The Neighbor Project Recieves $2 Million Grant

The VIDEO below shows around 15 minutes of a 34 minute news conference announcing another momentous event for The Neighbor Project (TNP): receiving a $2 million grant from Yield Giving, the organization of billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.  I urge you to watch a video of the entire press conference because what’s been left out may be as important as what’s been left in.

The story took up much of the front page of Tribune-owned Aurora Beacon and was widely covered in Chicagoland media. Go to the Yield Giving website for more coverage, as well as this group’s philosophy on giving and who to give to. Yield Giving was established by MacKenzie Scott.

TNP’s executive director Rick Guzman announces the award and details the selection process before turning things over to four staff members who read some of the criteria for the award and some comments from peer reviewers who graded TNP on how well they met those criteria. I fade out after David Blancas, Chief Equity and Operating Officer, opens his remarks on how peers graded TNP on equity.  During her portion of the news conference Cynthia Rica, Networked Savings Program Manager, read a review which said every community should have a program like TNP.  Miguel Rivera, Director of Property Management and Real Estate, read a review saying, “It was really a pleasure to read this application” because of the talent and deep knowledge of the staff.  So in the interest of time only Jerria Donelson’s remarks were fully included. Jerria has been with TNP for a long time, even during the years when it was just Emmanuel House. She read comments asking how well the community was represented in TNP organization, included those who had been in its programs.  Jerria was a graduate who has risen to a manager position, Homebuying Counselor Program Manager.  She’s brought other family members and friends into TNP’s programs. It was a moving tribute from a long-time friend.  “The Neighbor Project has brought generational wealth into my family,” she said.

Rick Guzman’s comments were marked by five words: “gratitude,” “responsibility,” “leverage,” “investment,” and “partnerships.”  “We can’t afford to lose a penny,” he says.  “We don’t just plan to double this money’s effects but to grow it exponentially.” He’ll do it partially by investing in the partners that helped get TNP where it is today, partners like The Community Fund, the City of Aurora, and The Dunham Foundation.  His gratitude to them glowed. “We literally would not exist without the Dunham Fund. It was the Dunham Fund that suggested Emmanuel House and The Joseph Corporation merge [to form The Neighbor Project], then gave us a grant that put us on a firm financial footing.” In giving thanks for partners and saying a substantial part of this $2 million was going to be invested in them, Guzman also talked about the programs it has started with those partners. For example, with the Community Fund there is now a Closing the Gap program, aimed at giving extra help to bridge people into home ownership, and in particular aimed at closing the immense racial wealth gap between whites and blacks.

Again, what’s been left out may be as important as what’s been left in, so you’re urged to watch the video of the entire news conference.  You may also look at TNP’s full, written press release on The Neighbor Project website, or Here on this site.

MacKenzie Scott

In his thank you’s Rick acknowledges his wife Desiree, who co-founded Bryan House with Rick nearly two decades ago as a living memorial to Rick’s youngest brother Bryan Emmanuel Guzman. He acknowledges his step-mom, Linda, my wife.  And me, too: “his greatest cheerleader.” In the toast ending the conference he thanks TNP’s newest donor, MacKenzie Scott.

This award is the third major award for the Emmanuel House / The Neighbor Project organization. In 2016 Emmanuel House was named one of the “Top 100 Most Innovative” Social Change Organizations” in the world.  In 2023, Rick Guzman received the “Emerging Leader Award” from the national Neighbor Works organization.  And now this.  The Neighbor Project is now consistently regarded as one of the finest organizations of its kind in the nation, but one of Guzman’s favorite lines is that it’s an organization that wants to “flip the script.”  For all its honors it’s the people it serves that are the real heroes, the real leaders helping to create real wealth and stability for the marginalized in our society.

  I also left out of the video below Rick Guzman’s “90-second elevator speech,” which was a requirement of the grant application.  It is essentially a shortened version of his 2023 TNP Gala talk which I posted on this site under the title “The Affordable Housing Crisis.” Watch it for an important take on what’s wrong with “affordable housing.”

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