Third Annual Wachovia NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance

Community and Shelter Assistance (CASA) of Oregon, a nonprofit group based in Newberg, was one of four groups to win a $25,000 grant from Wachovia Bank, according to a Thursday press release.

“It was really unexpected,” said executive director Peter Hainey. “We haven’t quite decided what to do with the grant yet – but I expect it will go to fund our ongoing housing programs.”

The grants were awarded as part of the third annual Wachovia NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance, which honors organizations that work to create economic opportunity in underserved markets for low-income people.

CASA of Oregon won the award in recognition of its work on behalf of farm workers and other low-income populations in Oregon, including development loans for housing projects, housing location and financial assistance for migrant workers, and organizational and legislative representation for mobile home residents.

Since its inception in 1988, CASA has developed 29 multi-housing projects, totaling nearly 1,100 units of housing for farm workers and their families, with another 64 units under development. The organization has completed eight community facility projects, built eight single family homes and preserved over 100 units that otherwise would be taken off the market.

In 2001, CASA was certified by the U.S. Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and established a $4.8 million loan fund for predevelopment and construction financing.

There are more than 700 CDFIs in the United States, including banks, credit unions, loan funds and venture capital funds, all of which work to create economic opportunity in disadvantaged and hard-to-serve markets as their primary mission.

CASA’s certification as a CDFI allowed it to become eligible for the grant. Additionally, Wachovia merged with Wells Fargo Bank last year, and Wells Fargo’s Oregon Region Community Development manager, Judith Olsen of Portland, serves on the CASA of Oregon board of directors.

Also awarded were Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation of Shawnee, Okla., for community services; Pacific Community Ventures of San Francisco, Calif., for its work in providing health care access and financial literacy training; and Seedco Financial Services, Inc. of New York City for its post-hurricanes Katrina and Rita business lending program in Louisiana.

By David Sale