Sheldon Oak Central, a Hartford-based nonprofit community development corporation (CDC), is currently engaged in a major rehabilitation project involving 78 apartments in Hartford’s Northeast neighborhood. Sheldon Oak is committed to including resident voices in current and future projects, so they turned to Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Connecticut for help.
Through its LISC AmeriCorps program, Corps member and local resident, Sonsharae Owens, now serves as Sheldon Oak’s Community Planning and Outreach Coordinator. Owens has experience bringing residents together to talk about what’s going on in their neighborhoods and what changes they would like to make. Owens also serves as executive director of the grassroots nonprofit Summer of Solutions and has recruited some of the group’s youth interns to work in the three community gardens, participate in educational workshops, and perform community service (including the recent creation of a neighborhood food pantry).
“The work Sonsharae has been doing to bring local residents together is a vital part of Sheldon Oak’s efforts to build community dialogue to ensure that residents lead this effort to build a safer, healthier and more vibrant Northeast neighborhood,” said Sheldon Oak Executive Director Emily Wolfe. “This is a wonderful example of how LISC Connecticut supports Hartford’s community development corporations’ work to create resilient and inclusive communities of opportunity.”
To support the community development sector in Greater Hartford, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has awarded a three-year, $1.29 million grant to LISC Connecticut to provide a system of supports to entities engaged in development work including lending, capacity building, technical assistance, planning, advocacy and convening.
LISC’s work includes the Hartford Neighborhood Support Collaborative (HNDSC), which provides technical and financial support to three of Hartford’s CDCs, including Sheldon Oak Central, Mutual Housing Association of Greater Hartford (MHAGH) and Northside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (NINA). The HNDSC also provides a convening function for the many nonprofit developers in the City to engage with one another, funders and other key stakeholders. LISC works to build strong organizations but also seeks to enhance the sector as a whole. Most recently, its efforts have focused on creating a more diverse community development workforce through pipeline development programs including AmeriCorps and Housing and Community Development Leadership Institute in partnership with the Department of Housing.
While neighborhood revitalization in urban areas is a focus, LISC’s work also recognizes that affordable housing in high opportunity neighborhoods outside of the City of Hartford is critical to providing housing choice for all residents. LISC’s Housing Connections program, a partnership with the CT Housing Finance Authority, provides technical assistance to suburban communities on affordable housing development.
“LISC greatly appreciates the Foundation’s support for our core work to revitalize communities and to support community development corporations that are on the ground, building affordable housing, promoting public safety, and helping neighborhood residents achieve financial goals” said LISC Connecticut Executive Director Jim Horan.
LISC is the nation’s largest community development support organization, working in more than 35 cities across the country. Since LISC began work in Hartford 37 years ago, it has invested more than $50 million in the City. The Hartford Neighborhood Development Support Collaborative has supported the CDC ecosystem in Hartford for the past 27 years, distributing $12.5 million in general operating support, helping to sustain nearly 1,000 units of affordable housing annually.
“Effective community development requires strong local organizations and LISC has a strong track record in creating an infrastructure of financial and technical resources for a wide range of organizations,” said Hartford Foundation Senior Community Impact Officer Erika Frank. “The support LISC provides to Hartford’s CDCs has increased the stability of these nonprofits, making them more competitive for federal grants, loans, and other and promoting comprehensive, coordinated approaches to neighborhood development.”
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding towns. Through partnerships, the Foundation seeks to strengthen communities in Greater Hartford by putting philanthropy in action to dismantle structural racism and achieve equity in social and economic mobility. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $849 million since its founding in 1925. For more information, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.