Low-income housing. Source: Shutterstock.

A Wisconsin nonprofit has won a $10,000 grant to increase affordable housing after being nominated for the award by Community First Credit Union of Neenah, Wis., 40 miles southwest of Green Bay ($4.5 billion in assets, 146,454 members).

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago awarded one of its “Community First Awards” to Pillars of Appleton, six miles north of Neenah in northeastern Wisconsin. It was one of three nonprofits receiving the annual award.

Tim Hoff, Community First’s chief lending officer and a member of Pillars’ volunteer board of directors, said Pillars identified the need for affordable housing in the community and crafted a solution.

“Creating opportunities to have multiple individuals living together with some shared space was really innovative and has done great things for our community,” Hoff said in a May 24 news release.

Pillars’ Single-Room Occupancy program involves rehabilitating blighted single-family homes to be made available to formerly homeless individuals progressing on a path toward self-sufficiency.

Joe Mauthe, Pillars’ executive director, said the nonprofit opened its first-single room occupancy dwelling in 2018 and three more have opened since, thanks in part to Community First’s reduced-interest line of credit that helped make the rehabilitation work affordable.

“Pillars exists because the community cares about the people who live here and wanting to do something to make this community a better place,” Mauthe said.

“We can’t do this work ourselves,” Mauthe added. “We’ve been partners with CFCU for a long time and they have backed us in so many ways – from some of the financing behind our projects, to Tim’s role on our board providing leadership to our agency, to some of the fundraising that happens year-round in the agency.”

Community First volunteers were involved for many years in three nonprofits that merged to form Pillars in 2018: Homeless Connections, Fox Valley Warming Shelter and the Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities.

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago is one of 11 FHLB’s created in 1932 as a U.S. government-sponsored enterprise to support mortgage lending and community investment. The other two other nonprofit recipients of its $10,000 Community First Awards announced April 30 were:

  • Busey Bank’s bilingual banking center in the St. Louis area received an award in the “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” category. It has been operating since 2015 in the Fairmont City (Ill.) Library, located in predominantly Hispanic community where more than 40% of residents live below the poverty line.
  • The North Lawndale Employment Network in the Chicago area received an award in the “Economic Development” category for its job placement, training and financial coaching programs. It was nominated by Inland Bank of Oak Brook, Ill.