Neighborhood Allies provides elements for healthy neighborhoods

ALLY OF THE YEAR—Receiving his award from Sallyann Kluz, director of the Office of Public Art and Neighborhood Allies board member, and Presley Gillespie, Neighborhood Allies president, City of Pittsburgh employee Henry Horn-Pyatt, center, is known for genuinely partnering and collaborating to assist Neighborhood Allies achieve their collective missions and create healthy neighborhoods. (Photos by Diane I. Daniels)

To Presley Gillespie, president of Neighborhood Allies, a healthy neighborhood is a place where it makes economic and emotional sense for people to invest their time, energy and resources where neighbors can manage day-to-day issues and where residents feel excited and confident about their future. Last month, more than 200 of Pittsburgh’s residents, representatives from community groups, resource partners and funders gathered in celebration of and to share examples of local work creating positive social impact in low-income communities.
“We are here celebrating the neighborhoods, the communities and the people who are making real and lasting change in our city and in their region,” said last year’s Ally of the Year recipient, Sallyann Kluz, Director of the Office of Public Art and Neighborhood Allies board member, during the second annual Healthy Neighborhoods Celebration and Awards Ceremony.

Awards were presented to the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh (Quality of Life award); the Brashear Association’s Allentown Learning and Engagement Center (Community Ownership); the Afro American Music Institute (Neighborhood Image); the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (Market Confidence); and the Riverside Center for Innovation (Equitable Development). Henry Horn-Pyatt received the 2018 Ally of the Year Award. Each awardee is representative of Neighborhood Allies’ Healthy Neighborhood Elements component.
The Trade Institute of Pittsburgh is improving the quality of life by providing job training and job placement to individuals from improvised backgrounds.
The Allentown Learning and Engagement Center is creating genuine community ownership with local youth by guiding them to learn about their neighborhood and actively change it.
The Afro American Music Institute has been celebrating the image and culture of Homewood for over 25 years.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh is creating market confidence in neighborhoods across the city through their comprehensive program and resource offerings.
The Riverside Center for Innovation is achieving equitable development by continuously providing a consistent growth culture, grounded in equity for small business owners.
Horn-Pyatt is labeled as a true ally to many, providing understanding, trust, thought-leadership and connecting to resources to help organizations, businesses and individuals do their best work.
According to Neighborhood Allies representatives, the Healthy Neighborhoods Celebration was adapted from David Boehlke’s Healthy Neighborhoods Approach. Neighborhood Allies believes that sustainable, scalable interventions that lead to increased Market Confidence, Quality of Life, Neighborhood Image, Community Ownership, and Equitable Development are the cornerstones of transforming the lives of the greatest number of vulnerable people and in the greatest number of distressed places.
“While our event honors just six awardees, we received over 70 nominations from the community in 2018, representing 40 organizations and individuals who are all graciously dedicating their time and passion to making neighborhoods better, safer, and stronger,” explained Talia DePasquale, Senior Program Manager for Communications and Marketing, encouraging the audience to submit nominations for next year.
Another highlight of the event included the fall 2018 Real Estate Co-Powerment series graduation ceremony. Operated by Omicelo, a mission-driven real estate investment and advisory firm, the organization offers a six-week real estate course. Meeting Joshua Pollard, the CEO of Omicelo, to Mica Dawkins was a godsend. A 29-year-old dreamer, he explained that like many young area African American males he grew up in a neighborhood that was riddled with gang violence and drug activity and ended up doing time in prison. Making the best of a bad situation, he says, going through what he calls “stages of pregnancy of the mind,” Dawkins taught himself how to read, write, spell, “and I expanded my vocabulary. I ended up falling in love with real estate through books that were explaining how important it was to own your own land. I went through a phase when all I read and watched on television was real estate-based. I started dreaming about obtaining my real estate licenses and building my real estate business by investing in communities like mine.”
Dawkins was released from prison in August 2017 and one year later passed the real estate exam qualifying him for his licenses. “Then I met Joshua Pollard, who was running the Real Estate Co-Powerment series and was invited to attend. Throughout this course, I have learned about the importance of community engagement and how to develop a real estate pro forma. I also learned about the alphabet of tax credits, why it was important to have life insurance, landlord training and much more. Josh had a dream of running a program like this that would be able to make dreams like mine come true. So, this afternoon I’m not standing here representing myself. I represent a dream and a beacon of hope for people that came up like me.”
Pollard said Omicelo is celebrating its fourth cohort, which represents 52 graduates.
Entertainment for the event was provided by Hazelwood’s Center of Life Jazz Band, a product of an organization with the mission to provide families and youth with the life skills, education, training and resources necessary to be strong and to make their communities strong.
Re-launched in 2004 as a new-and-improved, 21st-century community development intermediary with a renewed and revamped commitment to improving the social and physical infrastructures of Pittsburgh’s distressed and transitional communities, Neighborhood Allies’ mission is to support the people, organizations and partnerships committed to creating and maintaining healthy neighborhoods. Its vision is a Pittsburgh with healthy neighborhoods that are thriving, resilient and livable for all.
The group recently announced that they are calling for Letters Of Intent from local organizations seeking a Catalytic Grant ranging between $15,000 to $75,000 to support neighborhood revitalization projects that promote healthier, stronger communities in Pittsburgh. Stipulations are that LOIs are only being accepted via their online grant management portal called Foundant, are accepted on a rolling basis, but must be submitted by Monday, Dec. 31 to be considered for the spring 2019 round of funding. For more information, call 412-471-3727 or email
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