Revive” list) and a potential developer to rehabilitate and reoccupy the building, perhaps into a mixed-use or commercial gathering space (when last occupied, it was a four-family residential).

Exciting as these developments are, it is no excuse to ignore the property—and its large, paved lot—in the meantime! With support and funding from the Healthy Blocks initiative at NeighborWorks® Rochester, ground was recently broken on the Culver-facing side of the cobblestone for a new public micropark. The space—which will feature a seating area, trees, and low-maintenance perennials and shrubs in addition to a large grassy area—will serve both as a face-lift on the Culver Road streetscape and a resting and gathering place that improves the overall walk-ability of this gateway artery through the Triangle and Beechwood neighborhoods.

House and park aside, what better way to gather the neighborhood around the property in a positive way than a holiday where families are already outside en masse regardless of weather—Halloween, of course! The first annual Cobbleween, originally invented as a playful nod to the “zombie” condition of the house, happened October 31st 2017 from 6-8 PM and was a huge success. Cobbleween, planned and executed by the Triangle neighborhood group with support from Healthy Blocks, featured music, decorations, pumpkin painting, face painting, free donuts, cider, and coffee, the Rochester Mounted Police, outside games, a costume photo booth, giveaways, and tons of candy! Businesses and organizations from within and outside the Triangle pitched in to make in-kind donations, including Lowe’s, Mayer Cider Mill, St. Mark’s and St. John’s Episcopal Church, Donuts DeLite, Elite House of Hair Fashions, New City Café, NeighborWorks® Rochester, the Landmark Society, Broccolo Tree & Lawn, Merchants Grill, and the Healthi Kids Coalition. For more great pictures from the event and to follow what’s happening in the Triangle Neighborhood, follow the Triangle Facebook Page.


“Project Reinvest: Homeownership” will make the American Dream more affordable in Western New York

  • $1.2 million award will fund homebuyer assistance in Monroe and Erie Counties

first time homeownerProject Reinvest: Homeownership will make $1.2 million available to homebuyers in Monroe and Erie County, providing down payment assistance for the purchase of first homes. The funds were awarded to NeighborWorks Rochester, a Community Development Financial Institution, to be executed in partnership with West Side Neighborhood Housing Services in Buffalo, NY.

Eligible homebuyers can receive $10,500 in down payment assistance for the purchase of their first homes in target areas of Monroe or Erie County.

“We are excited to be able to offer this down payment assistance in partnership with West Side Neighborhood Housing Services,” said Joanne Panarisi-Bottone, Executive Director of NeighborWorks Rochester.  “The cities of Buffalo and Rochester face challenges of low average incomes and weaker housing markets, and these funds will help homebuyers to achieve more equity in their home purchase.”

“For people whose American dream of owning their own home might have been just out of reach, Project Reinvest Homeownership will give them the opportunity to build wealth and a brighter future,” said Ed Jackson, Executive Director of West Side NHS.

Project Reinvest: Homeownership is a no-interest deferred loan. Homebuyers may qualify if they make at or below 100% of the Area Median Income for their county and if they are purchasing in a CDFI investment area.

Interested homebuyers should contact the lender of their choice for more information or to start an application. Monroe County partners are Canandaigua National Bank, M&T Bank, Five Star Bank, and Northwest Bank. Erie County partners are Evans Bank, Five Star Bank, M&T Bank and Northwest Bank.

NeighborWorks® Rochester and West Side Neighborhood Housing Services are each affiliates of NeighborWorks Community Partners, a newly-formed affordable housing group building strong neighborhoods in Western New York by providing education and counseling services to new homeowners. Interested home buyers can choose from the following list of bank partners for more information and to start the application process.

Contacts for Homebuyers

Monroe County

Erie County

Trina Burrus, 716-730-4240,  

What and where, is Healthy Blocks?

Swillburg Neighborhood Branded Street Signs

Focusing on strengthening assets, Healthy Blocks works to improve resident confidence. This leads to their greater economic and social re-investment to improve the neighborhood’s image, encouraging homebuyer interest and supporting long-term residency. NeighborWorks® Rochester’s other lines of business also contribute to the success of Health Blocks; for example, home improvement loans are offered to all Healthy Blocks neighborhoods, past and present, for a further reduced rate and with a waived application fee. Healthy Blocks measures its impact through tracking house sale data (including asking and sales prices and days on market) and taking resident confidence and property conditions surveys in years one, three, and five. Our “legacy neighborhoods” and the projects organized by Healthy Blocks are:

Swillburg Neighborhood (2005-2010)

  • Implemented a “unifier” project to visually connect the area – decorative house plaques with the Swillburg logo, still in use today
  • Organized a ‘group purchase’ of driveway replacements for homeowners and landlords, which came at a discount from the contractor
  • Helped residents plan and build a gazebo in Otto Henderberg Park, used for concerts and social events
  • Installed branded gateway signage around the entrances to the neighborhood, giving Swillburg a distinct “district” feel
  • Saw the average house price increase from $48,000 to its more historic value of $82,000 by the end of the Healthy Blocks term
  • Membership in the Swillburg Neighborhood Association increase by more than 40% and resident participation in social activities increase by 20%
  • Realtor’s Association uses the name “Swillburg” when selling property in the area

Brooks Landing Neighborhood (2007-2013)

  • Helped organize annual community skate parties at the Genesee Valley Park skating rink
  • Held a barbecue and music event at the University of Rochester footbridge for students and community members
  • Implemented 10 Makeover Madness matching grants for residents for exterior home improvements
  • Held an pop-up art gallery on Genesee St. for First Friday featuring neighborhood artists
  • Planted over 200 perennial plants in the spring of 2012, and over 300 daffodil and tulip bulbs in the fall

 The Pocket Neighborhood LogoThe Pocket Neighborhood (2008-2013)

    • Launched an identity/marketing campaign using the residents’ choice of name, “The Pocket”, including logo creation and street banners along Atlantic Ave.
    • Organized the installation of colorful, artistic crosswalks along Atlantic and E. Main designed by a local artist and painted by residents
    • Helped to create a community garden on a vacant lot on Heinrich St. and organized its further expansion later by adding six new raised beds, constructing three new public sitting benches, and planting over 400 daffodil bulbs
    • Installed over 200 matching house plaques, over 75% of the neighborhood
    • The average sale price per square foot of homes increase over 20% between 2008 and 2012 

The Triangle Neighborhood (2014-present)

  • Launched the initiative in 2014 with a “Taste of the Triangle” party drawing over 150 participants and engaging residents, local businesses, and community partners
  • Installed four artistic bike racks at the Culver-Merchants Point created by local metal fabricators
  • Completed a branding campaign including the neighborhood’s name, logo, brand statement, and website that has begun to be used widely around Rochester
  • Designed, printed, and began distributing Welcome Wagon packets and gifts to new neighbors in the Triangle
  • Held multiple social events including three pub crawls featuring Triangle Merchants Association member businesses and a pop-up First Friday gallery in a vacant commercial space with partners from Gallery Q and Image Out
  • Helped to form and engage a Triangle planning group that meets monthly
  • Between 2014-2016, average home sale prices, resident confidence, feelings of safety, and ‘house proud’ levels all improved significantly
  • Other community projects, including gateway signage, a mural, and micropark at the Cobblestone house are underway

NeighborWorks® Rochester Chosen for Pilot Health Study

Mom and daughterNeighborWorks® Rochester actively remains current on trends and research in the field of community development through specific Community Initiatives, including the intersection of housing and health. According to the Healthcare Intelligence Network, “Evidence is mounting that social determinants of health—social, economic and environmental factors that impact quality of life—significantly influence population health. Research published by Brigham Young University in 2015 determined that the social determinants of loneliness and social isolation pose as great a threat to longevity as obesity. Cognizant of the need to promote social and physical environments conducive to optimal health, more than two-thirds of healthcare organizations now assess populations for social determinants of health (SDOH) as part of ongoing care management.”[1]

Because of attention focused on health outcomes both from community partners and from funders, it is increasingly necessary for community development organizations to demonstrate that their programming makes an impact on the SDOH of their target populations in a way that measurably improves health outcomes over time. With support from organizations including the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, Enterprise Community Partners and NeighborWorks® America launched a Health Outcomes Demonstration Pilot in order to “build organizations’ capacity to evaluate the health outcomes of their work through a national cohort, building the body of evidence demonstrating housing and community development’s contribution to improved health outcomes.”[2] Only 20 organizations were awarded the opportunity to participate, which includes technical assistance, grant support, peer-to-peer learning, and most importantly, access to a comprehensive set of data collection tools that were developed and tested by Success Measures to measure health outcomes of programs and initiatives on the populations they serve.

NeighborWorks® Rochester was awarded a slot in the Pilot to evaluate Healthy Blocks, its creative neighborhood-strengthening initiative that makes a five-year commitment to a neighborhood (in this case, the Triangle) in transition with the goals of improving property conditions, resident engagement, and neighborhood image. Healthy Blocks staff worked with a consultant to develop an evaluation that focuses on the SDOH upon which the projects, events, and other elements of Healthy Blocks have the most direct effect; namely, social cohesion (community efficacy, inter-resident trust, participation, etc.). The Healthy Blocks initiative is a more complicated endeavor to evaluation compared with other service-providing programs that have more direct and specific contact and service delivery to participants. Because the initiative is designed to work in tandem with market forces and measures its success based resident satisfaction, block conditions, and rising home values (all of which have a wide variety of confounding variables), it is with caution that we attribute improvements in health outcomes to the work directly done by Healthy Blocks. However, in an effort to evaluate the initiative as accurately as possible, our target population consists of Triangle neighborhood residents who have been directly involved in at least one HB-sponsored activity or reside in a geographical location immediately surrounding our existing or planned public streetscape improvements.

[1] Abstract from “Social Determinants of Health in 2017: Scarcity of Supportive Services Hampers SDOH Linkages” 2017 Healthcare Intelligence Network <>

[2] Excerpt from Health Outcomes Demonstration Project Q&A Webinar, presented 12 September 2016 Enterprise Community Partners, emphasis added