NeighborWorks America trains top community leaders and recognizes local heroes with award

Oct 18, 2013, 12:51 ET from NeighborWorks America

Awardees include leader with disability who guides others to overcome disabilities

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Oct. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- This week community leaders from around the country are being acknowledged at the annual Community Leadership Institute. NeighborWorks America's Community Leadership Institute strengthens the skills of community leaders and provides grants for these attendees to return home and improve their communities with the knowledge they gained.

NeighborWorks America, which creates opportunities for people to live in affordable homes, improve their lives and strengthen their communities, supports a network of more than 240 nonprofits, located in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Participants from around the country attend the Community Leadership Institute as part of teams of up to eight people from areas served by NeighborWorks organizations.

At the Community Leadership Institute, NeighborWorks America will recognize this year's Dorothy Richardson Resident Leadership Award honorees. This year's awards honor six leaders from each of the organization's operating districts for their outstanding contributions to their communities. The recognition was named for a Pittsburgh-based pioneer in the community-development movement who was the leading force behind the creation of the agency that eventually became NeighborWorks America.

"This year's honorees are all agents of positive change in their communities," said Eileen M. Fitzgerald, chief executive officer of NeighborWorks America. "They represent a diverse spectrum of service – including education, environmental justice and assistance for persons with disabilities – but all share the qualities of perseverance and commitment to transforming the lives of others."

The six honorees represent all regions of the country. Among their stories:

  • Edith DesMarais from Wolfeboro, NH, showed the power of individual entrepreneurship as an engine of both community support and recovery for the ailing American economy. In 1973, after a local survey showed a pressing need for quality, affordable day care, she and several collaborators founded a nonprofit children's center. Today, it is the area's largest employer, providing 32 full-time jobs and 13 part-time paying positions. Wolfeboro Area Children's Center has cared for more than 7,000 children from 5,000 families since opening in 1973.
  • Jenifer Scherer from Minneapolis recognized that living with multiple sclerosis was not a disability, but an opportunity for her to help others. An absence of adequate services for people with disabilities inspired her to take the lead in securing funding for and implementing a free, handicap-accessible bus service that makes sure residents can get to and from essential community programs. Today, Scherer is a city-wide "go-to" expert on ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) rules and continues to create opportunities for people with disabilities to live their lives to the fullest.
  • Nancy Grayson from Waco, TX, founded a K-12 school that achieved a track record of 100 percent graduation and college enrollment for its 500-plus students, in large part due to its required partnership with parents. Today, she has extended that success beyond the classroom to the city's declining downtown, where she has opened the "Lula Jones" bakery.

More information about the Dorothy Richardson Award honorees can be found at

About NeighborWorks America

For 35 years, NeighborWorks America has created opportunities for people to improve their lives and strengthen their communities by providing access to homeownership and to safe and affordable rental housing. In the last five years, NeighborWorks organizations have generated more than $19.5 billion in reinvestment in these communities. NeighborWorks America is the nation's leading trainer of community development and affordable housing professionals.


SOURCE NeighborWorks America