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LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J., January 22, 2024 – The Communities First Initiative (CFI) Board of Directors is pleased to announce the appointment of Phyllis Salowe-Kaye as executive director, effective January 19.


CEO of Community Investment Strategies (CIS) Inc., and award-winning affordable housing developer, Christiana Foglio, shared her excitement about the strategic partnership between CIS and Communities First.


“The addition of Phyllis to the CIS family, brings a new level of attention and commitment to resident life within CIS communities. Shelter is only one aspect of the needs of income restricted residents,” said Foglio “CIS has done a great job addressing this need for over 30 years, but the real measurement of success, is how well families and seniors live within our communities. Having Phyllis in this key role and directing the complimentary services gives a whole new meaning to our commitment to quality of life.”


Leadership New Jersey Citizen Action 

New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA) is a statewide coalition and grassroots organization that fights for social, racial, and economic justice for all. Salowe-Kaye served as executive director for 37 years, and under her leadership, the organization provided direct services and support to over 18,000 families and seniors across New Jersey.

For years, these services have empowered families to build economic security by providing rental and foreclosure counseling, first-time home buyer education, eviction prevention, education, individual financial coaching, free tax preparation, healthcare enrollment, and student loan repayment assistance.

During her decades at NJCA, Salowe-Kaye, staff, and community advocates negotiated Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Agreements with banks doing business in New Jersey, totaling over $45 billion in below-market-rate mortgages, discounted home improvement loans, construction and permanent financing, small business loans targeted to women and minorities, and community and economic development funding.


Phyllis Salowe-Kaye Boards Served


--Appointed by Governor Phil Murphy to the Public Bank Implementation Task Force


--Federal Reserve National Consumer Advisory Council 


-- Housing Transition Team- Governor Jon Corzine, Governor Phil Murphy, and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka 


--Housing Task Force-Governor Tom Kean


--National Community Advisory Board (CAB)-Ocwen Financial Corporation, PNC Bank, Investors Bank, Santander Bank, Regional CAB-Santander Bank, Valley National Bancorp


--Founding Board member of Shelterforce-national housing publication and the National Housing Institute


Communities First Initiative (CFI)

Communities First, is a women-led, majority-minority nonprofit organization focused on serving and empowering low- and moderate-income individuals and families through housing and social services. The organization focuses on serving women and minorities while collaborating with the government and other entities to combine the tools needed for residents to thrive. 

As executive director, Salowe-Kaye will provide CIS residents with direct services such as food security, financial literacy, and healthcare enrollment to residents in the 4,000 CIS-owned units statewide. She will develop educational presentations and disperse information about opportunities for residents' community involvement.

"I'm excited to be joining Chris Foglio and the CIS family as I take on the role of executive director at Communities First," said Salowe-Kaye. "By providing safe and affordable housing coupled with a wide range of direct social services and access to education and research, thousands of low-and-moderate income families and seniors will be provided with the opportunity to thrive."

Salowe-Kaye will also collaborate with financial institutions to reinforce compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and the new regulations that have been proposed by conducting market research and assisting them in product development and community outreach to targeted LMI communities.

"Building on her legacy leadership of New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA), we are excited at the true opportunity this presents for CIS and the families that call our communities their home." said Foglio

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J., December 13, 2023 –Community First Initiative (CFI), the nonprofit partner of Community Investment Strategies (CIS) Inc., has received a $10,000 grant from Citizens Bank in addition to other private and philanthropic funds for the nonprofits Making C.E.N.T.S. (Championing Economic Navigation for Transformational Success) program. The grant will help provide financial literacy education to women in CIS-owned units.


CFI is a minority, women-led nonprofit focused on serving and empowering low-income individuals and families through housing and social services. The organization focuses on serving women and minorities while collaborating with the government and other entities to combine the tools needed for residents to thrive.


Through Citizens Bank, Citizens Helping Citizens Initiative that aims to focus on financial empowerment and workforce development, the grant funds will be deployed at the onset of the Making C.E.N.T.S. program, scheduled to begin in January 2024.


“By partnering with CFI and Citizens’, CIS is able to fulfill its vision of providing quality affordable housing along with services and programs that empower and support its residents,” said Chief Operating Officer of CIS, Jeffrey Crum. 


The $10,000 grant awarded will be combined with an additional $40,000 in other private and philanthropic funds to enable CFI to develop, facilitate, and run the program.


Through interactive financial education programming, the Making C.E.N.T.S. program advances diversity and social equity within Monmouth and Union Counties.


The program will cater to women living in affordable housing and seek to address gender disparities by targeting a demographic vulnerable to financial hardship.


“CIS is grateful for Citizens Bank’s meaningful support,” Crum said.


Key program elements include budgeting skills, banking and savings, mentorship impact, and financial education.

September 15, 2023 LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ — Communities First Initiative (CFI), in collaboration with its valued partners, proudly announces the groundbreaking of the transformative Elizabeth Place project. This visionary initiative represents our commitment to fostering inclusive communities that uplift residents through the creation of 20 affordable housing units in the heart of downtown Haddonfield, NJ - a high impact community.

The construction, a significant step toward realizing our mission, is scheduled to take place in October. This family-oriented endeavor underscores our vision of providing affordable housing within walking distance of vibrant community activities, ensuring that residents can enjoy both the comfort of home and the benefits of an engaging neighborhood.

Elizabeth Place is more than just a housing project; it's a symbol of our unwavering dedication to transforming affordable housing into thriving, inclusive communities. With a commitment from the DCA, construction is set to commence, marking a significant milestone on our journey to empower individuals and families with accessible and sustainable living options in high-opportunity areas.

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