SWAN settlement house joins statewide policy organization

Southwest Area Neighborhood Association Inc. at Montgomery Neighborhood Center has joined United Neighborhood Houses, a policy and social change organization. UNH is a network of settlement houses that now has 45 members.

“We believe deeply in the power of the settlement house movement to reinforce neighborhoods with local residents and resources at the center,” said UNH Executive Director Susan Stamler in a statement. “Expanding our footprint beyond New York City limits is an important step in effecting meaningful change in legislative districts throughout New York. We’re pleased to welcome SWAN Inc. at Montgomery Neighborhood Center as a new member of the movement.”

SWAN serves some 2,000 people annually and runs a variety of vital programs for participants of all ages including an extended day program for youth ages 6 to 14, a senior nutrition program with a recently added garden, emergency services for families, community safety initiatives and a neighborhood preservation program.

The Montgomery center was founded in 1956 as one of Rochester’s original settlement houses and caters to Rochester’s Southwest area neighborhoods, hence the acronym SWAN.

“Affiliation with partners in purpose is an invaluable resource of organizations like ours whose goal is to better the lives of the community we serve,” said SWAN Executive Director Tiffany Owens. “We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and working in concert with UNH in advocating for conditions that inspire, include and illuminate hope.”

UNH promotes strong organizations and practices that keep neighborhoods thriving by providing members and their staff access to professional development opportunities, peer learning, and guidance and research to support their work, officials noted.

“On behalf of the Southwest Area Neighborhood Association Inc. board of directors, it is an esteemed honor to have the affiliate membership with United Neighborhood Houses,” said SWAN board President Woody Hammond. “Our organization’s vision and mission will be enhanced with the advocacy and support of such a pristine organization of high regard for New York state communities at large.”

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Northeast, northwest settlement houses to unite

Charles Settlement House and the Community Place of Greater Rochester will become permanently affiliated on Oct. 1, following three years of close collaboration, the two nonprofits said Thursday.

This affiliation will enable both agencies to maintain their identities while strengthening and growing the programs and services they provide in the neighborhoods of northwest and northeast Rochester.

Since 2018, Charles Settlement House and the Community Place have operated with a shared CEO, and the two organizations have shared some administrative services, including finance and human resources.

While not a merger, the affiliation makes the arrangements, which have been renewed annually by both agencies’ boards of directors, permanent. It allows Charles Settlement House and the Community Place to continue operating as separate organizations but under the governance of a joint board of directors that includes members of each agency’s original boards. All administrative functions will be shared, and there will be no cutbacks or reductions in staffing.

“Our three years of collaboration made it clear that we could improve our services and become stronger organizations by making this affiliation permanent,” said Scott Benjamin, who has served as CEO for Charles Settlement House since 2006 and for both agencies since 2018. “We share many of the same programs for youth, families and seniors and will be able to leverage expertise across both agencies. At the same time, the savings of a combined administration and governance will be reinvested into our programs and employees — providing opportunities to grow and serve more people.”

The combined board of directors will be led initially by co-chairs John Olsan, currently board chair at the Community Place, and Lydia Fernandez, currently board chair at Charles Settlement House.

“I am very excited and proud about our new affiliation with Charles Settlement House,” Olsan said. “After sharing an executive and working collaboratively for the past three years, the affiliation is the next logical step. Both organizations will be stronger by having combined governance. We will be able to address the service needs in our respective areas with more resources. Additionally, our organizations will maintain their identities, which reflect years of service to the Rochester community.”

The Community Place, established in 2001 from the merger of Lewis Street Center, Genesee Settlement House and Eastside Community Center, serves residents in northeast Rochester. The agency serves more than 10,000 individuals through its programs and services.

Charles Settlement House, established in 1917, serves Rochester’s northwest neighborhoods, including JOSANA, Edgerton, Dutchtown, Brown Square, Lyell-Otis, Maplewood and Charlotte. More than 3,000 individuals use its programs and services.

“We are excited to extend our collaboration with the Community Place,” Fernandez said. “Working together has allowed us both to remain strong, trusted resources in our neighborhoods, and this affiliation will provide the agility necessary for our organizations to continue meeting the changing needs of our community. The combined experience of these organizations represents nearly 400 years of service to Rochester.”

The United Way of Greater Rochester and the Fingers Lakes supported the work to finalize the affiliation through a Synergy grant from its Community Impact Fund. Technical assistance was provided by the New York Council of Nonprofits.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer