Blog NKCDC How NeighborWorks impacts the Philadelphia community 

NeighborWorks is a national network funded by Congress for more than 245 nonprofits, across every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.  

Chartered by Congress, with Pennsylvania roots

In 1968, Pittsburgh resident Dorothy Richardson led her neighbors in the North Side neighborhood to fight back against community decay. “The solution was not to tear down the whole neighborhood, but to fix the houses,” she said. The first NeighborWorks organization was born.  

More than half a century later, NeighborWorks is a national network funded by Congress for more than 245 nonprofits, across every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.  

NKCDC became a member of NeighborWorks in 2001, and our Kensington neighbor and partner, HACE CDC became a member last year. In 2018, Kensington resident Gloria Cartagena won NeighborWorks’ Dorothy Richardson Award, honoring exemplary resident leaders across the country. Gloria is now one of NKCDC’s commercial corridor managers.  

NeighborWorks supports NKCDC with a wide range of educational, technical and financial assistance. It builds the skills, supplements the funding and amplifies the reach of organizations like HACE and NKCDC so we can do more together. 

This week NKCDC looks back on some of the things we accomplished over the past year thanks to support from NeighborWorks America, our national partner. 

Gloria Cartagena
Dorothy Richardson improved North Side community in Pittsburgh
Dorothy Richardson

Housing dollars bring relief to Philly community

The Covid pandemic continues to increase inequality across the United States. Unfortunately, many families and individuals across the U.S. continue to face job loss, financial instability and the threat of homelessness. A report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shows that Black and Hispanic mortgage borrowers are more likely to be delinquent or in a forbearance program compared to white borrowers.  

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 charges NeighborWorks America with designing and administering a national, $100 million program to provide grants to support housing counseling for eviction, default, foreclosure, loss of income, homelessness and other housing challenges. NKCDC’s housing counseling program, active since 1985, is grateful to receive a portion of these funds which will help us hire counselors, improve our intake process, and provide free assistance to more Philadelphia households facing housing instability.

NeighborhoodLIFT expands homeownership

Wells Fargo Foundation and NeighborWorks America teamed up for a homebuyer assistance program called NeighborhoodLIFT. It provided a $15,000 grant towards down payment and closing costs for people purchasing a home within Philadelphia city limits. 

One recipient was NKCDC’s Nourish program manager, Jackie Saez. “It was a lottery,” she said. “You get the counseling, you submit all your information, and then you hope to get chosen. I was lucky—I got it on the first round. Then when you get the money you have 90 days to get under contract with a house.”

Saez was able to find a home in her price range near Berks Street. She said there weren’t too many administrative hoops to jump through—just a lot of deadlines and keeping people updated when things change. “Basically you’re dealing with two lenders,” she said.

“If I didn’t have the grant it would have been very difficult for me to find a home,” Saez said.

In total, NKCDC housing advisors provided pre-purchase counseling to 205 clients to qualify them for the program. For more homebuyer help, contact NKCDC at 215-427-0350, or

Jackie Saez

Outdoor ads prevent home scams

Last year NeighborWorks introduced its Stop Home Scams campaign to fight mortgage fraud, property tax fraud, deed theft, utility scams, phony rental agreements, and other attempts to cheat renters and homeowners out of their most important asset: their home. 

As part of the campaign, NKCDC received funding to do its first major advertising in El trains and stations. Working with Intersection, the advertising agency serving SEPTA, NKCDC was able to purchase a “saturation” of all the “two-sheet” billboards in Somerset Station, and with some “remnant creative” (they meant 10 leftover posters), we got ads in stations as far away as Center City and West Philly.

In addition, we were able to place 60 smaller ads on the El trains themselves. Intersection estimated that over four weeks the ads received over 1.3 million views. We know the ads worked for at least one person: when Darnell Morris, NKCDC’s new NAC Program Coordinator, came in for an interview, he said he had no trouble finding the right El stop! 

Darnell Morris
Stop Home Scams community campaign
NKCDC placed Stop Home Scams ads on El trains and stations in 2021.

Peer community supports fundraising

In addition to supplementing NKCDC financially through appropriations of Congress, NeighborWorks provides a network of peer organizations and nonprofit resources that help NKCDC in its fundraising.  

Bea Rider, NKCDC’s Director of Resource Development and Communications, sat on the planning committee for NeighborWorks’ most recent gathering of development and communications professionals, held virtually in September 2021. Among the highlights was keynote speaker Jan Masaoka, CEO of the California Association of Nonprofits. Jan delivered clear and timely insight into fundraising strategy, board development, and the American Rescue Plan Act. That session is not available online, but a taste of her thoughtful, candid style can be found here

Jan Masaoka

Tableau Fellowship helps NKCDC learn from data

NeighborWorks partners with the Tableau Foundation on an annual fellowship that challenges community development professionals to incorporate analytics and evidence-based decision making into the day to day culture of their organizations. Tableau is a leading brand of data visualization software focused on business intelligence. Using Tableau, organizations like NKCDC can convert spreadsheets into interactive dashboards for analysis, reporting and promotion. 

NKCDC Communications Manager Lowell Brown was awarded a spot in the first NeighborWorks Tableau Fellowship, which completed its training last year. His work included an online presentation of NKCDC’s community survey, an analysis of Facebook posts that helped NKCDC streamline its social media presence, and a dashboard that explores the relationships between race/ethnicity, gender, family status and income among NKCDC’s housing clients.  


Lowell Brown
NKCDC community dashboard
An interactive Tableau dashboard helps NKCDC understand who is using our housing services.

Learning Lab promotes Community Health Work

Over the past three years, with funding from Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, NKCDC has trained and employed dozens of Community Health Workers to act as a bridge between health care providers and patients, advocating for patients and connecting Kensington residents to social support services available in their community.  

This year, CHW Program Manager Lizette Lewis and Executive Director Dr. Bill McKinney joined a Learning Lab with other NeighborWorks organizations who are interested in starting or expanding their own Community Health Worker programs. 

“NeighborWorks recognized there was a program that was greatly needed in our communities but not getting the recognition it deserves,” Lewis said. The Lab was a one-year process starting with researching CHW programs, ending with a toolkit that will give almost any organization ideas to improve their program, from implementation to sustainability.

“It was a pleasure observing and learning what other agencies across the nation are doing to help their communities,” Lewis said. “The Learning Lab gave space for organizations to openly discuss their accomplishments, frustrations, mistakes, and future desires for their current and potential CHW program. I am excited to see that NKCDC’s CHW program will be a part of the NeighborWorks Learning Lab toolkit.”

Lizette Lewis
Community Health Worker graduation
Community health workers graduate in 2021.

NeighborWorks partners are stronger together

HACE CDC and NKCDC are the only two NeighborWorks organizations in Philadelphia. We have complementary strengths that serve overlapping neighborhoods facing similar challenges. HACE is an expert in building affordable housing, both multifamily apartment buildings and single family homes; NKCDC has decades of experience in economic development, with a growing emphasis on health and wellness. We are both certified housing counseling agencies, building the wealth of our communities through homeownership.  

HACE and NKCDC have partnered together on community-based crime reduction initiatives over the last three years, and have worked together on joint fundraising proposals for homeownership opportunities to serve our communities. With the continued support of NeighborWorks, we hope to be able to train more HUD-certified housing counselors and advance policy initiatives that matter to Kensington and Fairhill. And, we hope to drive a community-centered master planning process that can be sustained by Kensington and Fairhill residents through changes in city and state government.

NeighborWorks builds the skills, supplements the funding and amplifies the reach of organizations like NKCDC so we can do more together. 

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