We’re so lucky at NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley to have a Board of Directors comprised of hardworking, committed team-players who work tirelessly at our mission of building affordable housing and enriching community life.
In this series, you’ll get to know the people behind the NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley Board.
Let’s get to know current board member, Nancy Paradee.
Tell us about yourself.
Hello! My name is Nancy Paradee. While I had always planned to be a teacher in a low income neighborhood, fresh out of college I took a job in the Vermont Employment Training Office, and my supervisor was a model of activism, client-centeredness and independent thinking. With that as my foundation and inspiration, I began a journey in community services that took me to two coasts and lasted 45 years. There were many learning experiences along the way, and I finally realized that social work on an organizational level was my career match. I moved to Seattle to get my Masters in Social Work at UW, and took a position administering youth employment programs for the City of Seattle. When my family returned East, I managed a program providing vocational services to persons with developmental disabilities and persons with severe and persistent mental illness.
These experiences prepared me for what was my dream job of managing a small agency in a low income neighborhood. So in 1991, I became the director of the Woonsocket Shelter Community Action Program, and my office was located in the Sayles Street Shelter that continues to serve the community to this day. That’s how I met Joe Garlick. That little agency eventually became part of Community Care Alliance, where I managed housing and homeless services, basic needs services, employment training and the youth center until I retired in 2020.
My personal life is made very rich by my children and grandchildren. My daughter became the talented teacher that I wasn’t, and my son got his start in the construction project management business as a result of his internship at NWBRV. (Thank you, Joe!) My four grandchildren light up my life, but I am also an avid amateur photographer and gardener. And I am still active in the community through St. James Episcopal Church. I will always be a Woonsocket advocate!
How long have you served on the board?
I’ve been on the Board so long it’s hard to remember not being a member! I joined in the early 1990’s. At the time I was the local Community Action Program director, and Joe was the head of the local Community Development Corporation, so I think it was a natural fit once we got to know each other.
What inspired you to serve on the NWBRV board?
Anyone who has met Joe Garlick knows of his vision and commitment. We shared the hope to bring good things to Woonsocket, and I felt the CDC could do things my agency couldn’t to make that happen. My agency did not have the expertise to develop housing. Our expertise was services. But housing and services often need to be closely linked, in order to support tenant families through the up’s and down’s of life. My becoming a Board member brought an opportunity to strengthen the linkage between housing and services.
What would you like your friends and family to know about NWBRV?
I remember being very honored when Joe asked me to join the Board, and I continue to be inspired to serve this outstanding organization. NWBRV is multi-faceted – not only are we a housing developer, we are a community builder. I have become particularly interested in the various youth programs NW operates, as the future of Woonsocket depends on supporting young people to achieve to their potential and respect one another.
Can you share something that NWBRV has accomplished during your time on the board that you’re particularly proud of?
When I first came to Woonsocket and worked in the shelter (which is located in the Constitution Hill neighborhood), the housing around us was of poor quality, there was a noisy bar behind the shelter (now the Chaplin Perez Center), there was almost no green space and neighbors no longer sat on their front porches to relax and socialize due to undesirable activity in the area. NBRV transformed that neighborhood, so that folks could be proud to live there and feel more safe. It seemed almost magical at the time. Riding through the neighborhood now, I can hardly remember a time when it was so run down. I am proud to be part of the organization that has improved the quality of life so much.