Dorothy Richardson Awards for Resident Leadership

Celebrating resident leadership

For more than 20 years, the Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership has been bestowed annually in recognition of outstanding contributions by dedicated community leaders. Awardees have often been lifetime volunteers and neighborhood advocates. Each of their stories and photos represents an important piece of our NeighborWorks history and serves as an example of what each of us can do for our community.
I believe people get their roots down when they own their houses...take pride in them. That, in turn, is good for a whole city. Why should a neighborhood be a slum when it can be a place of good, liveable homes?
- Dorothy Richardson

Origins of the award

The award is named in honor of Dorothy Richardson, a pioneer in the community-based development movement who was the driving force behind the establishment of Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. in Pittsburgh, the forerunner of today's NeighborWorks America network.

Richardson and her neighbors banded together in the 1960s to save their declining Pittsburgh neighborhood from demolition. They recruited partners in local government and the business community. Together, they not only helped revitalize their community, but also set a precedent that changed the nation's approach to urban redevelopment and spawned the new field of community-based development.

2013 Winners

Rosa Ramirez
St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society
Northeast Region

Rosa Ramirez moved from Puerto Rico to Camden, NJ with her family in the early 1950s at a time when “Latinos were seen and not heard.” She became a community activist and leader from a young age and has inspired a generation of Latino leaders in the city. Ramirez was involved in the early days of St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society and has been a board member for 24 years. Her accomplishments include developing a vision for Camden that led to the Camden Recovery Act and helping to bring community policing, the Camden Home Improvement Program, and over 900 units of affordable housing to Camden.

“My community and I have worked very hard, and I accept this award not in my name, but in the name of the people that have worked so hard with the Carpenter Society. I am very proud of this award, but when I come back home, I want to go back and tell the people in Camden, 'this is what we got, our work was recognized!', and that means a lot to me and to our neighbors.”


Edith DesMarais
Laconia Area Community Land Trust
Northeast Region

Edith "Edie" DesMarais moved to Wolfeboro, NH in the late 1960s and has been an active community leader and volunteer there for 45 years. In 1973, after a community survey determined a pressing need for quality affordable day care services, DesMarais and a small group of local women stepped forward and eventually founded the nonprofit Wolfeboro Area Children’s Center. Today, the center is the area's tenth largest employer, providing local employment and economic benefits in a rural area. It has served more than 5,000 families and more than 7,000 children. DesMarais next turned her attention to the quality of affordable housing. Over several years, she helped build regional support to change zoning and land use laws that blocked the creation of affordable housing. Edie also founded the Eastern Lakes Affordable Housing Coalition and successfully raised $250,000 in donations to secure land for their first housing project.

“My community is important to me because I live here and I love its people and how they are willing to work together to improve it. I raised my children here, and appreciate the education they received, and how they feel safe and learn from the people around.”
Nancy Grayson
NeighborWorks Waco
Rocky Mountain Region

Nancy Grayson, a teacher and small business owner, has dedicated her life to creating positive change in her community. Starting with 16 small children in a basement of a church, she began a school for disadvantaged children, which has now grown to more than 500 students in pre-K through twelfth grade. Due to high parent involvement, 100 percent of students graduate and enroll in higher education. Grayson’s vision has now taken her from the formation of the school to ensuring a bright future for East Waco and especially the Elm Avenue area. Grayson has now opened "Lula Jane's," a bakery on the avenue, to help bolster the local economy and contribute to the sense of local pride.

“Make mistakes, make a lot of mistakes, they are your best way to learn that there is a better way to do it. I am a mistake celebrator, if we think we’ve got it right, we’ll never grow and get better. I always try my hardest to get things right, but I also am not afraid to take risks and make mistakes.”
Fronie Jones
Orlando Neighborhood Improvement Corporation
Southern Region

Fronie Jones moved to Palm Grove in 1995 and immediately engaged herself in the community. Over the past 20 years, she has become such a presence that she is seen as the "glue" that connects residents with one another, and the "grandmother" who knows all the children and ensures their needs are met in a community that is a safe place to live, work and play. Jones has worked with KaBOOM to build six playgrounds and recruited 50 percent of the young participants in the Prodigy cultural arts' after-school program at Palm Grove. Additionally, Jones has brought her neighborhood association into a Neighborhood Alliance Network, which focuses on eliminating crime and drugs while instilling pride and safe opportunities for community building activities and events. She serves on multiple boards, including that of Orlando Neighborhood Improvement Corporation. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer recently recognized her as the 2013 Community Builder of Orlando.

“My faith has been my inspiration. When you are working with people you learn to love them and it is easier on you to love their good things and not the faults. You have to have patience to do community work, find people who can help you. This is a community effort and you can’t do it alone.”
Jenifer Scherer
CommonBond Communities
Midwest Region

Jenifer Scherer, a former teacher, has not allowed Multiple Sclerosis to deter her from being an active spokesperson in her neighborhood and for others with MS. Scherer organizes movie nights and welcome wagons for new residents of Kinsley Commons. Scherer has also made a difference by helping to secure funding for a free handicap-accessible neighborhood bus ride system, and an improved wheelchair and foot access at the railway city street intersection. She helped to develop the “Take the Great Mobility Challenge” and is now recognized by the city of Minneapolis for her expertise on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Don’t be afraid of being wrong. It is important to share the ideas with other people in your community. Ideally a community should be a group of people that work together to help make the place they live better for themselves as well as others.”
Stephanie Francis
NeighborWorks Homeownership Center Sacramento
Pacific Region

Stephanie Francis is a single mother of an 8-year-old son and her desire to create a safe and healthy environment for her family has led her to work on neighborhood, school, and environmental issues at the city level. Under Stephanie's leadership, the Fruitridge Manor Neighborhood Association has been a vital resource in WALKSacramento's efforts to involve residents in enhancing pedestrian and bicycling safety in the South Sacramento area. She has also participated in the California Endowment's Building Healthy Communities initiative as co-chair of the evaluation committee. Francis has devoted countless hours to NeighborWorks Homeownership Center Sacramento, her neighborhood, and her community to enhance quality of life for all. She has been instrumental in revitalizing her neighborhood association through her personal outreach and inspiration that sparks involvement of other residents.

“I live in a very culturally linguistically diverse community. So there is a constant need to find common ground that connects, because at the end of the day, everyone wants the same for their families.”


2012 Winners
2011 Winners
2010 Winners