Almost thirty years ago, a group of community and business leaders had the vision to start an organization dedicated to the creation of an equitable and socially conscious economic community. Their foresight and determination shaped the same core values of justice and respect that we live by today. Our founders believed that everyone in the community had a right to make a decent living, deserved to reside in a safe, affordable home and should have the resources necessary to build a nest egg for the future.
1992: Our founder, James Hyson, was a local African American community organizer with a dream to provide much needed capital to low income entrepreneurs and community organizations serving the poor in South Central Pennsylvania. His idea was to create a community development loan fund, modelled after similar organizations that had begun to form across the country. Under his leadership, Susquehanna Valley Community Development Loan Fund was formed.
1994: The new organization made its first loan to fund a multi-family housing project on East King Street in Lancaster. Its first business loan went to a newly founded cooperative that supported the Lancaster Domestic Violence Shelter.
1996: Susquehanna Valley Community Development Loan Fund was renamed as Community First Fund.
1998: Community First received its certification from the US Treasury’s CDFI Fund and the PA Community Development Bank. The organization also expanded its service area into York, Harrisburg and Reading.
1999: Daniel Betancourt was hired to lead Community First as President & CEO.
2001: Community First was approved as a Small Business Administration (SBA) Microlender.
2001 – 2016: Community First opened full time offices in York, Harrisburg, Reading and Allentown.
2013 – 2017: During this span, Community First was awarded $90 million in New Market Tax Credits through a program directed by the US Treasury’s CDFI Fund. These tax credits were allocated to revitalization projects in low income communities throughout central Pennsylvania including Lancaster, Reading, York, Harrisburg, Lebanon and Bethlehem.
2018: Community First expanded its service area into Philadelphia with the formation of the Kensington Lending Partnership, a collaborative of CDFIs dedicated to providing a wide range of comprehensive financing and technical assistance to residents in Kensington and North Philadelphia.
2020: On July 1, 2020, Community First Fund and FINANTA, a Philadelphia-based CDFI, joined forces as one, larger entity that now serves an expanded 20-county region. Dan Betancourt assumed the role of President & CEO of the merged organization, as Luis Mora, founder and president of FINANTA, retired.
Today: Community First is recognized as the premier economic development organization serving the low income communities of central and eastern Pennsylvania. Our 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization provides loan capital to businesses, real estate developers and community support organizations throughout the region.
To date, Community First has made over 5,300 loans and investments totaling $345 million to businesses, affordable housing and community based developers, and community based programs and initiatives.