Updated: Feb 16
2022 was a big year for us! We’ve been reflecting a good deal lately on so many aspects of our organization and I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you. We are rolling out our “Do Good Blog” —which will be a collection of homeownership journeys, financial education tips, small business and community spotlights, and a resource hub, and this is our first one. We’ll interject some humor, maybe poetry, interviews, a look behind the scenes, introductions to our Board members and staff, plus more. We’ll highlight our current work, look towards the future, and reflect on how the organization evolved through the years. So let’s take a look:
An inward look—an outward-facing brand.
Since NCALL’s services and programs had expanded throughout the years, the Board and leadership team decided it was time to engage the expertise of a local marketing firm to survey our partners, funders, and community to get a better understanding of the perception of the organization and the work we now do. Survey findings revealed that it was an opportune time to develop a name and brand that better reflected the organization’s mission and values as well as the various services that we provide. It felt right to acknowledge our strong partnerships and being a dedicated neighbor in the communities we serve. We are Good Neighbors and Good Partners.
Good Neighbors. Good Partners. NeighborGood Partners.
It’s been a few months since our new name, brand and website were launched at a public event in October 2022 with friends, partners, community members, and supporters, including our Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester in attendance. The feedback has been positive, our network is embracing our new name, and overall, the new brand has been well received.
Watch full coverage of launching event, here.
As a leader in affordable housing and community development, our consumer services programs meet clients where they are, to help them start a journey to strengthen their financial education and develop a road map to homeownership. During the COVID-19 pandemic, NeighborGood Partners became a Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) community navigator to help support clients submit hardship assistance applications that kept people in their homes; and A New Vision program was created to empower single mothers to gain financial freedom.
Recently, in partnership with DHSA and Self., the Rent Reporting Pilot program launched to help clients build credit by reporting their rent payments to the credit bureaus. This is an effort to increase tenants’ credit scores and empower movement up the housing continuum.
The Restoring Central Dover endeavor has continued to provide holistic community development to downtown Dover and expanded our reach outside of the Dover target area by partnering, for instance, with the Delaware Food Bank to deliver food drops and resource events to what would otherwise be a food desert and a struggling area. We added a Community Resource Hub, as part of the Project Safe Neighborhood initiative, located on Loockerman St., in Dover. In addition to being a part of and celebrating the success of the Delaware-wide Launcher program’s 603 graduates (entrepreneurs setting-up or expanding their business), it was a pleasure this year to work with young people eager to start their own businesses in a Youth Launcher pilot program!
Other highlights include four new houses under construction in Dover and the award of $6.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to purchase land for affordable housing and the development of work force housing. The provision of technical assistance to rural nonprofits continued for USDA’s Self-Help Housing program, where families build their own houses, and resulted in 61 houses being built or rehabbed this past year.
And we are also happy to report that the Loan Fund continued to support projects with lower interest rates and longer terms through the allocation of New Market Tax Credits and the establishment of a Good Trouble Fund in 2021 that assisted smaller projects—many of which have recently launched or are currently in the final stages of construction and development.
Wow, what a year!
"The future depends on what we do in the present." – Mahatma Gandhi
We have so much to be excited about as we look towards the future. As this “Do Good Blog” progresses, you will learn more about our future programs such as the construction of The Center which will house NeighborGood Partners’ Restoring Central Dover program and offer collaborative business space and a small business incubator operated by Delaware State University; The Scoop, a community youth employment incubator, teaching local students real-life business principles by operating an ice cream shop; a single fathers financial education cohort; as well as continue our advocacy work to remedy the nation’s current affordable housing crisis.
"The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future."
- Theodore Roosevelt
We have a rich history, and it dates back to the times during the Great Depression.
So, let me take you on a journey...
Elizabeth Herring and Clay Cochran were notable activists and together with national church organizations concerned with rural living and working conditions, they formed the National Council on Agricultural Life and Labor (NCALL) as a lobbying organization that could speak for rural people. In 1955, NCALL Research Fund was formed as a primary source of information about the conditions and concerns of rural Americans, contributing to Congressional hearings, studies, academic analyses, and investigations.
NCALL began its housing mission with a small but mighty team made up of Jeanine Kleimo as the first Executive Director, Joe Myer and later Karen Speakman, who were providing housing development services by holding workshops, conducting surveys, and organizing various housing corporations to address local housing needs.
In 1981, Joe Myer was appointed by the board as the new Executive Director. It was at this time that NCALL became a Self-Help Housing Technical and Management Assistance (T&MA) contractor for USDA Rural Development. Throughout the 1980’s NCALL deepened its multi-family housing development technical assistance with more rental communities being developed by local nonprofit housing organizations in southern Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
In addition, NCALL was pivotal in the establishment of the Delaware Housing Coalition and played a major role in the retooling of Delaware’s Housing Development Fund into a Housing Trust Fund model.
Through the Community Reinvestment Act, several large settlements with banks were reached to provide attractive mortgages to low-and moderate-income households in the late-1980s and NCALL was asked to begin providing Homeowner Education and Counseling services in central Delaware. The curriculum, customer satisfaction, and households served were so strong that demand grew and NCALL’s homeownership counseling services were soon offered state-wide.
The early 2000’s saw major strategic decisions for NCALL: this included joining NeighborWorks America as a chartered organization and then becoming designated by U. S. Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). The purpose of becoming a CDFI was to provide financing, capital, resources, and technical assistance for housing and community development projects throughout the Delmarva Peninsula. The real estate foreclosure crisis in 2007 caused NCALL’s Homeownership Counseling to expand and add a significant Foreclosure Prevention Counseling component. This was followed by becoming a partner in the Stand By Me Financial Coaching initiative, a partnership between the United Way of Delaware and Governor Jack Markell, to educate the community about sound financial principles and practices.
2014 saw NCALL becoming the lead agency for a major planning and community development effort to strengthen and improve Dover’s downtown residential and business sectors. A Steering Committee of 25 organizations and representatives was organized and NCALL received a Planning Grant and then two 5-year Implementation Grants from the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation, now the Regional Foundation. This effort and its many outcomes are breathing new life into Delaware’s State Capitol.
After 37 years of leading the organization, Joe Myer retired, and Karen Speakman was appointed as the new Executive Director. Her leadership has guided the organization through the Covid-19 pandemic with a commitment in diversity and inclusion, team spirit, a launch of a new name and brand, and preparing the organization for next century while building on the many services that NeighborGood Partners brings to our customers and communities.
That was a lot of history but as the organization evolves, we remain steadfast in our mission, which is weaved into the many partnerships and programs that we offer and continue to develop. Please walk with us as we aim to strengthen communities through affordable housing, lending, and financial education.
Together, we are good neighbors. Together, we are good partners.
And we do more good together.