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NJCDC Partners with the Reinvestment Fund to Host Community Development Convening in Paterson

NJCDC Partners with the Reinvestment Fund to Host Community Development Convening in Paterson

June 5, 2024

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On May 21 and 22, community development professionals visited Paterson for a convening hosted by the Reinvestment Fund’s Building Healthier, More Equitable Communities (BHEC) initiative. The BHEC initiative, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, supports cross-sector collaboration in four New Jersey cities — including Paterson — to address systemic barriers to equitable health and opportunities. The convening focused on Transformative Systems Change for Equitable Community Development, and throughout the event, NJCDC — and other Paterson nonprofits — shared the innovative work we are doing to make Paterson a healthier and more equitable city.

On May 21, the morning began at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson. Attendees were welcomed by St. Joseph’s leadership, before receiving an overview of health equity needs in Paterson. After a delicious lunch and networking with fellow professionals, the attendees went next door to tour Barclay Place Apartments. We opened Barclay Place last July as the first development under the State of New Jersey’s new Hospital Housing Partnership Program, which addresses the relationship between health and affordable housing. Through this program, NJCDC partnered with St. Joseph’s Health and New Jersey Community Capital to create affordable, healthy housing with on-site health services for low-income Patersonians with chronic medical conditions.

The guests then went on a bus tour of Paterson, where they viewed other projects supported by the BHEC initiative. They also got to visit the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, before ending the day with a reception hosted by fellow Paterson nonprofit, Oasis – A Haven for Women and Children.


The convening began again early on Wednesday morning at NJCDC’s Great Falls Youth Center. After a brief welcome from the Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, there was a panel on BHEC projects throughout New Jersey. In addition to projects in Paterson, the initiative also supports projects in Asbury Park, Camden, and Newark. Project coordinators from each of these cities shared their insights on what they have accomplished so far.

Taiisa Kelly, CEO of Monarch Housing Associates, then hosted a question-and-answer session. The four panelists — including NJCDC’s Founder and CEO, Bob Guarasci — discussed strategies for using community development programs to improve social determinants of health. The social determinants of health framework recognizes the role of various socioeconomic factors — including poverty, educational attainment, and affordable housing — in a person’s overall health and wellness.


Throughout the day, attendees had the opportunity to attend working sessions on strategies and solutions in the community development sector. These working sessions addressed a variety of topics, including land use policies, public health data, equitable food systems, and resident-led advocacy. After lunch, we welcomed the convening’s keynote speaker, April De Simone, founder and Managing Principal of The Practice of Democracy, who spoke about new approaches to engaging residents in equitable community development. The event ended with brief closing remarks.

Jennifer Fassbender, Director of Program Initiatives at the Reinvestment Fund, said, “Today we’re at the Great Falls Youth Center, and we’re looking forward to working with folks from across different sectors — from healthcare, to community development, to local resident organizations — to really think about what folks need to thrive.”


“We’re so grateful to the Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for their support of our work to create a healthier and more equitable Paterson,” said Bob Guarasci, NJCDC’s Founder and CEO. “It was exciting to speak with brilliant people from across New Jersey who all share the goal of building stronger urban communities. Along with our Paterson partners, we appreciated the opportunity to share the work we’ve done so far, and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with the Paterson BHEC team in innovative, cross-sector efforts to build a stronger Paterson.”

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