Group Mission Trips volunteers donate to Bread Basket

While in town for NeighborWorks Week, Group Mission Trips volunteers have a longstanding tradition of collecting food and money for Bread Basket of Northeastern Pennsylvania. This year, volunteers collected more than 2,825 items were collected as well as $100 in cash. We thank all involved for the double dose of generosity!

NeighborWorks Week(end) 2017 a spirited success!

July 21-24, 2017, was an experimental weekend for NeighborWorks NEPA as, for the first time in its long-term partnership with Group Mission Trips, we tried a NeighborWorks Week(end) as opposed to NeighborWorks Week.

The results are back, and all signs point to success.

Rather than cutting back on the number of projects we could perform in just a weekend, we actually increased our impact, given the increased number of volunteers who came to Scranton for the protracted but successful days of home-repair service. 

From Friday through Monday, we welcomed 320 volunteers from eight states to Scranton, and we served 42 homes – 2/3 of them in West Scranton – helping a total of 97 residents, all of whom could not have been more grateful for the service.

Dorothy Kolosinsky of South Main Avenue in Scranton showed that gratitude by serving her crew of youths homemade lasagna for lunch, which met with rave reviews. 

“My house looks better now than it did when I moved in. I told them that,” she told a reporter from WNEP. “They did beautiful work. They were so prestige about how they made it. It’s really nice.”

We’re similarly grateful to Group Mission Trips, a national organization that signs up youth volunteers from across the country to work alongside adult supervisors improving properties for those in need, for the continued partnership and friendship.

We also thank the University of Scranton for graciously hosting and housing the hundreds of youths and adults on its campus.

For news coverage of NeighborWorks Week(end) 2017, click below:

http://wnep.com/2017/07/24/neighborworks-improving-neighborhoods-in-lackawanna-county/

http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/neighborworks-volunteers-lend-a-helping-hand-with-home-repair-1.2222055

For more information about Group Mission Trips, click here :http://groupcares.org/domestic-missions/

 

A four-point strategy to revive homeownership

It’s not looking good for homeownership these days. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 63.7 percent of households owned their homes at the end of 2016, down from a peak of 69.2 percent in 2004. While there have been small increases in recent quarters, homeownership rates since the financial crisis continue to trend downward. We need to reverse this pattern, and these four strategies will help.

First, we have to demystify the process. More than two-thirds of adults in an October 2016 national household opinion survey from NeighborWorks America described the home-buying process as complicated. Our network’s counselors report that a common refrain from customers they help to achieve homeownership is, “I never thought I could do this.” Because the purchase process is so complex, many potential homeowners don’t even try, essentially self-selecting out of their piece of the “American Dream.”

Increasing the homeownership rate in Northeastern Pennsylvania will energize the local economy and create jobs from construction to retail.

Second, we have to return to rational credit standards. We don’t wish to return to the loose underwriting of the early 2000s. However, right now, credit standards are too tight and thus reduce the prospects for homeownership for many. A recent article by the Urban Institute noted that innovations in credit-scoring practices could help up to 3 million first-time homebuyers across the country. Some of them certainly live here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The lending industry must seriously pursue such modifications.

Third, we need to do a better job in reaching out to low- and moderate-income consumers. These are the first-time buyers of the future, and they are unsure about the path to homeownership. Nonprofit housing organizations have had a “field of dreams” mindset: if we’re here, homebuyers will find us. That’s not working. The NeighborWorks survey mentioned above also found that fewer than 10 percent of consumers think of nonprofits such as NeighborWorks Northeastern Pennsylvania first when considering how to achieve homeownership. Our organization and others working to increase homeownership, especially among first-time buyers, need to behave more like businesses and seek out these types of customers. Word of mouth isn’t enough.

Fourth, we must overcome financial obstacles. Home prices are increasing in nearly all markets. In Lackawanna County, according to Trulia, the most recent median home sales prices ranged from $60,520 to $197,500. The stereotypical 20 percent down payment remains out of reach for most first-time buyers. However, the truth is, consumers don’t need a 20 percent down payment to purchase a home these days. In some cases, just a 3 percent down payment is required. However, not every lender offers flexible mortgages.

By working with NeighborWorks Northeastern Pennsylvania and other housing nonprofits, consumers will learn about the lenders who offer 3 percent down-payment mortgages. In addition, they also will be made aware of the potentially millions of dollars in down-payment assistance funds available in this community and others. The NeighborWorks survey showed that only one-third of consumers are aware of down-payment programs for middle-income buyers.

While there isn’t an unlimited supply of down-payment assistance, if more consumers knew to seek it and sought information from nonprofit organizations, the homeownership rate would increase. That’s good for individuals, families and Northeastern Pennsylvania.

 

Need a summer job? NWNEPA needs a VISTA

NeighborWorks Northeastern Pennsylvania is looking for a full-time temporary staffer (eight weeks) to play a key role in our Home Matters Repair Initiative and Community Impact Survey. Click the link below for full details on a rewarding service-oriented summer experience:

I’m interested in becoming a VISTA for NWNEPA

Apply now for NeighborWorks Week 2017 help

 

We’re gearing up for NeighborWorks Week 2017!

In 2010, NWNEPA established a weeklong event through a partnership with Group Cares Inc. to help bring free volunteer repair services to homeowners in underserved communities throughout Lackawanna County.

This year, NWNEPA will be serving the East Scranton, Jermyn and Mayfield communities through this special, volunteer-driven event, which will take place the weekend of July 21-24, 2017.

If you or someone you know in these communities are in need of home repair and improvements, please review the Homeowner Qualifications and complete a Home Matters ™ Repair Application.  For more information or questions about this event and our application process, please contact Ellen Holden, Volunteer and Office Coordinator, at 570-558-2490.

 

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Over The Edge 2017 a smashing success on June 2-3!

Cheryl Connolly of 2017 ropes sponsor Geisinger shows us how rappelling for a cause is done — with a huge smile on your face!

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES AT THE BEST ROOFTOP PARTY IN NEPA!

Click here for our Over The Edge 2017 Video Slideshow!

Sky-high excitement returned to The Electric City on June 2 and 3 as NWNEPA brought the second annual Over The Edge Scranton: A Rappelling Adventure event back to Bank Towers in downtown Scranton.

Katie Berlin of Fox 56 went Over The Edge with us this year.

We once again sent almost 50 rappellers off the roof of the tallest building in the city as we celebrated their charitable accomplishment of raising at least $1000 apiece to help their neighbors in need, specifically those trying to age in place.

Thanks to the success of the event, 50 homeowners in need will receive help with home modifications or repairs this summer. The event itself raised more than $58,000, with individuals, teams, sponsors and donors all contributing to the months-long effort. For final results, visit www.crowdrise.com/neighborworksnepa.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our two-time presenting sponsor, Gibbons Ford, which sent company representatives to speak at and attend the event as well as a team of rappellers Over The Edge, and to returning sponsor, Geisinger, which this year became a ropes sponsor with The Geisinger Health Plan and sent a team of six Over The Edge.

The event also was supported by several other generous sponsors, including Gertrude Hawk Chocolates, The Perry Law Firm, Charles W. Grimm Construction Inc., Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Citizens Savings Bank, NeighborWorks America, The Hilton Scranton and The Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

This year’s expanded streetfest also was especially memorable, and we are most grateful to the local businesses that took part in turning the 300 block of Spruce Street into an adventure zone on a beautiful pre-summer day: NEPA Cornhole/TJ Griffith and Backyard Ale House/Patrick Nasser; American Grill in Exeter and owners Shaun and Trista Cruz; Jeff Swire and The Can Cuddler; Captain Don’s Chilly Willy, LuLaRoe Katie Lane; and Holy Cross High School in Dunmore, which sent a team of cheerleaders and coaches to add excitement to the event.

Special thanks also go out to:

  • Voyager Video and Lindsay Barrasse and David Corigliano, who filmed the event over three days and provided excellent promotional footage.
  • Access Aerial and Lee DeAngelis and John Culkin, who provided incomparable aerial photography.
  • Mike Walton Productions/Pulsations DJs
  • The Scranton Police Department and Scranton Fire Department, which provided plenty of logistics help as well as human capital in the form of ropes volunteers.
  • Coca-Cola and Melissa Getz, who arranged for the donation of water and soft drinks as well as giveaways and raffle prizes.
  • Susquehanna Brewing Company, which donated raffle prizes, along with Lorraine Perry, Jeff Swire, Lisa Rosser, Elizabeth Rosser, The Hilton Scranton, Michele Bannon and Randy Williams, who also made prize donations.
  • Ryan and Amy Hnat of Electric City Escape, who served as ropes volunteers and provided valuable recruitment-party space in the event’s lead-up days as well as sponsored a cornhole court.
  • Our other cornhole court sponsors: Classic Properties/Sara Levy, Joyce Jackman & Bell Insurors and Gregg Betti’s Landscaping. 

    Look up! It’s a lesson for us all.

We also are immensely appreciative of our volunteers and ropes volunteers, who pitched in their time and special expertise to help us pull an event of this magnitude off.

Our ropes volunteers included:

  • Christopher Mackie

    We thank the Holy Cross High School cheerleaders for once again adding extra spirit to our streetfest as they cheered on their principal, Ben Tolerico, and all 2017 rappellers.

  • Ryan and Amy Hnat
  • Stephen Sunday
  • Salma Ahmed
  • Erik Goetsch
  • Linda Walsh
  • Peter Sakowski
  • Daniel Frantz
  • Matthew McDonald
  • Andy Polansky
  • Caroline Moskwa
  • Eric Youshock

And we salute our general event volunteers, who included:

  • Frani, Mariah and Julia Mancuso
  • Ann Marie Herne, Amanda Herne and Emma Kaub
  • NWNEPA board members Michele and Rita Bannon, Kurt Bauman (and Keira), John Cosgrove, Jon Konzelman, Katie Leonard, Cindy Yevich and Randy Williams
  • Chris Helmers, NeighborWorks America
  • Matthew Bryant
  • Donna Zilla
  • Meghan Loftus

Finally, we, of course, could not have pulled this off without the commitment and hard work of our rappellers themselves. This year’s 2017 team of fundraising rappellers included:

  • Mark and Kyle Perry of The Perry Law Firm
  • Todd Pousley of Marywood University
  • Brian Ebersole of The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education
  • Mary and Michael Hales Jr.
  • Joseph Kreis of MJ Cordaro Electric
  • Lauren Loftus and Marjorie Solsman
  • Ryan Wilson of Janney Montgomery Scott
  • Sandra Snyder of NeighborWorks Northeastern Pennsylvania
  • Benjamin Tolerico, principal of Holy Cross High School
  • Christopher Szewczyk of Mazzoni, Karam, Petorak and Valvano
  • Kathleen Riley
  • Father Jeff Walsh of the Diocese of Scranton
  • Sara Ergott, Paola Montross, Maria Sherwood and Dana Crowley
  • Mike McGinley of Pepperjam
  • Sierra Titus
  • Teddy Michel of Ignatian Volunteer Corps.
  • Theresa Curto of Community Bank, N.A.
  • Dianna Jagodzinski
  • Chris Howe and Maggie Lipperini of Regional Hospital of Scranton
  • Amy Killeen
  • Dawn Hansen
  • Rebecca Park

Thank you also to all who made donations to the above rappellers – your names are on our CrowdRise site (www.crowdrise.com/neighborworksnepa) – as well as those who came out to our event and brought friends and family with them.

We were thrilled to see you all there and could not have done this without any of you!

Stay tuned for 2018 event information, and thank you again for taking your neighbors to new heights!

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A lady in waiting in Jermyn, Pa.

img_0237What happens when the three most important words in real estate – location, location, location! – happily collide with three equally great housing words, those being, potential, potential, potential?

Magic, we say!

NeighborWorks NEPA is thrilled to announce the latest house it has acquired through Project PAR, or our Property Acquisition & Redevelopment Initiative.

Allow us to introduce you to a grand lady in waiting.

Here are the bullet points:

  • She’s situated on a large, level lot on peaceful Cemetery Street in Jermyn, where the speed limit is a mere 15 miles per hour.
  • She’s got great bones, as it’s also said in the real-estate world. That’s probably because she’s one of the last remaining DuPont company houses in the area, which means she has Sears Craftsman lineage.
  • She’s surrounded by fantastic neighbors invested in their community whose pride is abundantly evident in the way they maintain their properties.
  • Her outside is in almost-pristine shape and just needs a little cosmetic attention, mostly in the form of landscaping. It’s her inside that needs a lot of love.

Fortunately, we here at NeighborWorks NEPA, together with our faithful volunteers and professional teams, have tons of love to give, and we cannot wait to pour it all out on this lovely white house with almost gingerbread qualities and a storied history.

In case you were not aware, in the 1850s, during the unfolding Industrial Revolution, coal mining was king, and coal mining consumed incredible amounts of explosives, meaning explosives mills were hardly eyebrow-raising sights. In fact, E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company, commonly known as DuPont, bought such a mill on Wapwallopen Creek after an explosion and flood bankrupted its previous owner in 1859. DuPont successfully operated this mill as coal production doubled in the 1860s and demand for military and blasting powder increased with the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1911, two explosions, however, hit the DuPont plant. Instead of rebuilding, DuPont moved its operations to Moosic, Pa., and operated plants in Towanda and Jermyn as well.

Workers in Jermyn would have been members of the United Powder and High Explosives Workers of America Union, Local 107, and several of them resided in houses built by the parent company. Through the 1920s, you see, it was widely believed that providing housing for employees created a more stable work force. Near as we can tell, DuPont had at least 12 designs of houses built for its workers in factory towns across the country.

Most of these houses exist now only as part of historical archives, such as at the Hagley Museum near company headquarters in Wilmington, Del. (where you can view an extensive photographic collection), but, here and there, a few continue to stand the test of time in former factory towns where remnants of a humming, village-like past still whisper on the wind.

We invite you, then, to come with us on a grand journey into the past as well as the future as we not only return this Jermyn beauty to her former glory but resurrect her to something even bigger and better.

We’ll be working with a team of skilled contractors and volunteers to make the magic happen here, and we welcome inquiries if you’d like to be part of this very special project. When all is said and done, we hope, we’ll have accomplished all that we set out to do when Project PAR began.

Namely, we’ll have prevented deterioration of a worthy home and, in turn, a great surrounding neighborhood, we’ll have increased surrounding property values and stabilized a neighborhood threatened by an abandoned property, we’ll have created a new homeowner not burdened by out-of-reach renovations who will, in turn, begin paying local property taxes and, perhaps most important, we’ll have saved and raised enough funding to do it all over again in another neighborhood with a need.

Have a look! Click here: http://www.smilebox.com/playBlog/4e4451324d544d314e54633d0d0a&blogview=true

 

 

 

 

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10th annual Casey event a smashing success!

The 10th annual Gov. Robert P. Casey Medal for a Lifetime of Service event was a complete success!

During this special anniversary event, which took place Oct. 13 at the Hilton Scranton &  Conference Center, NeighborWorks Northeastern Pennsylvania honored four community leaders, one posthumously, with the prestigious medals.

We were thrilled to welcome more than 400 guests to this beloved affair, including former Pennsylvania first lady Ellen Casey, Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. and a large contingent from Washington, D.C.

A bit about this year’s honorees:

  • A posthumous medal for lifetime achievement was awarded to the late Meg Cullen-Brown, who died unexpectedly in May. She had dedicated her professional life to service to her community, parish and higher education and was most recently director of the University of Scranton’s office of the registrar and academic services.
  • Don and Cathy Rhoten were the driving forces behind the new Scranton School for Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing Children. They saved a state school threatened by a funding cut-off and turned it into a thriving private institution that still serves the people of greater Scranton.
  • James W. Brown was U.S. Sen. Robert Casey’s former chief of staff and is best known for the key role he played in two of Gov. Casey’s major accomplishments: the Steamtown Mall project and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which later became a model for the nation.

This year, we send out special thanks to our 75 sponsors and contributors, without whom we could not have pulled off this gala affair. To view those sponsors and supporters and the congratulatory ads or greetings they placed in our Tribute Book, click here: http://www.nwnepa.org/robert-p-casey-medal-for-a-lifetime-of-service/2016-gov-casey-medal-tribute-book/

The Casey medals, named in honor of the late governor, are presented annually by NWNEPA, which has worked with community partners to strengthen local neighborhoods through homeownership and home-preservation services for 35 years. NWNEPA is a chartered member of the NeighborWorks America network.

Paint The Town 2016 a neighborly community success

2016 PTT Collage (2)Another PAINT THE TOWN week is in the books, and what a week it was! Mother Nature could not have been kinder to the scores – 125 in total! — of volunteers from community businesses and organizations who joined NeighborWorks NEPA this week to provide face-lifts to five houses and begin the arduous process of cleaning up a vacant community lot to make way for a possible new Chutes and Ladders themed park.

From Aug. 28 through Sept. 2, our team members spread out across the city with paintbrushes, rollers and tons of yard tools in hand, all in an effort to beautify and preserve our neighborhoods one house at a time.

Paint The Town, a community-wide service NWNEPA offers as part of its Home Matters Repair Initiative, which primarily serves low-income, elderly and/or disabled homeowners, this year took NWNEPA staff and volunteers to:

  • 211 Van Buren Ave
  • 1134 Farr St.
  • 1325 Blucher Ave.
  • 3321 Pittston Ave.
  • 512 N. Sumner Ave
  • and Clay Avenue and Poplar Street in the Hill Section, for a project involving what’s hoped to become community space.

We cannot thank our volunteers enough; they are our without-which-nothings for these types of labor-intensive projects. This year, several excellent corporate citizens sent teams, including The Commonwealth Medical College, the Hill Neighborhood Association, Entercom Communications, Fidelity Bank, Citizens Savings Bank, Community Bank, N.A. and Erie Materials.

Volunteers enjoyed not only a day of camaraderie outside the office, with relatively low humidity and just enough sunshine but the satisfaction of knowing the big difference they were making in local lives.

Said one homeowner, Fred Battaglia of Farr Street, “The only thing I can do anymore is change that clock.”

While his hands may fail him as he ages, his heart does not. Fred not only tried to offer the volunteers lemon ice pops from his freezer but made sure they enjoyed their pizza lunch around his welcoming kitchen island.

It was the least he could do in return for receiving so much more than he expected, he said. Thanks to the meticulous efforts of a crew from Entercom Communications as well as a professional contractor, Fred got two deteriorating front pillars replaced and painted. Then the volunteers painted his deck and railings as well as his foundation.

Everything looked so beautiful, Fred said, that he feared only his girlfriend’s reaction. He worried she’d visit and say, “I want it this way all the time!”

“NeighborWorks Northeastern Pennsylvania is extremely grateful to the volunteers who once again helped us pull off one of our signature service projects,” said Jesse Ergott, NWNEPA president & CEO. “They made such a visible difference in our city. We also thank the businesses who graciously provided their employees this time to work alongside us.”

For more information, about the project or NWNEPA, call 570-558-2490 or visit www.nwnepa.org

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NWNEPA grateful to several summer funders

Willary Grant Photo

A $10,000 grant from The Willary Foundation helped NeighborWorks NEPA launch Light The Town this year as an add-on component to Paint The Town. Johnna and Michael Davis of Rundle Street in Scranton were among the grateful recipients of new solar security lights. The Davis family also received a complete exterior paint job. Shown are: NeighborWorks NEPA President & CEO Jesse Ergott; Johnna Davis and daughter; Bill Scranton of The Willary Foundation; Jennifer Spitler, NWNEPA Director of Neighborhood Redevelopment; and Sandra Snyder, NWNEPA development and events coordinator.

NWNEPA is especially grateful to four new summer 2016 funders, all of whom made our ongoing service projects possible or helped us launch our newest initiatives:

  • The Margaret Briggs Foundation awarded a $35,000 grant to Project PAR, or Property Acquisition & Redevelopment, a grant that helped us purchase our two latest rehab properties, which we plan to renovate and resell at an affordable price. We will reinvest the revenue the sale generates directly back into service projects in struggling areas of Scranton.
  • The ESSA Foundation awarded a $7500 grant to assist us with the extensive renovations needed within our PAR properties. Those renovations will be made by a team of volunteers as well as professional contractors. Our key partner on this project is Johnson College.
  • The Willary Foundation awarded a $10,000 grant to help us launch Light The Town, an add-on component to our signature service project, Paint The Town. This year, several Paint The Town clients as well as several new clients received brand-new, installed solar security lights on their properties thanks to the kindness of the Willary Foundation.
  • Finally, The Home Depot Foundation awarded a $3,000 Community Impact Grant to help us arrange a bathroom modification for World War II veteran Gene Passarella, a.k.a. Gene Dempsey of The Gene Dempsey Orchestra, and his beloved wife, Louise. During the war, Gene suffered a debilitating knee injury that affects his leg to this day, and getting in and out of his high-walled bathtub was becoming more and more difficult.

We can’t do what we do without the support of these funders, and we join our most grateful clients in thanking them for their confidence and support!