Fitchburg leaders attend NeighborWorks America Community Leadership Institute

FITCHBURG – A group of people connected to the city recently joined NeighborWorks America’s Community Action Center in Charlotte, North Carolina to focus on moving forward after the pandemic. and help those who need it most.

The theme of the event is “Make Your Mark: No Limits,” which according to the organization, provides a platform to gather with community leaders from around the country. support, heal, connect, and celebrate all that has been overcome since the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders in Charlotte and across the country have shared how they are working in their communities to continue change despite and because of the restrictions of the pandemic.

Six people connected to Fitchburg recently joined NeighborWorks America's Community Leadership Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Left to right) Marites MacLean, Luisa Fernandez, Monique Reverie, Francisco Ramos, Rebecca Wright, and Shara Osgood.  (COURTESY LUISA FERNANDEZ)
Six people connected to Fitchburg recently joined NeighborWorks America’s Community Leadership Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Left to right) Marites MacLean, Luisa Fernandez, Monique Reverie, Francisco Ramos, Rebecca Wright, and Shara Osgood. (COURTESY LUISA FERNANDEZ)

“It’s a very positive impact,” said Fitchburg Public Schools Family and Community Engagement Coordinator Luisa Fernandez. “I had a wonderful experience learning about what other communities are doing in terms of housing, education, food insecurity, arts and culture, and diversity and inclusion. It It’s also beautiful to witness the support of some of the participants, despite their difficulties and limited language, and many young people participate.”

The mission of NeighborWorks America is to create opportunities for people to improve their lives and strengthen their communities.

As an interactive and grant-making non-profit organization with participating organizations in all states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, it supports organizations that provide communities with sustainable housing. budget, financial consulting and training, training, and community participation, and regional cooperation. of health, work, and education.

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In 2021, $101.2 million in donations was distributed through its annual appropriation and in the same year NeighborWorks network members announced more than $16.8 billion in investments in their communities.

Fernandez joined five others for the national conference: NewVue Communities, Inc. Director of Community Engagement Francisco Ramos, Empowering Children for Success, Inc. President and CEO Marites MacLean, local artist Shara Osgood, who has been the lead muralist for many cities. projects, InTown Fitchburg Downtown Community Coordinator Monique Reverie, and Fitchburg Art Museum Vice President of Advancement and Administration Rebecca Wright.

“We play different roles in the community,” said Fernandez, “We all volunteer in different projects and causes but something that resonates with us is love for Fitchburg, and the vision of transforming our city into a better place for individuals and families to raise their families, work and play.”

Left to right: Artist Shara Osgood, who has served as a curator for many Fitchburg projects, Fitchburg Public Schools Family and Community Engagement Coordinator Luisa Fernandez, InTown Fitchburg Downtown Community Coordinator Monique Reverie Monique Reverie, and Empower Children for Success, Inc.  President and CEO Marites MacLean enjoyed attending the NeighborWorks America Community Leadership Institute conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (COURTESY LUISA FERNANDEZ)
Left to right: Artist Shara Osgood, who has served as artistic director for many Fitchburg projects, Fitchburg Public Schools Family and Community Engagement Coordinator Luisa Fernandez, InTown Fitchburg Downtown Community Coordinator Monique Reverie Monique Reverie, and Empower Children for Success, Inc. President and CEO Marites MacLean enjoyed attending the NeighborWorks America Community Leadership Institute conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. (COURTESY LUISA FERNANDEZ)

MacLean said her experience with NeighborWorks online training inspired her to attend the conference because she knew she would “be able to develop new skills to use to improve the lives of the citizens we serve in Fitchburg.”

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“We see that we have to speak for ourselves and tell our own stories,” he said. “We need to find a way for people in our community to come out and tell their stories. No one can tell us our stories. I’ve learned that hunger is a important problem in our society and the programs that address this problem take a group approach. The problem is always there, and we need to solve it at the base.”

Osgood said that for him, the conference experience as a whole was “very inspiring.”

“I met a lot of community leaders from all over the country and got some great tools and ideas to help move our city forward,” he said. “I’m excited to bring these skills to help support and empower our community. We can amplify our voices and build a stronger community.”

Reverie shared his thoughts, saying “it was a great experience to attend … and learn how to better myself and support my community.”

“Meeting people who are making a positive impact throughout the city is exciting,” he said. “Struggles and injustices that we all face are the same, so it is important for me to learn from my friends. It was a great experience, I learned a lot, and I was inspired to bring something back home that would help make a difference in my community. “

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Ramos said that he thinks that the city and the region “heal a little from the development of leadership in other places and because of this it is important to go out to other cities and learn from other experiences and other efforts.”

“We came back inspired to apply what we learned, and we are committed to continuing to learn and improve in the future,” he said.

The NeighborWorks America Community Action Center in Charlotte, North Carolina gathers leaders from across the country, including Fitchburg, to inspire, heal, connect, and celebrate all things which has prevailed since the COVID-19 pandemic.  (COURTESY LUISA FERNANDEZ)
The NeighborWorks America Community Action Center in Charlotte, North Carolina gathers leaders from across the country, including Fitchburg, to inspire, heal, connect, and celebrate all things which has prevailed since the COVID-19 pandemic. (COURTESY LUISA FERNANDEZ)

Wright said they all “came back with a lot of energy and enthusiasm to create positive change in Fitchburg and North Central Mass,” and said the conference “was a very powerful learning experience. from and share ideas with grassroots communities from around the world. countries.”

The group, who called themselves the ‘Charlotte 6,’ received $4,000 in NeighborWorks grants.

“We are very happy to bring home money for a community project that we have already planned together,” Fernandez said, adding that the group will meet this week to decide whether where the money will be distributed. “We know it will be a project that directly affects the minorities and the most vulnerable people in our city.”

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