2019 Celebration of Rochester Neighbors

Celebration of Rochester Neighbors Award Winners Announced

NeighborWorks® Rochester and the City of Rochester is thrilled to announce the winners of its Celebration of Rochester Neighbors Awards. The awards will be distributed on Monday, June 3rd from 5:00PM to 7:30PM at the City of Rochester Public Market. Like a city-wide block party, the event will feature live music, food and a chance to have fun with neighbors from throughout the city.

Northwest Quadrant Community Champion: Barb Ann Kupiec is a long-time resident of the Maplewood Neighborhood who has dedicated her retirement years to improving the neighborhood. As a Master Gardener, Barb Ann generously shares her expertise by leading a team of volunteers as Chair of the Maplewood Gardening team. Together they maintain public garden areas, planters and trees along Dewey Avenue. Additionally, Barb serves on the Maplewood Neighborhood Assoc. Board of Directors as Board Secretary. She has served on both the Maplewood Public Safety Committee and the Zoning Committee. Barb Ann is also involved with taking care of feral cats in the neighborhood. According to her nominator, Enrica Fleming, “Barb Ann invests most of her time, energy and talent to help improve the physical appearance of the neighborhood, helping to stabilize it and attract new property owners, when she could have chosen a leisurely retirement. She is truly a wonderful example of what each of us can do for our community.” Barb Ann also volunteers her time as a Master Gardener throughout the county, cultivating plantings and maintaining gardens at many county parks.

Southwest Quadrant Community Champion :  John DeMott is described as very serious about the betterment of his community, and also very friendly and kindhearted. Some of his community involvement includes assisting with the weekly farmer’s market in the summer, and engaging residents, businesses and students to beautify the community with flowers and plantings along the street. He was also influential in the birth of the Brooks Landing development. As a musician, John often donates his time to provide music and entertainment to the community, including organizing an event called Beats @Brooks to provide music for residents of the Southwest neighborhoods. John is a firm believer in supporting local businesses, with a true desire to see them succeed. John was nominated by John Demps along with a long list of others, who stated, “John is proactive in getting things done in the neighborhood, is very dependable, easy to work with and passionate about the work he is doing. He has a strong belief in the character of his neighbors and neighborhood.”

 Northeast Quadrant Community Champion: Vincent Russello, nominated by Carlos Torres of the Northeast Neighborhood Service Center, is the founder and president of the Vineyards Neighborhood Association. This enterprising resident is a true leader in his neighborhood, working tirelessly to resolve many community issues and working with the city to relay concerns. He is very creative in collaborating and working with other groups to improve the community. He has reached out to agencies to bring them into the neighborhood to assist those in need and regularly invites new ideas and input on projects. He’s a driver in obtaining funding for community improvement projects and is great at bringing people together for support, safety and promotion of the neighborhood. His nominator said of Vince, ”he’s consistent in reaching his goals, is a good communicator and never gives up on resolving community issues.”

Southeast Quadrant Community Champion: Joe DiFiore’s involvement and accomplishments are almost too many to list! This dedicated volunteer gives hours of his own time for the people and families of Beechwood and the City of Rochester. Some of the boards and organizations he serves include the Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition, Peace Village Homeless Encampment, Rochester People’s Climate Coalition, and Little Flower Community. Joe is skilled at organizing groups to get projects done. He was instrumental in getting Play Streets established, which resulted in a policy developed for Healthi Kids Coalition and the City of Rochester Dept. of Recreation for more neighborhoods to take on Play Streets – where 2 weeks of the summer time is set aside to close the streets for children of the neighborhood to play. Another project he championed was to create a StoryWalk at #33 School, Ryan Center and Sully Library.

Joe’s other passion is affordable housing, as a Board member of City Roots Community Land Trust, he works to establish and promote permanently affordable, quality housing in our city.  His vision includes:

  • Vacant properties turned over to the Trust for community-led development, which will turn them into community-held assets
  • Infrastructure and playful design elements that encourage people to walk and bike
  • Utilizing vacant lots for pop-up events, community gardens and play spaces

His nominator, Nancy Johns Price, says of him, “Joe does so much for so many. He is truly a champion who understands hard work and commitment to make a community strong. He sees a need and gets people organized and works on solutions.”

Community Leader Award: The Community Leader Award recognizes volunteer leaders who spark change by engaging others in improving their community. Devon Reynolds, Sr. and Jovan Bradley, co-owners of the Brothers and Sisters Unisex Salon embody this in their everyday lives. According to nominator Kim Hare, the two “are father figures, counselors, advocates, role models, problem solvers, community change makers, and more.” The have addressed issues in their neighborhood, including the challenges that families face from lack of food, kids hanging on street corners at all hours, lack of job opportunities, and feelings of despair and hopelessness. Projects they have organized include:

  • Starting a school supply give away to assist families
  • Providing free haircuts in the schools during the school year
  • Starting a food pantry – Sweet Ida’s Food Pantry – soliciting donations that include food and clothing.
  • Holding events during Black History Month and providing free books to children
  • Providing Thanksgiving dinners to those in need – more than 100 dinners in 2018!
  • Organize an annual Father’s Day Celebration
  • Collaborating with Trillium Health and Common Ground to host an event for HIV/STD testing and education, blood pressure screening and more
  • Hosting Community Roundtables to provide a venue for the community to speak, express their thoughts and concerns

“Devon and Jovan are unique and crucial assets to the Maplewood Community. They see an issue…and roll up their sleeves and get to work.”

 

Bank of America Supports Economic Opportunities Via NeighborWorks® Rochester

By collaborating resources and solution-driven ideas, Bank of America and NeighborWorks® Rochester are making it easier for low-income families to gain financial stability. A recent grant of Homeownership Class NeighborWorks Rochester$10,000 from Bank of America will support financial coaching and homeownership education for Rochester area residents provided by the non-profit organization.

These funds will help provide tools and resources that allow potential homebuyers to become mortgage-ready through NeighborWorks Rochester’s homeownership education and coaching. Participants are provided with financial coaching, education in mortgage products, and guidance on available financial assistance and first-time homebuyer grants. As a member of the NeighborWorks America network, the organization’s approach is a key component of strengthening Rochester area neighborhoods.

“We provide tools for individuals who may be seeking to increase their economic mobility through homeownership to prepare themselves for success.” stated Joanne Panarisi-Bottone, NeighborWorks® Rochester’s Executive Director. “We are pleased to be able to partner with Bank of America to advance opportunities for those in our community who may not otherwise have this type of support.”

Citizens Bank helps Support The American Dream of Homeownership Via NeighborWorks® Rochester Grant

Rochester area residents wanting to fulfill the American Dream of homeownership will be supported by a recent grant from Citizens Bank to NeighborWorks Rochester. The $5,000 grant will help provide tools and resources that allow homebuyers to become mortgage-ready through NeighborWorks Rochester’s homeownership education and counseling. Participants are provided with financial coaching, education in mortgage products, and guidance on available financial assistance and first-time homebuyer grants.

“Our goal is to prepare future homeowners for success – a key component of strengthening the Rochester area’s neighborhoods.” stated Joanne Panarisi-Bottone, NeighborWorks® Rochester’s Executive Director. “We provide the tools homebuyers need to prepare themselves and, as a member of the NeighborWorks America network, our approach is proven.”

NeighborWorks® Rochester is a HUD Housing Counseling Agency serving Rochester and the surrounding area.  The non-profit organization also creates sustainable communities by providing lead paint inspections, home improvement loans and energy services programs that improve energy efficiency, real estate values and resident wellness.

NeighborWorks® Rochester is an affiliate of NeighborWorks® America, and a member of NeighborWorks Community Partners – a consolidation with NeighborWorks organizations in Buffalo and Niagara, formed to increase the number of prospective homebuyers that can be served throughout the Greater Rochester Area, and throughout Western NY.

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

United Way Day of Caring – Volunteers Rock!

NeighborWorks Rochester was thrilled to be a host site again for this year’s Day of Caring event sponsored by the United Way of Greater Rochester! For the third straight year, the Harris Corporation sent a team of

Harris Corporation team
Harris Corporation team

volunteers to our not-for-profit organization. Once again, this incredible team was extremely helpful in tackling many building and yard projects, making our organization look it’s best for our customers, neighbors, and partners. Led by Dana Colbert, the group spent time weeding and spreading mulch throughout our entire property. They patched parking lot potholes, cleaned windows and appliances, and also did some painting for us. No project was too grimy or gritty for them, and they did it all with a smile! We look forward to seeing them every year!! Some of our NeighborWorks staff worked side-by-side with the Harris team, while others tackled large projects indoors! I can’t thank The Harris Corporation and NeighborWorks Rochester Teams enough for beautify our landscape inside and out!

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Celebration of Rochester Neighbors Winners!

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These wonderful neighbors are the winners of the 2016 Celebration of Rochester Neighbors Awards. Visit the 2017 page for information on this year’s event.

SouthWest Quadrant Community Champion 

Ms. Bessie Clifton, a founding member of the Cottage Street Block Club, is the Rochester Neighbors Community Champion Award winner for the Southwest Quadrant. Bessie Clifton croppedAt 88 years old, she remains an active advocate and participant in her neighborhood. Ms. Clifton has been a member of the Plymouth Exchange Neighborhood Association for 25 years and is also a member of the South Plymouth Avenue Business Association. In addition, she walks her neighborhood as a member of PAC-TAC and is often seen cleaning up litter on area streets. Two projects with which Ms. Clifton is closely involved are the Legacy Garden and the Legacy Park Station, sponsored by the Cottage St. Block Club. She helps plant and maintain the community garden that provides fresh vegetables for neighbors, and she provided input and historical information and continues to fundraise for the Legacy Park Station. On the “Street Voices” program on Rochester Free Radio 106.3 fm, Ms. Clifton provided listeners with more history and memories about life in Rochester. Described as resilient with a “youthful spirit,” she continues to inspire her southwest neighbors.

NorthEast Quadrant Community Champion

Vera Crumpler, organizer of the Citywide Youth Crusade, is the Rochester Neighbors Community Champion Award winner for the Northeast Quadrant. Carlos Santana of Action for a Better Community nominated Mrs. Crumpler calling her “a highly committed advocate for the less fortunate” in Rochester’s northeast through efforts that span nearly 50 years. She has tackled community issues of housing, injustice, public safety, employment and youth while sitting on the boards of various associations: Coalition of the North East Area (CONEA,) North East Block Club Alliance (NEBCA,) Sector 10, and North East Neighbors Association (NENA.) In addition, she gives her time to other local events when asked. Her 30-year involvement with the Citywide Youth Crusade includes organizing rallies in which public officials, police officers, clergy, lecturers and neighbors with positive messages are invited to speak. In an effort to keep the dialogue moving forward, Mrs. Crumpler continues to hold the events at her own expense and without compensation. Santana adds that Mrs. Crumpler displays “a caring, loving heart toward everybody she meets, without distinction,” treating everyone with respect and compassion regardless of age or ethnic background, making her a true role model and champion.

NorthWest Quadrant Community Champion

Described as a “quiet champion” for Charlotte, Pamela Postgate is the Rochester Neighbors Community Champion Award winner for the Northwest Quadrant. After moving to Stutson Street eight years ago, Ms. Postgate organized the Stutson Street Block Club and Charlotte Beach Clean-ups. Her most recent community project has been spearheading the Lakeside Farmers Market. Ms. Postgate organized the group of neighbors to put it together, then hosted meetings, sought out sponsors and vendors, and locally publicized it. After a successful first year in 2015, the market will open this month for a second year.

SouthEast Quadrant Community Champion

Aaron and Kelly Metras, winners of the Rochester Neighbors Community Champion Award for the Southeast Quadrant, are parents, entrepreneurs and community advocates. Their restaurants, Selena’s Mexican Restaurant and Nox Cocktail Lounge, are located in Village Gate Square. Aaron has served as the president of the Neighborhood of the Arts Business Association (NOTABA) for the past five years. According to the Southeast Quadrant Team, who nominated the couple for this award, they have volunteered much time and energy into building NOTABA into “one of the most successful and influential business associations in the City of Rochester.” Their popular Mexican restaurant, Selena’s, reaches out to causes beyond the southeast and sponsors the Monarch Butterfly Display at the Seneca Park Zoo, an important program to the growth and migration of monarch butterflies. Selena’s also sends a team to the annual Polar Bear Plunge which benefits the Special Olympics of Western New York. Last year the team raised $8,000. The latest project for the Metras is the Rochester Youth Culinary Experience, or RYCE. They are endeavoring to start a third restaurant, this one built around an immersion experience for youth interested in the restaurant business. Students will participate in all aspects of creating and operating a working restaurant with guidance from a management team. Their vision is to assist youth in acquiring skills and experience that will assist them in gaining employment or continuing their culinary education. The Southeast Quadrant Team notes that the couple is always “thinking outside of the box” for ways to move the neighborhood forward.

 

Community Leader Award

Ericka Jones, a Systems Advocate at the Center for Disability Rights, has been selected to receive the Community Leader Award for her work in improving accessibility. Ms. Jones has been instrumental in two city issues that have been vital to people with disabilities. As the leader of the Center’s Transportation Action Group (TAG,) she organized and empowered group members to contest the closing of several inner-city bus stops used by people with disabilities. She coordinated the campaign and utilized the media to voice concerns. The group’s efforts resulted in many of the stops remaining on the routes. Ms. Jones also worked on another issue important to all city dwellers: the amendment of a City of Rochester ordinance to keep the sidewalks clear during the winter. She attended neighborhood association meetings and organized a group of people with disabilities to make their voices heard at City Council meetings. The new ordinance passed, and city sidewalks will be more accessible for all residents during the winter from now on. She is an advocate in other areas, also, as a member of the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley and participant in the Rochester-Monroe County Anti-Poverty Initiative.  A group of 15 people with disabilities that she gathered participated in Rochester’s Clean Sweep program. Stephanie Woodward, Director of Advocacy at CDR, nominated Ms. Jones for this award, saying she has “inspired others to get involved,” that she sets an “incredible xample” for people with disabilities, and has motivated more people with disabilities “to become active and involved in our city.”

Grant from JP Morgan Chase & Co. to Support Financial Fitness

NeighborWorks® Rochester is pleased to announce that they are the recipient of a $60,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase to support enhancement of technological systems for its Financial Fitness Program. The grant will allow NeighborWorks® Rochester to build capacity and efficiency through technology and will have a tremendous impact on the financial health of its customers. Individual successes through the NeighborWorks® Rochester Financial Fitness Program will increase with the organization’s ability to more effectively track, monitor and manage their progress. The JP Morgan Chase Foundation’s partnership in this initiative is instrumental to its success.

Maureen Murphy, Executive Director of NeighborWorks® Rochester stated, “Assisting those who strive to improve their lives by increasing their financial skills and providing education for successful homeownership is the core of the NeighborWorks® Rochester mission. We’re extremely pleased to partner with JPMorgan Chase with an innovative approach to provide those in need with tools and resources to make a better path for themselves. In turn, this will also help to build strong neighborhoods in the Rochester community by providing educated, financially-stable, long-term homeowners.”

The support of community partners like JPMorgan Chase allows NeighborWorks® Rochester to continue to provide these services and more. The community-based organization builds strong neighborhoods by educating and counseling new homeowners, providing resources to individuals who may be turned away by traditional lenders, energy-savings programs and targeted neighborhood revitalization through the Healthy Blocks Neighborhood Initiative.

Partner of the Year, 1st Niagara Bank

Congratulations to our Award Recipients!

Partner of the Year, 1st Niagara Bank
1st Niagara Bank representatives, Phil Swetz, Karla Gadley, Bridget Campbell and Laura Smith accept the Partner of the Year Award from Luis Burgos.
Luis Burgos and Kim Mitchell.
Luis Burgos and Kim Mitchell.
Luis Burgos and Greg Stefl.
Luis Burgos and Greg Stefl.

NeighborWorks® Rochester recently held its 2015 Annual Meeting at the agency’s newly renovated facilities. More than 150 people attended the event, which was a celebration of a record-setting year of services provided to new and current homeowners in the Rochester area, as well as an opportunity for us to recognize individuals and organizations that were significant supporters.

First Niagara Bank was honored as the Partner of The Year in recognition of their collaboration, commitment and leadership. Luis Burgos, Executive Director of NeighborWorks® Rochester, stated, “Our relationship with First Niagara has been a solid one from the beginning, when we first connected with them for our First Home Club. They are a great resource for potential home buyers and for NeighborWorks® Rochester, as well.” We are so pleased to partner with them in making Rochester a great place to live!

The Edline Chun Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Kim Mitchell, of Rochester, who serves on our Marketing and Development Committee and donates her considerable decorative talents and materials to all agency events. As a homeowner who has received NeighborWorks® Rochester services, Kim actively promotes the programs and acts as an ambassador for the organization, whenever requested. “This award is given to honor the legacy of Edline Chun, an extraordinary volunteer who gave of herself selflessly to achieve our mission of strengthening neighborhoods. Kim embodies many of the same characteristics that made Edline special,” Burgos said.

Also recognized at the event as Employee of the Year was Operations Manager Greg Stefl, of Rochester. As the point person for the recent facility renovation and technology upgrade, Stefl’s “exacting standards have improved many aspects of our organization and his passion for our mission has made a difference for the communities which we serve“ said Burgos.

We are so grateful for the support of our partners, friends, volunteers and staff. They allow us to provide great customer service to our community and to help make Rochester a great place to live!

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