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  • Posted on: February 6th, 2024

    U.S. Sen. Bob Casey joins Community First Fund, Lancaster City Leaders to witness New Markets Tax Credits impact

    LANCASTER, PA – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) recently met with Community First Fund’s President and CEO Daniel Betancourt and Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer Joan Brodhead to visit the Spanish American Civic Association’s (SACA) Conestoga River Plaza to see firsthand the impact of New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) in the local community.

    Community First Fund was announced as a recipient of a $30 million NMTC allocation in September.

    Senator Casey was joined by Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace, SACA CEO Jose Lopez and SACA Founder and CEO Emeritus Carlos Graupera to tour businesses in the Conestoga River Plaza and its surrounding neighborhood. The neighborhood was selected because it demonstrates how NMTCs can be used to revitalize distressed communities.

    “Last week I saw a prime example of New Markets Tax Credits working to revitalize a community and grow the local economy, particularly for minority- and women-owned businesses,” said Senator Casey. “This federal funding has created or sustained more than 100 jobs and spurred growth beyond the shopping plaza itself, including new affordable housing development. I will continue working to support Pennsylvania communities as they create economic opportunities and growth for working families.”

    Senator Casey met with local community members as well as Ada Rivera, owner of Home 1st Realty and Adriano Gomez, owner of Brother’s Food Max. These are both businesses thriving in a community that has benefited from the NMTC Program.

    The Conestoga River Plaza has served as a catalyst of change in the area since 2017. With the support of the NMTC Program the creation of the plaza shopping center created jobs, much-needed commercial retail outlets and a full-service grocery store.

    “Projects like these are exactly the type of catalytic change we will support through our recent New Markets Tax Credit allocation,” said Community First Fund’s Betancourt. “We deeply appreciate Senator Casey’s support of projects like this that revitalize communities. They create quality jobs and support resources in our neighborhoods such as affordable housing, healthy food, and healthcare services.”

    The NMTC Program is directed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund and allocated to local Community Development Entities (CDEs). Community First Fund has been awarded a total of $120 million in NMTCs to revitalize low-income communities throughout eastern and central Pennsylvania since 2013.

    For more information about previous projects and for announcements about new projects, visit communityfirstfund.org.

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    About Community First Fund

    Community First Fund is a private, independent non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) whose mission is to provide capital in places where it is not usually available. As a social and economic justice organization, we seek to create positive change in the community by providing individuals and families, entrepreneurs, commercial real estate, and affordable housing developers as well as nonprofits with access to loans for projects that generate jobs, create housing opportunities and pathways to home ownership, essential community facilities, and that help to revitalize communities.

    Since 1992, Community First Fund has provided loan capital to small business owners, nonprofit organizations, and community development projects in Lancaster County and the surrounding region. To advance our vision of building equitable and vibrant communities, we were driven to address the needs of the consumer market. In 2022, we launched Community First Fund Credit Union to serve underbanked residents by offering ethical financial products and services and creating financial equity through wealth building opportunities. communityfirstfund.org

    You can download the full press release here.

  • Posted on: February 1st, 2024

    Lancaster County Participating in Philadelphia Fed Program Focused on Inclusive Rental Housing

    Lancaster, PA – Lancaster County is a participant in the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s fourth Reinventing Our Communities (ROC) Cohort Program. The participating organizations are developing a multiyear plan to expand economic development opportunities for local renters and residents of color.

    The cohort includes the following organizations:

    Community First Fund
    HDC MidAtlantic
    Tenfold
    Lancaster City Housing Authority

    These organizations will spend the next 14 months working with the Philadelphia Fed and its partners, Neighborhood Works America and Race Forward, to:

    – address the structural barriers that limit access to quality, safe, and affordable rental housing;
    – partner with local housing organizations to ensure that housing programs and tenant-based supports mitigate rental housing challenges; and
    – explore potential financing options and interventions that can increase housing opportunities within the community.

    “One of the Federal Reserve’s goals is to strengthen regional economies,” said Theresa Singleton, senior vice president of the Community Development and Regional Outreach Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. “Communities that have safe and affordable housing options reach their full potential by attracting more workers, consumer spending, and economic growth.”

    “Financial stability is nearly impossible when families are paying more than a third of their income on housing,” said Community First Fund President and CEO Daniel Betancourt. “We look forward to working with our long-time partners to view housing in Lancaster County through the lens of equity and inclusion. This will guide the actions we can take to help all families find safe and affordable places to live.”

    “Housing isn’t just a roof over one’s head; it is an economic driver,” said HDC MidAtlantic President and CEO Dana Hanchin. “We will not realize Lancaster County’s full economic potential and vision for a thriving community for all unless we address this foundational issue. We are the solution. Together we can do better and do more.”

    “Lancaster County is not unique in this housing crisis, but Lancaster is unique in our ability to work together,” said Tenfold CEO Shelby Nauman. “Through this process and with the support of many partners, we will recommend solutions which will not only benefit individual households that are struggling, but also our collective future prosperity. We know that our vacancy rate, lower than 95% of metro areas across America, is a limiting factor to our success.”

    “The Lancaster City Housing Authority (LCHA) strives to provide affordable housing to the City’s most vulnerable residents. Over 63% of our resident population, residing at our Family sites, are a part of the Lancaster County workforce, contributing to the local economy,” said Barbara Ellis Wilson, executive director at LCHA. “In addition, the LCHA administers the Housing Choice Voucher program and partners with over 200 private landlords, Housing over 900 families throughout the city. The Lancaster City Housing Authority strives and is committed to building partnerships to increase and maintain affordable housing and social services, for the greater Lancaster Community.”

    The cohort is also engaging in housing webinars, coaching from national housing leaders, racial equity training, and peer learning with the other 10 participating communities from across the country.

    Visit philadelphiafed.org for more information about the 2024 ROC Cohort Program.

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    About Community First Fund

    Community First Fund is a private, independent non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) whose mission is to provide capital in places where it is not usually available. As a social and economic justice organization, we seek to create positive change in the community by providing individuals and families, entrepreneurs, commercial real estate, and affordable housing developers as well as nonprofits with access to loans for projects that generate jobs, create housing opportunities and pathways to home ownership, essential community facilities, and that help to revitalize communities.

    Since 1992, Community First Fund has provided loan capital to small business owners, nonprofit organizations, and community development projects in Lancaster County and the surrounding region. To advance our vision of building equitable and vibrant communities, we were driven to address the needs of the consumer market. In 2022, we launched Community First Fund Credit Union to serve underbanked residents by offering ethical financial products and services and creating financial equity through wealth building opportunities. communityfirstfund.org

    About HDC MidAtlantic

    HDC MidAtlantic envisions a world where a safe, welcoming, affordable place to call home is open to everyone. We believe home shouldn’t be an impossible dream; it should be an attainable reality. We are resident advocates, trusted developers, property managers, community partners, and collaborators. We are part of the fabric of our towns and cities and have been working with our neighbors since 1971 to create real change and meaningful connections. As champions of the greater good, we are committed to advancing equity, we open the door to opportunities, and we are proud of the homes we build. HDC is a proud charter member of NeighborWorks America, a network of nearly 250 high-performing nonprofit organizations across the United States, including the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, dedicated to affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization.

    HDC owns and/or manages over 3,400 apartments, providing housing that is safe and affordable to those with lower incomes, focusing on seniors, families, and individuals living with disabilities. Serving nearly 5,000 residents in 72 communities located in urban, suburban, and rural areas across Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland, HDC builds hope and opportunity for all residents to reach their full potential by creating, preserving, and strengthening affordable housing communities. hdcweb.org

    About Tenfold

    At Tenfold, we are committed to sparking the power in all people to achieve equitable housing and financial security. We walk alongside our clients and help them unlock a new path forward to a brighter future. By collaborating as one team, we can take a holistic approach to serve as your trusted community partner. We are focused on achieving quality, fair and affordable housing that is inclusive to all people through proactive coaching, education, lending, and advocacy.

    Together, the Tenfold team is multiplying its impact by leveraging our team’s combined expertise and community partners to develop new and innovative ways of addressing the wide range of critical housing needs within our community such as homelessness, renting, homeownership, and community lending. wearetenfold.org

    About Lancaster City Housing Authority

    The mission of the Lancaster City Housing Authority is to provide housing for low to moderate income individuals and families.

    We strive to foster the development, ownership and successful management of housing programs while maintaining high standards and recognizing the residents as our ultimate customer. Our goal is to be an active partner in the community, working alongside landlords and city government to empower citizens towards self-sufficiency. lchapa.com

    You can download the full press release here.

     

     

  • Posted on: January 16th, 2024

    Community First Fund Appoints New Chief Credit Officer

    LANCASTER, Pa. – Jan. 2, 2024 – Community First Fund, an independent non-profit community loan fund, is pleased to name Edward J. Gallagher as the organization’s new Chief Credit Officer.

    With more than 25 years of tenure in community banking, Ed brings a depth of experience in sales, portfolio management, risk-rating assessment, credit underwriting analysis, development of loan policy and procedure, and oversight of lending and operations. His prior positions include Senior Vice President of Corporate Banking and Chief Lending Officer. He holds a B.S. from Wilkes University and an M.B.A. from the Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph’s University.

    “We’re very pleased to add Ed Gallagher to our team of community banking experts,” said Daniel Betancourt, President and CEO of Community First Fund and Community First Fund Credit Union. “His experience and industry knowledge align well with our mission, and we look forward to everything he will accomplish with Community First Fund.”

    Ed will work out of the Lancaster office and will be responsible for the organization’s credit risk and policy, lending operations, and asset management. He resides in Chester County with his wife and four children.

    Community First Fund works to create financial equity through wealth building opportunities for individuals, families, and business owners, especially persons of color, women, and immigrants. The organization aligns capital, knowledge, and advocacy to advance access to financial services, business ownership, housing, and community development.

    For more information, visit Community First Fund’s website or contact the organization via LinkedIn or Facebook, or via phone at (267) 236-7000 for Greater Philadelphia or (717) 393-2351 for Central Pennsylvania.

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    About Community First Fund

    Community First Fund is a private, independent, non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) whose mission is to provide capital in places where it is not usually available. We seek to create positive change in the community by providing entrepreneurs, commercial real estate and affordable housing developers, as well as nonprofits with access to loans for projects that generate jobs, create housing opportunities, essential community facilities, and that help to revitalize communities.

    www.communityfirstfund.org

  • Posted on: January 16th, 2024

    Community First Fund Appoints New Chief Financial Officer

    LANCASTER, Pa. – January 2, 2024 – Community First Fund, an independent non-profit community loan fund, is pleased to name Elizabeth Bennett as the organization’s new Chief Financial Officer.

    Bennett began her career in finance with Beard Miller CPA, where she worked on the Community First Fund account. Since then, she has tracked the organization’s growing impact and been impressed by its mission and proven work.

    Bennett’s more recent experience includes her work with D & E Communications, where she served as the Internal Audit Manager, and as the Chief Financial Officer for the Lancaster Theological Seminary and the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design.

    “Community First Fund is honored and excited to welcome Elizabeth Bennett to this role,” said Daniel Betancourt, president and CEO of Community First Fund and Community First Fund Credit Union. “Her expertise in the field and familiarity with Community First Fund will offer significant benefits to our organization and members.”

    Bennett is a Certified Public Account and a Certified Fraud Examiner.

    Community First Fund works to create financial equity through wealth building opportunities for individuals, families and business owners, especially persons of color, women and immigrants. The organization aligns capital, knowledge and advocacy to advance access to financial services, business ownership, housing and community development.

    For more information, visit Community First Fund’s website or contact the organization via LinkedIn or Facebook, or via phone at (267) 236-7000 for Greater Philadelphia or (717) 393-2351 for Central Pennsylvania.

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    About Community First Fund

    Community First Fund is a private, independent non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) whose mission is to provide capital in places where it is not usually available. We seek to create positive change in the community by providing entrepreneurs, commercial real estate and affordable housing developers as well as nonprofits with access to loans for projects that generate jobs, create housing opportunities, essential community facilities, and that help to revitalize communities. www.communityfirstfund.org

  • Posted on: December 15th, 2023

    Remembering Our Dear Friend and Partner, Adina Abramowitz

    We would like to pay homage to our dear friend and partner, Adina Abramowitz.

    Her unyielding commitment to economic and racial justice made her a force in the community development finance industry, as she challenged organizations to do their best to create real change in their communities.

    And, to us at Community First Fund, Adina was an essential piece of our family.  For decades, she helped to shepherd our work toward our mission, and challenged us to make critical and consequential decisions as we strove to make our vision a reality. She was always available to offer guidance, with candor, and often, with a touch of humor.

    Adina, the world is a better place because you walked in it. With profound gratitude and heartfelt sorrow we say goodbye.

    Our hearts and prayers are with Adina’s wife, Naomi, family and friends. May her memory be a blessing. Indeed, for all of us at Community First, it always will be.

  • Posted on: November 13th, 2023

    Community First Fund Announces New Senior Vice President & Chief Retail Officer

    Jonathan Encarnación

    Lancaster, PA – The Community First Fund Family of Companies is pleased to announce the appointment of Jonathan Encarnación, Senior Vice President & Chief Retail Officer. In his new role, Jonathan will provide strategic direction, lead our efforts in growing our services, and guide the expansion of our credit union to new markets.   Jonathan is very familiar with the work of Community First Fund and our credit union from his many years of service as part of our Board of Directors.

    Prior to joining Community First Fund Credit Union, Jonathan worked as a Senior Director with UPMC HealthPlan.  Jonathan’s professional experience also includes serving as the CEO/Executive Director of the Hispanic Center in Reading and early in his career, working as a commercial lender with Wells Fargo (formerly Wachovia/Meridian) Bank.

    Jontahan has served on many boards by gubernatorial appointment, including the Governor’s Commission on Latino Affairs, PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency, Managed Care Delivery System Subcommittee and many others.

    [DOWNLOAD THIS RELEASE HERE]

  • Posted on: September 25th, 2023

    Community First Fund Receives $30 Million New Markets Tax Credit Allocation from US Treasury CDFI Fund

    Lancaster, PA – Community First Fund is pleased to announce the receipt of $30 million New Markets Tax Credit allocation from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institution Fund.  Community First Fund was selected as one of 102 awardees from applicants requesting a total of $14.8 billion in tax credit allocation.

    The New Markets Tax Credit Program (NMTC Program) helps economically distressed communities attract private investment capital.  This federal tax credit helps to fill project financing gaps by enabling investors to make larger investments than would otherwise be possible.  Communities benefit from jobs created and the development of housing and public facilities such as health, education, and workforce development entities.

    “We are extremely proud of this accomplishment and even more excited about the resources it will bring to the communities we serve,” says Daniel Betancourt, President and CEO of Community First Fund.  “This program allows us to support projects that align with our goal of creating pathways to sustainable and vibrant communities that create jobs, provide affordable housing, grant access to healthy foods, promote access to healthcare and serve as a catalyst for even more community development initiatives.”

    The program is directed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s CDFI Fund and allocated to local Community Development Entities (CDEs) across the United States.  Community First Fund is a certified CDE. This allocation will give Community First Fund the authority to provide tax credits to investors who can then make qualified investments into impactful projects.

    Community First Fund has now been awarded a total of $120 million in New Markets Tax Credits to revitalize low-income communities throughout eastern and central Pennsylvania since 2013.  Previous projects provided financing to: expand workforce development training opportunities, create grocery stores in areas designated as a USDA “food deserts,” develop affordable housing, and redevelop blighted space into commercial and mixed-use facilities.

     

    About Community First Fund

    Community First Fund is a private, independent non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) whose mission is to provide capital in places where it is not usually available. We seek to create positive change in the community by providing entrepreneurs, commercial real estate and affordable housing developers as well as nonprofits with access to loans for projects that generate jobs, create housing opportunities, essential community facilities, and that help to revitalize communities. www.communityfirstfund.org.

  • Posted on: September 1st, 2023

    Community First Fund to Participate in House Democratic Policy Committee Hearing

    LANCASTER, PA – Representatives from Community First Fund will be joining other community leaders to discuss Community Development and Financial Institutions at a PA House Democratic Policy Committee Hearing on Friday, September 8.

    Rep. Ismail Smith-Wade-El from the 49th District in Lancaster is hosting the hearing on Community Development and Financial Institutions at Thaddeus Stevens College at 1pm.  The hearing will feature three panels, with the second featuring Community First Fund panelists: Jonathan Encarnacion, Community First Fund Board Member and Alba Fernandez, Senior Vice President, Director of Lending.

    Jonathan and Alba will be joined in the hearing by Jose Lopez, CEO of the Spanish American Civic Association (SACA), Marlyn Barbosa, Chief Workforce Development Officer, SACA, and Jamie Arroyo, Executive Director of Assets.

    The hearing is open to the public.  Testimony from the hearing will be posted to pahouse.com/policycommittee/hearingmaterials.

    About Community First Fund

    Community First Fund is a private, independent non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) whose mission is to provide capital in places where it is not usually available. We seek to create positive change in the community by providing entrepreneurs, commercial real estate and affordable housing developers as well as nonprofits with access to loans for projects that generate jobs, create housing opportunities, essential community facilities, and that help to revitalize communities. www.communityfirstfund.org.

  • Posted on: June 13th, 2023

    Community First Fund named FHLBank Pittsburgh’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Membership Award Recipient

    LANCASTER, PA – Community First Fund has been selected as the recipient of the 2023 Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh’s (FHLBank) Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Membership Award.  Community First Fund will be recognized at FHLBank’s member event in Philadelphia on June 26.

    The award celebrates FHLBank member financial institutions that have implemented or supported impactful, innovative diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives or programs in their communities.  Being selected for this award also serves to inform and inspire other financial institutions to enhance their commitments to DEI work in their communities.

    FHLBank selected Community First Fund for its community impact across eastern Pennsylvania through its Economic Justice Fund Program.  Community First Fund is committed to creating inclusive and vibrant communities that increases economic prosperity for everyone.  Its Economic Justice Fund Program, created in 2020, reflects Community First Fund’s mission and commitment to serving People of Color, women, immigrants, and low-income individuals and communities.

    The Economic Justice Fund Program coupled with Community First Fund’s technical assistance programs closes the opportunity gap for small business owners and entrepreneurs to start, grow, and expand their businesses, create jobs, advance economic mobility and increase financial stability in their community.  The program supports minority business owners whose business serve and are located in a disadvantaged community.

    Community First Fund is grateful for the recognition from FHLBank and is committed to advancing its work uplifting diversity while building wealth and financial equity.

    About Community First Fund

    Community First Fund is a private, independent non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) whose mission is to provide capital in places where it is not usually available. We seek to create positive change in the community by providing entrepreneurs, commercial real estate and affordable housing developers as well as nonprofits with access to loans for projects that generate jobs, create housing opportunities, essential community facilities, and that help to revitalize communities. www.communityfirstfund.org.

    About FHLBank Pittsburgh

    FHLBank Pittsburgh provides reliable funding and liquidity to its member financial institutions, which include commercial and savings banks, community development financial institutions, credit unions and insurance companies in Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. FHLBank products and resources help support community lending, housing and economic development. As one of 11 Federal Home Loan Banks established by Congress, FHLBank has been an integral and reliable part of the financial system since 1932. Learn more by visiting www.fhlb-pgh.com.

    You can read FHLBank Pittsburgh’s announcement here.

  • Posted on: May 17th, 2023

    $750,000 Loan Closing for Suit Company Inc.

    Philadelphia – Angel Rosario, Director of Community Lending, Lancaster, joins representatives from Suit Corner LLC, to close a $750,000 loan to refinance a loan from a predatory lender.  The refinanced real estate loan and business lines of credit will be critical in helping Suit Corner LLC achieve its revised business plan and continue to serve its community.

    Suit Corner is a Philadelphia urban men’s clothing store on Market Street in Center City Philadelphia near Penn’s Landing, Olde City, Society Hill, Independence Mall, and the National Museum of American Jewish History. Suit Corner sells men’s fashion and employs a full-time tailor to help clients get their orders quickly. The business has been open for over 60 years.

    The business initially started as a manufacturing business that made Rooster (brand) ties and shipped them to department stores all over the northeast.  The business grew to include three stores
    next to each other. In March 2014, three generations of the family business came tumbling down. The famed Shirt Corner at 3rd and Market Street collapsed during a controlled demolition. A month later, tragedy struck again when the family’s sister business, the Suit Corner, was set ablaze. By May 2014, the business had reopened a block down the street and continued to succeed.

    In June 2020, more than six years after the fire, the business re-opened at their original
    location. Gone is the corner building in favor of a smaller, modern storefront at 302 Market Street, known simply as the Shirt Corner again.