Jeanne Cola, Executive Director of LISC Rhode Island

By Jeanne Cola

Rhode Island’s workforce development programs are working. We are witnessing the success first hand.

We see it in the face of people like Katiria Perez, who was able to get job training through SNAP E&T and finally get a job as a medical assistant after four years of staying home to raise her family. And we see it in the face of Miguel Escobedo, who is making a mid-life career change after a debilitating accident meant he could no longer work at his old job. These are our neighbors – and their lives are being improved, due in large part to the comprehensive workforce development programs initiated by the state.  Thousands of Rhode Islanders are getting back on their feet, sometimes after a very long and arduous struggle, and their personal economies are growing.

LISC Rhode Island manages the state’s SNAP E&T program which works with community partners like Genesis Center, Amos House, and many others to deliver workforce development training and education. We provide funding, technical assistance and program components that have a proven success record to help these centers do what they do best. They are phenomenal partners and we are witnesses to their accomplishments.

The LISC SNAP E&T program focuses on helping SNAP recipients get the education, training and support needed to return to the workforce to improve their circumstances. SNAP E&T is just one of many initiatives that the state supports to help get Rhode Islanders back to work. SKILLS RI, REAL JOBS RI and other programs work separately and together to target specific portions of our unemployed and under-employed populations and to create employment pathways that close the skills gap for people and employers.

Each month, workforce development efforts are making steady progress toward increasing the number of Rhode Islanders in the workplace. According to the Department of Labor and Training, the labor force stood at 558,900 in April, up 900 from last month and 5,600 from last year. It’s wonderful to see people making great strides toward better circumstances and the programs dovetailing in synergistic ways that produce results.

As we work with our community-based partners to serve SNAP recipients, we see the successes that these programs deliver and celebrate all the good work that is being accomplished for individuals and families.

PROVIDENCE, August 8, 2018 – Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Rhode Island today announced more than $525,000 in grant awards for eight community development corporations in the state. The grants were made from LISC’s Neighborhood Development Fund (NDF) for the 2018-2019 season.

Since its inception, LISC’s Neighborhood Development Fund has awarded more than $10.2 million to community development corporations in Rhode Island. The program’s primary focus is to increase the ability of the state’s CDCs to produce affordable housing while addressing broader community revitalization issues.

“Rhode Island, like the rest of the country, is experiencing a serious housing crisis,” said Jeanne Cola, Executive Director of LISC Rhode Island. “The rental market is very tight in many communities and the median house price has increased to the highest rate in 11 years. There is a critical shortage for housing for seniors and families, especially those earning below $50,000 a year.”

The eight CDCs receiving funding this year include: Church Community Housing Corporation; East Bay Community Development Corporation; NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley; Pawtucket Central Falls Development Corporation; One Neighborhood Builders; Stop Wasting Abandoned Properties, Inc.(SWAP); Smith Hill Community Development Corporation; and the West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation.

“LISC provides crucial operating support. Without it, CDCs in Rhode Island wouldn’t be able to do what they do,” says Sue Bodington, President of the Board of Directors of Church Community Housing and former Deputy Director for Programs at Rhode Island Housing. “It is not easy work and it’s hard to find the funding to do what they do.

“For many years, Church Community Housing has been the primary provider of affordable homes in Newport County, which has some of the highest housing costs in the state. Without their work, housing would be out of reach for many of the people who work here and the local economy would suffer. Businesses rely on the very people who can’t afford to live here,” says Bodington.

Church Community Housing Executive Director Stephen Ostiguy oversees a restoration and expansion project for affordable housing units in Newport County.

In addition to funding operational costs, the NDF provides resources for professional development training, operational resources for computer and systems upgrades, and technical assistance to help CDCs strengthen internal operations.

“The Professional Development Series fills an important need for the successful operations of Rhode Island CDCs,” said Cola. “The work performed by our partners is critical to the economic growth and sustainability of our communities, and this is one way we work with them to ensure they have the necessary skills to excel.”

The Fund recently announced session topics for the 2018-2019 season of the Professional Development Series for Non-Profit Leaders. The training program works to build the capacity of executive directors and program managers and includes the evaluation and understanding of non-profit financial statements, human resource best practices and procedures, and board management and succession planning. The sessions explore commonly used financial terms, names and uses for key financial statements and reports, and the use of financial statements to understand business models and operational performance.

“We heard from our community partners that they would like to have a deeper understanding of financial statements,” said Cola, “so we are bringing back an outside facilitator to do a deeper dive into the financial aspects of leading a successful business. We also will include some sessions in the fall and early next year on networking, succession planning, HR and Communications.”

The NDF program uses a combination of federal funding and local philanthropic dollars to support the training program as well as to provide grants to qualified organizations.

LISC Rhode Island — Together with residents, partners, and local leaders, LISC Rhode Island forges resilient and inclusive communities of opportunity across our state – great places to live, work, visit, do business, and raise families. Our strategies – investing in real estate, increasing family income & wealth, stimulating economic development, improving access to quality education, and supporting healthy environments and lifestyles – work together to improve the health and well-being of our neighbors. LISC has invested $373 million in neighborhoods across our state, helping to create more than 8,000 affordable homes and support the development of more than 2 million square feet of commercial, child care, educational, and community space.  We are committed to building strong neighborhoods and healthy communities where individuals, businesses and families can thrive.

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Central Falls, RI – The Macarena, that pop dance craze that swept the nation in the mid-90s, experienced a brief resurgence yesterday afternoon as seniors and teens took the floor at Forand Manor to mark out those familiar moves. Mayor James Diossa even joined in and encouraged seniors to participate as residents cheered on.

“One of the key things we heard from residents during our initial listening tour was about the problems faced by seniors,” said Jeanne Cola, Executive Director of LISC Rhode Island. LISC is the backbone agency responsible for the Pawtucket Central Falls Health Equity Zone and conducted the listening tour as part of that Rhode Island Department of Health program.

“Positive interaction and a strong sense of community is an important social determinant of health,” says Cola. “This program is the result of our efforts to address that issue.”

Organizers saw the success of an earlier Pawtucket and Central Falls program that paired teens with seniors for snow removal and looked for an opportunity to build on that idea.

“The seniors really appreciated the help that winter and enjoyed developing relationships with the teens,” said Cola. “What was a bit surprising was that we saw that it was a valuable relationship to the youth as well. We started looking at ways to continue that momentum.”

Grant funding from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation allowed LISC Rhode Island to explore ways to build those relationships. The resulting format combines healthy eating and storytelling with movement and crafts. The format seems to be one that works.

“We have residents who typically stay in their rooms who are joining in,” says Meaghan Levasseur, Resident Service Coordinator at the Central Falls Housing Authority. “It’s so nice to see them out and enjoying themselves.”

The Tufts Health Plan Foundation agrees. Building communities that are responsive to the needs of older people is the focus behind the Foundation’s activity.

“Each community will follow its own path to becoming age- and dementia-friendly. Support from Tufts Health Plan Foundation helps ensure resources reach underrepresented communities at greatest risk for disparities,” said Nora Moreno Cargie, president of the Foundation and vice president, corporate citizenship for Tufts Health Plan. “Everyone has a voice; it’s important that we listen.”

The Tufts Health Plan Foundation has recently announced a two-year grant of $120,000 to LISC to expand the intergenerational programming to four new Health Equity Zone communities in Rhode Island.

“We are off to Newport next,” says Cola. “We are excited to see what the program will look like in that community – possibly we will get them up for the electric slide.”

PROVIDENCE, February 27, 2018 – LISC Rhode Island’s year-end report, “By The Numbers,” shows a record-breaking investment in Rhode Island during 2017. The totals reported by the non-profit reflect a $26,764,004 dollar investment, comprised of $2,263,112 in grants and $24,500,892 in investments in mission-driven real estate development located around the state.

The total dollars invested in 2017 exceeded last year’s total by more than $1.7 million, and greater than 2015 by nearly $8 million.

“It’s great to have this level of investment in Rhode Island,” said Jeanne Cola, Executive Director. “Last year, we set a goal of investing $25 million to celebrate our 25th year in Rhode Island. To have surpassed that amount this year is a great achievement. With this level of investment, LISC has been a real change-maker.”

In addition to the monetary investment, LISC provided more than 2,000 hours of technical assistance in program areas and on projects with more than 135 local partners and community organizations. That is in addition to the nearly 10,000 hours contributed to Rhode Island Community Development Corporations (CDCs) through the AmeriCorps program, administered by LISC.

“Part of our overall investment in the community is delivered in the form of technical assistance to the partner,” says Cola. “Our program managers have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the process. We can help our CDCs by convening key partners, identifying the experts, and navigating program funding requirements to help get things done.”

A number of additional strategic initiatives were undertaken in 2017.  LISC invested nearly $13 million in one landmark project to build the Central Falls Community Health Station, a project that uses a combination of grant funding, New Market Tax Credits, loan financing and federal funding to cover the $15 million project costs. The Health Station will represent a new way to deliver health care to the residents and provide a “one-stop-shop” of services within walking distance of most Central Falls residents.

“We were completely on board with their plans,” said Cola. “I felt this was a critical project to get behind with a comprehensive funding stack. This kind of community development not only has the potential to completely change the life and health of the residents in one of our most underserved communities, but also stands to create an anchor institution for future development in the community. It’s a win-win for everyone in Central Falls.”

Additional initiatives include the expansion of the LISC Financial Opportunity Centers (FOC) and Bridges to Career Opportunities (BCO) programs to include the re-entry population. In addition to ongoing program funding for FOC and BCO, LISC distributed $476,000 to Amos House to specifically target this population with meaningful services and supports. The funding was part of a grant LISC National received from the Department of Labor to expand proven methods for reducing recidivism.

“As a result of this funding, Amos House will provide intensive wraparound supports related to barriers specific to the re-entry population. Participants will be able to complete the education and skills training components of the BCO program and transition to employment. It will translate into meaningful change for this vulnerable population,” said Cola.

Another key investment in 2017 was nearly $2 million in the construction of a new affordable housing complex at 93 Cranston Street in Providence.  The new building will include 30 residences of mixed-income housing and the Urban Greens Co-op, an 8,000 sq.ft. community-owned grocer which will offer healthy, affordable, sustainably-sourced and local food options.

“We were committed to helping the Urban Greens project happen,” said Cola. “Not only did it add critical housing, but it also added a source for fresh fruit and vegetables in a food dessert. Because of that, LISC could access funds from the Healthy Food Financing Initiative to make this project viable.”

LISC Rhode Island focuses on projects and programs related to affordable housing and mission-driven real estate; technical assistance and funding for improvements in child care and early learning facilities; improvements in health equity through our work as the backbone agency for the Pawtucket/Central Falls Health Equity Zone; and various Income and Wealth Building initiatives through the Financial Opportunity Centers, Bridges to Career Opportunities program and the administration of the SNAP Employment and Training program for the State. Other national program areas include Creative Placemaking and Public Safety, which are both located in Rhode Island.

LISC Rhode Island — Together with residents, partners, and local leaders, LISC Rhode Island forges resilient and inclusive communities of opportunity across our state – great places to live, work, visit, do business, and raise families. Our strategies – investing in real estate, increasing family income & wealth, stimulating economic development, improving access to quality education, and supporting healthy environments and lifestyles – work together to improve the health and well-being of our neighbors. LISC has invested $372 million in neighborhoods across our state, helping to create more than 7,900 affordable homes and support the development of more than 2 million square feet of commercial, child care, educational, and community space.  We are committed to building strong neighborhoods and healthy communities where individuals, businesses and families can thrive.

 eklinkenberg (at) lisc.org 

Building Strong and Healthy Neighborhoods for Rhode Island’s Families

Launched in 2007, Our Neighborhoods is a holistic community development strategy designed to improve the quality of life in Rhode Island’s most challenged neighborhoods. (more…)

Building Creative Places for Our Neighborhoods

creativeimage

Artistic and cultural activities enrich a community, particularly when they reveal and celebrate its character and identity. (more…)

Building Strong & Healthy Neighborhoods through Service

LISC Rhode Island is a proud participant in the AmeriCorps program. A partner since 1994, we have recruited more than 140 AmeriCorps members (more…)

Building Solutions for Rhode Island’s Children

The Rhode Island Child Care and Early Learning Facilities Fund (RICCELFF) is a public – private partnership (more…)

Building Safe Neighborhoods

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The Community Safety Initiative (CSI) is a key part of LISC Rhode Island’s strategic approach to building strong neighborhoods and healthy communities. (more…)

Resources that Build Strong Organizations

LISC Rhode Island’s Neighborhood Development Fund (NDF) provides funding, training, resources and technical assistance in an effort to strengthen the internal operations of community development corporations (CDCs) (more…)

Providing Financial Tools to Build Neighborhoods

LISC is often the first choice lender for developers working to create affordable housing in Rhode Island. LISC Rhode Island also plays a critical role in financing other important community development projects (more…)