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Working Together: Partnerships for Comprehensive Community Development

October 25, 2023 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm EDT

This webinar will explore the defining features of comprehensive community development (CCD) along with successful strategies. Dynamic panelists will offer core principles guiding their CCD collaborations between communities, resident leaders, nonprofits, funders, and other stakeholders. We’ll hear about lessons learned and key design considerations that drive effective initiatives and get an up-close look at two of these partnerships.

This is the eighth webinar in our webinar series sponsored by NeighborWorks® America.


Paul Singh (Moderator) – As Vice President of Community Initiatives, Paul Singh leads NeighborWorks America’s support for comprehensive community development efforts that build vibrant local communities that provide equitable opportunities for people to thrive. Singh oversees the Stable Communities, Community Building and Engagement, Rural and Healthy Homes and Communities Initiatives and the work of these teams to elevate and strengthen local practice through grant making, technical assistance, capacity building, peer-to-peer learning, demonstration projects, stakeholder convenings, and research.

Prior to joining NeighborWorks in 2012, Singh was a Program Officer at LISC where he managed multiple programs delivering technical assistance and training to nonprofits. Singh got his start in community development at Historic Saint Paul, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the historic character of his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota. He has a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Minnesota and an undergraduate degree from Macalester College.

Melissa Gaston Melissa Gaston is a community organizer in Charlotte, North Carolina. Melissa has a lifelong passion for helping others and working in the community.  She has served in numerous roles within the community. She currently serves on the Charlotte Mecklenburg Planning Commission and the Neighborhood Equity and Stabilization Commission (NEST), previously she served on the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Central Advisory Council.  She is a co-founder and the Executive Director for the non-profit, The North End Community Coalition (NECC). She and the co-founder of North End Community Coalition realized that there is an urgent need to help to preserve, protect and persevere in the eight neighborhoods which are under the North End Community Coalition. The coalition represents an area which is rapidly changing in Charlotte.

In addition to her work as executive director, she is a Realtor ® with her own firm. Melissa Gaston Realty focuses on assisting buyers, sellers, investors, and property management.  She currently is the listing agent for an affordable housing developer who targets buyers in the 80% Area Median Income and handles property management for investors who specifically provide affordable housing to individuals with affordable rental units.

Melissa has a voracious appetite for reading and education. She holds an MBA and Masters in Human Resources Management from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Pfeiffer University. In addition to her work in the community, you can find her spending time with her grandkids or shopping on Amazon.

Kevin Taylor-  Born and raised in Waterbury, Connecticut, Kevin T. Taylor, a graduate of Hampton University, is the Executive Director of Neighborhood Housing Services of Waterbury, Inc. (NHSW) where he serves as public spokesperson for the organization, directs all aspects of the organization, accountable for strategic planning, human resources, finance management, fundraising, management leadership, and policy-making (in joint effort with Board of Directors), and turning “neighborhood of circumstances” into “neighborhood of choices.”As the Senior Project Manager at the Waterbury Development Corporation (WDC) where he supervised and managed various projects for the City of Waterbury, including the $36 million dollar restoration of the historic Waterbury City Hall designed by renowned architect Cass Gilbert. In just two years at the WDC, Kevin Taylor has built and led one of the regions leading brownfield cleanup programs, garnering national attention and millions in state and federal grants for Waterbury. In addition, Kevin played an instrumental role in the city’s neighborhood revitalization efforts in the north and south end of Waterbury.

In 2010, Mr. Taylor founded m.e.s.h., an architectural design-oriented practice focused on modern design and urban planning with a focus on sustainability. His deeply held belief is that design excellence must serve a greater purpose and enrich lives by the way one experiences and interacts with architecture and space.

Making his home in the house he grew up in, Kevin is married to his best friend and has three children.

Tamar Kotelchuck –Tamar Kotelchuck is a Vice President in the Regional & Community Outreach (R&CO) department, the Bank’s community development unit, which focuses on improving outcomes for low-income people and communities across New England.Tamar currently leads the Bank’s Working Places Initiatives, which catalyzes economic growth in low-income smaller cities and rural areas. Tamar oversees the Bank’s three active initiatives in Connecticut, Vermont and Maine, as well as our network of past rounds in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She and her team have been responsible for all aspects of the Working Cities and Working Communities challenges model – a program that has generated significant cross-sector collaboration in New England cities, and involved new levels of Bank partnership with public, private, nonprofit, and philanthropic leaders – from concept to completion.  Her team is also reponsible for Leaders for Equitable Local Economies (LELE) which supports diverse leaders for economic development in smaller cities, and are developing a new initiative – Inclusive Economies – to connect inclusive economic growth initiatives in these areas with best practice and capital.

Before joining the Bank in 2012, Tamar helped to co-found and held a range of positions at Lawrence CommunityWorks in Lawrence, MA, a NeighborWorks organization and a leading community development corporation, and held a number of statewide leadership roles. Tamar brings 25 years of experience in community and economic development in smaller cities, where she has led more than $70 million in public and private investment.

Tamar lives and is raising her family in  Lawrence, MA and actively volunteers with a number of local nonprofits. She is bilingual in Spanish and has a Master in City Planning degree from MIT.


Julie Porter– Born and raised in the Midwest, Julie Porter has spent much of her professional career improving lives and neighborhoods through working to revitalize urban communities. Porter is a graduate of Wichita State University with a degree in Business Administration. In 1994 she joined Mercantile Bank in Kansas City and served first as an Assistant Vice President of Operations and Real Estate and then as Vice President of Construction Lending, often providing critical financing to build affordable housing.

In 2000, Porter left banking to concentrate on community development and joined Greater Kansas City LISC as Senior Program Officer, responsible for administration, lending and finance. In this role, she underwrote and closed loans for a wide variety of community development projects benefiting Kansas City neighborhoods.

In 2004, Porter was promoted to Executive Director of Greater Kansas City LISC and launched NeighborhoodsNOW, a comprehensive revitalization program. NeighborhoodsNOW mission was to rebuild targeted urban core neighborhoods physically, economically and socially. During her tenure as Executive Director, Porter garnered private and government grants of over $10 million.

In 2013, Porter left Greater Kansas City LISC and joined DreamKey Partners, formerly Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, as President. Porter has overseen the addition of 564 multi-family apartments for Charlotte’s working families and seniors to the DreamKey Partners’ already impressive portfolio of 1,380 units. This includes the DreamKey Partners’ first supportive housing community, a 20-unit project geared toward formerly homeless Veterans and their families. Porter was also instrumental in winning a hard-fought rezoning for Weddington Road, a workforce housing community which will eventually serve 70 families and give them access to excellent schools and opportunity for advancement.

Porter remains committed to comprehensive redevelopment of neighborhoods and has dedicated significant time to completing Brightwalk, an 88-acre master-planned community purposely designed for a mix of incomes. During her tenure, she also oversaw commercial development efforts on Statesville Avenue and a range of revitalization strategies in partnership with leaders in the Druid Hills community.



October 25, 2023
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
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