Get to know Jennifer Hawkins of ONE Neighborhood Builders

Your name: Jennifer Hawkins, Executive Director
Nonprofit name: ONE Neighborhood Builders
Website: https://oneneighborhoodbuilders.org/
Blog: https://oneneighborhoodbuilders.org/blog/
Twitter: @1_neighborhood
Facebook: @ONENeighborhoodBuilders
Instagram: one_neighborhoodbuilders

1. Tell us about your nonprofit’s mission. 
ONE Neighborhood Builders has a mission to develop affordable housing and engage neighbors across Greater Providence to cultivate healthy, vibrant, and safe communities.
2. Is there a story behind your organization’s name? 
In 2015, Olneyville Housing Corporation and Community Works Rhode Island merged together, and the newly-resulting organization was named ONE Neighborhood Builders.
3. How long has One Neighborhood Builders been operating in Rhode Island? 
Olneyville Housing corporation was formed in 1988 by a coalition of neighborhood residents, the Nickerson House Community Center, and Councilwoman Josephine DiRuzzo to address foreclosed and abandoned properties in the neighborhood, as well as the lack of affordable housing. Since then, we have developed 643 affordable homes and more than 57,500 square feet of commercial and community space. We believe that health starts at home, which is why it is so important for all families to have a good, safe home they can afford. But ONE|NB does more than just create housing: we created the first free community wireless network in Rhode Island; we are the convenor of the Central Providence Health Equity Zone, which brings together residents, community organizations, health professionals, and others to address root causes of health disparities; and we are the “backbone” organization of the Central Providence Opportunities initiative, an $8 million pilot program to increase economic resiliency and opportunity in two central Providence zip codes.
4. Who would use your services? 
Our housing ranges from studios to four-bedrooms; from rental apartments to single-family homes. All our homes are built to be affordable; a single person who earns $30,000 is a great fit for a studio apartment; a four-person family with an income of $100,000 may want to buy one of our for-sale homes. We’re also working to address the root causes of health disparities – we have a team of community health workers who are on the ground every day, helping our neighbors overcome barriers to health.
5. How is the need specific to Rhode Island?
While the need for quality housing isn’t specific to Rhode Island, it’s where we’re headquartered. We know our community well, which helps us respond to the unique issues our neighbors face. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we quickly realized that it was making the digital divide even more severe. Pre-COVID, lack on in-home internet was an inconvenience; it quickly became a core equity and justice issue. Without reliable internet, children can’t attend remote classes and do schoolwork, and parents can’t work from home, access telehealth care, participate in higher education, or public meetings. This past summer we launched a donation campaign and created a free Wi-Fi mesh network covering about 3,000 households in Olneyville. It went live on November 25th!
6. What is your role in the organization?
I am the President and Executive Director. I have the privilege of leading – and being challenged by – a superlative and committed team of 22 employees. Together, we rely on input of the community to guide our work and hold us accountable to delivering on our mission.
7. What do you love about what you do? 
There is no greater feeling than seeing a family walk through the door of their new home. It’s life-changing. Everything starts at home – it’s the foundation for everything else.
8. How do you fundraise for your activities?
We receive funding from a range of sources: federal and state, as well as corporate and private donors. Recently, we raised more than $280,000 to create ONE|NB Connects – our free community Wi-Fi network in Olneyville. To accomplish this we solicited corporate partners, leveraged professional contacts, and fundraised from small donors.
9. How can I {heart} Rhody readers help? 
Readers who are in a position to do so, are enthusiastically invited to contribute financially to ONE|NB during United Way of RI’s 401 Gives or anytime via our our website. And there are plenty of non-monetary contributions that are needed. Help us raise awareness. Follow us on social media, like and share our posts. Tell your elected officials that you support our work. Those things help!
10. What do you {heart} about Rhode Island? 
Rhode Island is a small state with a huge heart. I heart Rhode Island’s heart! We all know each other, and that helps us take care of our neighbors.
Originally published on March 15, 2021 at www.iheartrhody.com

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