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.”

 

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.”

NeighborWorks® Rochester and First Niagara Bank Celebrate Partnership during NeighborWorks® Week

Equity Builder Celebration
From Left: Migdalia Toro NeighborWorks® Rochester Homeownership Coordinator, Ted Colucci, NeighborWorks® Rochester Lending Program Manager, Maureen Murphy, NeighborWorks® Rochester Executive Director, homeowners Jaime Rivera and Danielle McDonald, Phil Swetz and Bridget Campbell, First Niagara Bank.

NeighborWorks® Rochester recently celebrated the success of its Equity Builder Loan program by recognizing the first recipient of the loan and our bank partner, First Niagara Bank. The loan helps new homeowners save money on their home by providing closing cost assistance, up to 105% Loan to Value of the home. Homeowners Jamie Rivera and Danielle McDonald, of Rochester, were on hand, along with Phil Swetz and Bridget Campbell of First Niagara to be part of the celebration.

The event was part of the local celebration of NeighborWorks® Week, a nationally-recognized celebration of neighborhood revitalization activities.

“First Niagara is a huge proponent of initiatives that increase self-sufficiency, stabilize housing and improve our neighborhoods,” said Phil Swetz, First Niagara Vice President of Mortgage Banking. “We’re proud to work with Neighborworks® to contribute to stronger, more diverse and thriving communities.”

The Equity Builder Loan helps future homeowners purchase a home with a down payment of more than 20%, avoiding a monthly Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) payment. Over the course of home ownership, this can result in substantial savings.

“We are so thrilled to be able to offer this loan product in conjunction with our bank partner,” said Maureen Murphy, Executive Director of NeighborWorks® Rochester. “It provides money for closing costs and long-term savings for the homeowner. And, as any homeowner can tell you, buying the home is just the beginning – you need to be able to maintain and sustain it throughout the years. We are pleased to be able to help those homeowners stay in it for the long run and make our community stronger as well.

During NeighborWorks® Week, NeighborWorks® Rochester and other NeighborWorks® organizations across the country will mobilize people for neighborhood change and awareness, rehab and repair homes, paint and landscape properties, conduct neighborhood tours, recognize successful partnerships and host a number of events that educate, train and inform.

NeighborWorks® Rochester is part of the national NeighborWorks® network, an affiliation of more than 245 nonprofit organizations located in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. In 2014, the NeighborWorks® network helped­ 300,000 individuals and families with affordable housing and counseling. The NeighborWorks network was founded and is supported by NeighborWorks America, which creates opportunities for people to live in affordable homes, improve their lives and strengthen their communities.

Want to learn more about the Equity Builder or NeighborWorks® Rochester loans? Give us a call at 325-4170.

Our Bags Roc to kick off NeighborWorks® Week

NeighborWorks® Rochester will be holding a tote-ally awesome fundraiser on Friday, June 5th called Our Bags Roc. The event will be held at the newly-renovated NeighborWorks® Rochester offices at 570 South Avenue in the South Wedge area of Rochester from 5:00 P.M. to 7:30 P.M. and will feature the live auction of “Bags of Swag” donated by local merchants, artisans, restaurants and more. The event will kick off the local celebration of NeighborWorks® Week – a week to recognize successful partnerships, neighborhood change and awareness – which begins June 6th.

OurBagsRoc_Logo cropped LoRezItems for auction include a custom-fitted suit from Vittorio Menswear, a tasting for 20 from Black Button Distillery, a Home Improvement Bag valued at $250, a personalized Memory Quilt and Cocktail Culture and much more. You can view all of our generously donated items and bid on them online: http://www.biddingowl.com/NWRochester

The event will also include delicious food, signature cocktails and beverages. Sponsors include SiteHub, Madison and Dunn, YELP! and Innovative Solutions. Todd Solomon will provide live musical entertainment.

Funds from Our Bags Roc will support the agency’s wide range of services supporting neighborhood stabilization through homeowner education, strategic lending and energy conservation.

Tickets are only $10.00 and are available at ABODE Rochester, 289 Gregory St., Rochester or at NeighborWorks® Rochester offices or online at https://ourbagsroc.eventbrite.com .

Call 585.325.4170 or visit www.NWRochester.org for more information.