Thanks to Rochester Safe and Efficient Homes Initiative, Rochester Homeowner can make needed repairs

Nate Sheppard from ABC and Al Rayburn, Technical Services Manager at NeighborWorks Rochester, with homeowner, Joyce Vereecke.

The following was written by guest-blogger, Elizabeth McDade, Program Coordinator for the Rochester Safe and Efficient Homes Initiative (RSEHI)

In December 2014, Joyce Vereecke was served with divorce papers and asked to vacate her home with her two daughters. It was just before Christmas and the younger daughter was a senior in high school. Joyce, her daughters, and two dogs moved into a hotel room where they lived for over two months while Joyce searched for a new home. After deciding to buy a house and moving into it, it was discovered that the person who sold it to her did not have the right to do so. Once again, they had to move.

The family moved into a home on Dickinson Street in Rochester two years ago. The house was nice but needed some repairs and, as Joyce says, she was “not handy.” There was also the question of finding time to do home repairs—in addition to working part time and taking care of her children, Joyce also helped care for her mother who was in assisted living and suffering from dementia.

From the day they moved in, Joyce has slept downstairs in the living room because “one window fell right into the house when the wind blew” and the other window “couldn’t fully close or be locked.” Joyce slept on the couch because “If someone came in the house through one of those windows, I wouldn’t have heard them upstairs in my room…and I have two daughters!”

Joyce worked with NeighborWorks Rochester in Spring 2017 because her sewer line was backed up and needed repair. “We couldn’t flush the toilet or take a shower. You can’t show up at work if you don’t take a shower.” NeighborWorks brought this project to the RSEHI table because they couldn’t do weatherization work without getting the sewer line replaced, but their funding did not cover that scope of work. RSEHI approved a new sewer line (and sidewalk replacement) at $3,650.00. NeighborWorks was able to provide $7,365.99 worth of insulation and health and safety interventions for a total of $10,995.99.

This Fall, Joyce qualified for the ABC Weatherization program. ABC suggested that Joyce apply for the City of Rochester Window’s Program. ABC installed a new furnace and various health and safety items worth $3,168.00. The City of Rochester provided windows valued at $1,316.00 and RSEHI provided $1,600.00 to install the windows for a total of $6,084.00 worth of work.

Through various programs with NeighborWorks Rochester, Action for a Better Community, City of Rochester Windows Program, and the Rochester Safe and Efficient Homes Initiative, Joyce and her family have received a new sewer line, insulation, a high efficiency furnace, air sealing, a new door, other health/safety and weatherization interventions, AND eight new windows that close and lock.

For the first time in two years Joyce is sleeping upstairs in her own bed.

Learn more about the RSEHI program

Learn more about NeighborWorks Rochester Energy Services

United Way Day of Caring – Volunteers Rock!

NeighborWorks Rochester was thrilled to be a host site again for this year’s Day of Caring event sponsored by the United Way of Greater Rochester! For the third straight year, the Harris Corporation sent a team of

Harris Corporation team
Harris Corporation team

volunteers to our not-for-profit organization. Once again, this incredible team was extremely helpful in tackling many building and yard projects, making our organization look it’s best for our customers, neighbors, and partners. Led by Dana Colbert, the group spent time weeding and spreading mulch throughout our entire property. They patched parking lot potholes, cleaned windows and appliances, and also did some painting for us. No project was too grimy or gritty for them, and they did it all with a smile! We look forward to seeing them every year!! Some of our NeighborWorks staff worked side-by-side with the Harris team, while others tackled large projects indoors! I can’t thank The Harris Corporation and NeighborWorks Rochester Teams enough for beautify our landscape inside and out!

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NeighborWorks® Rochester welcomes new leadership

JPB editedNeighborWorks® Rochester is pleased to announce the appointment of Joanne Panarisi-Bottone, LCSW, as Executive Director. Ms. Panarisi-Bottone is an experienced professional with hands-on team and leadership development, having previously worked at several large area non-profit organizations.

“Joanne has significant non-profit leadership experience and brings knowledge and strength in managing efficiencies and developing employee talent. We are very excited to have her experience managing staff, as well as her high level of passion for the Rochester community,” stated Matthew McDermott, President of the NeighborWorks® Rochester Board of Directors.

Ms. Panarisi-Bottone has a Master’s degree from Syracuse University and earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Nazareth College in Rochester, NY. She is the Board Chair of NCBI Rochester and lives in Rochester with her wife, where they both share a passion for animals. Please join us in welcoming Joanne to the NeighborWorks® Rochester team!

JP Morgan Chase receives Partner of the Year Award


Ron Sellers and Deborah Johnson of JP Morgan Chase, Kim Brumber of NeighborWorks Community Partners and Maureen Murphy of NeighborWorks Rochester.
Ron Sellers and Deborah Johnson of JP Morgan Chase, Kim Brumber of NeighborWorks Community Partners and Maureen Murphy of NeighborWorks Rochester.

NeighborWorks® Rochester presented its Partner of the Year Award at its 2016 Annual Meeting, held April 7th at the agency. The event was a celebration of a year of services provided to new and current homeowners in the Rochester area, as well as an opportunity to recognize individuals and organizations that were significant supporters.

 JP Morgan Chase was honored as the Partner of The Year in recognition of their collaboration, commitment and leadership. Maureen Murphy, Executive Director of NeighborWorks® Rochester, stated, “We are sincerely appreciative of JP Morgan Chase’s many years of support. They were selected because of the way their corporate culture supports us, allowing us to reach well over 1,000 neighbors in 2015. Whether it is through encouraging Chase employee to volunteer, providing financial support for our first-time homebuyer and financial education programs, their commitment to our team’s excellence with continued training or sponsoring our Annual Event, Chase is the strongest of partners.”

Close to 80 guests at the event heard about the impact of the previous year, including that 400 people attended NeighborWorks® Rochester’s Homebuyer Orientation in 2015.  At least 155 individuals were able to realize their dream of homeownership because of the organization’s Home Buyer Program. The majority of people who received loans used them to help purchase their first home while many existing homeowners were able to obtain funds to repair or upgrade their homes. Individuals who took part in Energy Services programs were able to save, on average, $30-$50 per month. More growth is expected in the coming year.

Staff of the Month: Matthew Hjelmhaug

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As part of the team here at NeighborWorks® Rochester, Matthew Hjelmhaug leads the way as our Chief Financial Officer. Matthew plays a key role leading our financial team which includes overseeing the finances of the organization, loan servicing, payments, accounting, lending and developing financial reports for the Board of Directors. As a NeighborWorks® Rochester employee of 4 ½ years, he is a great benefit to the crew!

“I love that we help people directly and educate them,” replied Matthew to what he enjoyed most about working at NeighborWorks® Rochester.  “People leave feeling better about their situation; we give people the tools to improve their lives.”

Matthew spends his spare time with family.  This can involve a variety of activities ranging from playing Legos to walking. It can also include him keeping the kids from killing each other and enjoying some time at the Strong Museum!

“Home to me means a place where I can be myself.”

Staff of the Month: Griselle Hernandez









As the FIS Landlord Initiative Coordinator, Griselle Hernandez, “Gigi”, certainly has her work cut out for her. Since she came on as an employee February 2014, Gigi busily works for the city contacting landlords regarding home rehabilitation, beautification and lead assessments. Once she contacts the landlord, she sends them an application, which the city administration will either approve or deny the project moving forward. Although Gigi started recently at NeighborWorks® Rochester as an employee, it is certainly not her first time here; from October to November 2013 she worked as an office intern at NeighborWorks® Rochester while attending Rochester Educational Opportunity through SUNY Brockport. Through school she recently received the Outstanding Student of the Year Award, congratulations Gigi and welcome aboard!

So far, Miss Hernandez enjoys working here and claims that her favorite part is the people; she appreciates her colleagues and meeting new customers. While speaking about her coworkers she said “We all have different personalities, but we work together well, as a family. We are silly but take our jobs seriously… and we like to eat. A LOT.”

During her time away from work she enjoys playing with her Chihuahua and her two nephews. Since her nephews are 8 and 1 there is plenty to do from babysitting them, watching cartoons with them and making sure they do their homework!

Home to Gigi is where her “fur baby” is at.

Staff of the Month: Stephanie Dibble


As the Loan Servicing Coordinator, Stephanie Dibble plays an important role at NeighborWorks® Rochester! A typical day can include processing loan payments, accounting and title work, creating Discharges, Liens and Satisfactions and answering customer’s questions regarding their loan. Stephanie’s field of study is Finance with a Bachelor’s Degree in Corporate Finance; she joined NeighborWorks® Rochester towards the end of 2013 with 7-8 years’ experience in the Title Insurance Industry.

Ms. Dibble’s favorite aspect about working at NeighborWorks® Rochester is the office environment; “it is a small office and laid back, people trust you with a certain amount of freedom. The people here are so nice.” She also stated that the ability to work for the community helping people improve their lives gives one a sense of satisfaction. “You don’t feel like a cog in a machine, you are actually making a difference. I enjoy meeting the loan clients on a personal level and I can put a face to a name.”

In her spare time, Stephanie is an avid reader and can’t say no to a good book! She enjoys watching movies and spending time with her friends, family and fiancé, whom she will be married to in October of 2015. When it’s warm she likes outdoor activity and enjoys trekking to Buffalo each month to visit her grandparents.

“Home to me is a loving, comforting place where you can always find your way back.”

Staff of the Month: Tammy Major


Have you ever gotten a loan through NeighborWorks® Rochester? If you have in the past year and a half, you have met our Lending Coordinator, Tammy Major.  Through her work here, she educates customers on lending products and services; while meeting one-on-one with clients, she helps them pull together credit report reviews, budgets and getting their finances in order so they can obtain a loan. In addition to meeting with customers on an individual basis, Tammy teaches some of the homebuyer classes, advising her students on their journey to homeownership.

When asked what she enjoys most about working at NeighborWorks® Rochester, she instantly replied: “I enjoy working with our customers and helping them achieve their lending and homeownership goals. We were able to help one customer in particular recently, a retired senior citizen, who was unable to use her kitchen and bathroom. Through the lending program, we were able to help her remodel her bathroom and kitchen. ” She also appreciates her coworkers, the overall environment and believes it is a great team striving towards goals to help our customers.

When there is time outside of work, Tammy loves spending time with her husband and kids. One big thing that she likes taking her kids to is the library to pick out books. They also enjoy spending time watching movies, playing games and spending time outside.

To Tammy, home means security, achievement and happiness.

Staff of the Month: Lynnette Robinson


Lynnette Robinson, Homeownership Advisor, began working at NeighborWorks® Rochester in January of 2013 as the FIS Landlord Initiative Coordinator and in May moved to her current position. Her typical day includes working as a collections liaison and making sure customers that have taken out a loan will not go into default. A key part of her process is building relationships with homeowners and making the process easier for them: “my mission is to bring them above water and help them stay there.” She stated that one of the aspects she likes most about working here would be “the people. Everybody; the customers and coworkers are wonderful.”

Prior to NeighborWorks® Rochester, Lynnette was unemployed for three years, during which she spent 50-60 hours a week volunteering as a community capacity builder. Part of this included building up neighborhoods through block clubs and community activities. Her main areas of time were spent in the southwest portion of the city and the 19th ward, where NeighborWorks® Rochester was well known. Because of her hard work in the community, Eric Van Dusen, COO of NeighborWorks® Rochester, contacted Lynnette regarding an available position. Although busy with her new role, she is still deeply involved in the community.

When asked the question of what she does in her spare Lynnette jokes, “I don’t have any.” Quickly following the joke she made sure to voice her desire to continually connect with personal friends. She also enjoys planning events, parties and likes to make people happy.

Home to Lynnette means “security, safety, pride and love”

Biography of Migdalia Toro


” Home to me means a warm, inviting family place filled with peace, comfort, love, laughter, and dreams.”


Migdalia Toro known as Maggie Toro was born to Felix Luis Otero, blue collar worker, and Ana Celia Otero, homemaker, in Coamo, Puerto Rico. Within her first year of life, her parents moved to Brooklyn, New York and in her second year her mother became legally blind; her family continued to live in Brooklyn in the Farragut Housing projects next to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Fort Greene. Her educational journey began in Brooklyn until 7th grade, at which point, her parents had decided there was too much violence in the schools, and sent both her and her brother Luis Alberto to Salinas, Puerto Rico to finish school.  Once Migdalia graduated high school, she attended one semester at the Inter American University of Rio Piedras, and decided to return to Brooklyn to complete her college education. She has been happily married to her husband Luis Norberto Toro for 15 years, who was also raised in Brooklyn, but their lives crossed paths in Rochester. Her brother, in fact, was her husband’s mailman in Brooklyn.


Mrs. Toro is the Homeownership Coordinator for NeighborWorks® Rochester. She is responsible for teaching Homeownership classes, providing program budgeting, and counseling participants on credit. Through the Homeownership Program in 2012, Migdalia helped create 123 brand new homeowners. Through her time here she has been trained at several national NeighborWorks® Training and received certification in Homeownership Education, Mortgage Lending, Homeownership Counseling, and Foreclosure. She received the NeighborWorks Rochester 2011 Employee of the year Award.

Prior to joining NeighborWorks® Rochester, Mrs. Toro was a Certified Credit Counselor and Housing Counselor at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Rochester providing Credit and Debt Management Counseling, Bankruptcy Counseling and Foreclosure Prevention During this time, she taught Money Management, Energy Conservation to RG&E’s Recap Program participants, and Pre and Post Bankruptcy Classes. Additionally, in 2009, Mrs. Toro volunteered to be a Financial Coach in C.A.S.H. where she helped a program participant achieve their financial dream of becoming a homeowner.

From 1980 to 1987 Migdalia worked as a Legal Assistant for a Brooklyn Law firm Weinbaum & Price focusing on Real Estate, Landlord and Tenant law. Both attorneys from the firm took Migdalia under their wings, and taught her how to complete Case Law Research, write Legal Briefs, process Real Estate Closings, and accomplish writing her first Appeal at the age of 19. In the fall of 1987, Mrs. Toro moved with her parents and brother to Rochester. She worked as a Legal Assistant at the Law firm of Pauley and Barney, focusing on Matrimonial and Real Estate Law while volunteering at her Church on weekends and traveling with her brother to the Mink Farm in Bloomfield, New York to teach Religious Education to the children of the Migrant workers.  In 1990, she worked as a Billing Specialist for St. Mary’s Hospital Satellite Offices near Clinton Avenue and Dewey Avenue doing third party billing.

In 1991, she worked as a Pastoral Assistant for St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church organizing Liturgical Celebrations, and teaching Religious Education to the Youth Group.  She also was a participating member of the Diocese of Rochester’s Synod Committee, and would travel to Geneva, New York for the meetings. In 1992, she worked for DiMarco and Riley Law firm focusing on Collection, and Real Estate Law. In 1995, Mrs. Toro went on to work for 8 years with Mr. DiMarco’s brother at Admar Supply Company as Credit and Collection Specialist. In 2004 she worked as Accounts Receivable and Collection Specialist for Dox Electronics.


Mrs. Toro received her BA in Political Science in 1984 from Saint Francis College in Brooklyn New York. While attending, she was a Senator on the Student Government Council and received an award for her dedication and service to the History and Political Science Society. She participated in The History and Political Society’s fundraisers, and raised $3,000.00 to help with the repairs of the Statue of Liberty Torch.