Equipped to Better Her Community Via Real Estate Educators

Equipped to Better Her Community Via Real Estate Educators

Lisa Freeman’s first interaction with Omicelo Cares was through their partner, Neighborhood Allies. Together these two organizations created the Real Estate Co-powerment Series, a program that would steer Freeman to unique education and $475,000 for her farm and greenhouse in the Manchester section of Pittsburgh. 

Freeman, the owner of Freeman Family Farm and Greenhouse and a graduate of the Real Estate Co-powerment Series, said that the education she received through Omicelo Cares helped her succeed because it was an essential part of her foundation. 

“[Freeman Family Farm and Greenhouse has] grown because [Omicelo Cares is] part of my foundation,” she said. “It will always be.”

The course helped her develop a plan in the visionary stage of her business by gaining a fundamental understanding of the ins and outs of how developers work. 

Freeman took Omicelo Cares’ Real Estate Co-powerment Series with two intentions:

  1. To obtain a more in-depth understanding of real estate.
  2. To further understand gentrification and if it could somehow be good for her community.

While her education in community organizing gave her what she calls a “peripheral view” of real estate, it didn’t entirely give her the expansive knowledge developers have. And that’s what she was looking for. 

“Omicelo Cares was the forefront in helping me understand real estate, and now I understand who the players are and how [I] can be the player,” Freeman said. 

Through this course, she gained the foundation, knowledge, and courage she needed to build on her property and purchase more land. She is currently in the process of buying various properties with vacant homes with the intention of renovating them for better use and building back up that specific block, one property at a time.

A Driving Desire to Care for Her Community

With two master’s degrees — one in social work and one in public administration — Freeman has a clear desire to impact her community. As a matter of fact, her major focus was on community organizing and community building. And this motivation to improve her neighborhood is seen clearly throughout all her work experience.

Her first initiative upon moving to Pittsburgh was the formation of a school community garden. It was created to teach kids compassion and how to care and nurture for something other than themselves when they live in such a violent world. “The garden was meant to grow people,” Freeman said.

Out of this initiative came the birth of her business: Freeman Family Farm and Greenhouse. Located in the historic district of Manchester, Freeman Family Farm and Greenhouse strives to bring together the community by bridging ethnic, gender, or age gaps.

Growth, Nurture, and Impact

“We are all the same when we are playing in the dirt,” Freeman said.

Freeman Family Farms intends to help people because a farmer’s primary purpose is to ensure that their community is fed and cared for. “We grow for the marginal residents, the medically vulnerable residents, and the elderly.”

Freeman’s farm does not operate as a typical business; instead, they grow and give away through free marketplaces hosted by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Foodbank.

More than growing food for the community, Freeman Family Farms and Greenhouse also offers individuals a safe space. These people can come to the farm and rest and meditate, turning off all the voices in their heads, while they help with farm tasks such as weeding. 

“You can hear the birds, the crickets, the bees, the smells, the sights, and it’s just you and me,” she said. “And if there’s something you want to share or something I can offer you, a resource, then that’s what we do.”

Omicelo Cares helped Freeman expand her farm in numerous ways. Three years after graduation, she is now able to begin building greengrocers. The farm has received $300,000 in assistance from the USDA that will be able to support Freeman Family Farm and its mission. They have also received $175,000 to assist in building a greengrocer farmers market for the community.

Since taking the course, Freeman has received funding from USDA, The Food Trust, the PA Department of Agriculture, the Alleghany County Health Department, and others.

Omicelo Cares Real Estate Educators Growing You

Freeman emphasized that the class is for anyone who wants to learn more about real estate and make a change in their community.

“It was a broad range of people who participated,” she said. Participants can be individuals like herself or from housing agencies, the government, the CDC, or anywhere else. Registration is open to everyone.

“Anybody in their community who wants to make a change can be the change, and Omicelo Cares gave me the skills to know how to be that changemaker,” she said.Learn more about Omicelo Cares’ Real Estate Co-powerment series and how you can make a change for the better in your community.

The Truth About Building Healthy Communities

Living in a community is an essential human necessity. The support we get from our neighbors, families, schools, and local businesses is critical to our health and well-being. 

But as a community ages and begins to show signs of deterioration, changes are required to keep it alive and thriving. Here in America, it’s common for developers to target an older neighborhood for “revitalization”; yet too often that means pushing the established residents out and rebuilding the area with new shops, businesses, and expensive homes. 

What can the average resident do to strengthen older communities and keep neighbors and families together? The key is understanding the connection between housing, health, and wealth — and then taking strategic steps to fortify all three areas. 

You — yes, YOU, a community resident — can be a part of the solution. In fact, when you understand what it takes to build a healthy community, you may be surprised to discover how much of a difference you can make. 

Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to build — or rebuild — a healthy community. We’ll discuss the qualities and benefits of building healthy communities, how locals can get involved, and explore some resources that can equip you to be a proactive part of the solution. 

What Is a Healthy Community? 

Maintaining a community that is safe, clean, productive, and mentally stable requires three core elements to functioning effectively: housing, health, and wealth. These three areas are inseparably linked:

• In order for residents to be healthy, they need safe and reliable housing, as well as money to keep it that way. 

• Proper housing requires funding and investment to ensure that homes are adequately equipped for their residents. 

• Building wealth in a community requires that its residents are healthy, have a safe and dependable home, and have opportunities for generating consistent income.

When all three of these areas are being addressed with the community’s best interests in mind, only then is it possible to begin building a healthy community. 

The Benefits of Building Healthy Communities

Building healthy communities is important for a number of reasons: 

• When communities are healthy, they are more likely to thrive economically and environmentally.

• Healthy communities have a lower crime rate and a stronger social network.

• Creating a sense of community can help reduce stress and promote social cohesion.

• They are more resilient in the face of natural disasters or other crises.

• They provide opportunities for social and economic mobility for their residents.

• Healthy communities can lead to improved mental health for residents.

• They foster creativity and innovation by encouraging people to come together to problem solve.

• Building healthy communities can have a positive impact on the local economy.

• Building healthy communities helps us connect with our surroundings in ways that can be beneficial both physically and emotionally.

How to Get Involved in Building Healthy Communities

Communities are essential to creating a healthy environment for all residents. But it doesn’t happen without the intentional, proactive efforts of the community members. 

There are many ways to get involved in building healthy communities, and everyone has something to contribute. The benefits of community involvement include improved communication and cooperation between neighbors, as well as stronger ties within the community itself.

For example, you may know an elderly neighbor who lives in a home that’s no longer safe for them. Perhaps they’re unable to go up and down their stairs or have mobility issues that prevent them from living independently. However, with some local funding and a few essential home modifications, that neighbor can continue to live in their home and be a part of their beloved community.

Organizations like Omicelo Cares exist to help community members and local business operators to take productive steps toward strengthening their neighborhoods and bringing new life to aging communities. We understand that local resident and business participation is critical for the future well-being of our communities, and there are many ways we can support it.

Resources for Building Healthy Communities

Community leaders and residents need to be aware of the resources available to help them build healthy communities. These resources include programs and policies that promote health, education about health and healthy living, and financial assistance for those looking to make changes in their lifestyle. 

Omicelo Cares offers resources to help community leaders implement programs and policies that support a healthy lifestyle and a safer living environment. We believe neighborhoods can create promise for all community members. Our mission is to “CO-POWER existing community members in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods to own financial assets, grow their businesses, and lift their incomes.”

We offer several resources that help local community members learn the skills it takes to improve their financial situation and contribute to a more vibrant community: 

7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business

We help small businesses by providing deep business support for income growth and sustainability. Our 7 Pillars™ Accelerator advances small businesses through specialized technical assistance and helps these businesses navigate revenue and growth opportunities.

Excel Ahead

Excel Ahead is a 6-8 week course designed to train individuals on Microsoft Excel, providing them with skills that are currently in demand in the workforce. These skills can also prove valuable to landlords and those who are purchasing and developing real estate.

Real Estate Co-Powerment Series

The Real Estate Co-Powerment Series is an education platform designed to demystify the real estate development process. Through in-class instruction, coaching and mentorship, our goal is to demonstrate how community members, organizations, and small business owners can participate and benefit from their own neighborhood revitalization and learn how to get active projects across the finish line.

The Landlord Experience

The Landlord Experience is a series of courses, offered by Omicelo Cares, that is designed to educate and inform landlords. The goals of this program are to promote effective landlord/tenant engagement, present landlord/tenant resources, and provide a formal understanding of rights as a landlord. Course topics include leases, subsidies, avoiding eviction, and more.

Sign up to be notified about upcoming opportunities to participate in an Omicelo Cares program  that can truly make a positive impact on your community. 

Learn More

Growing a Business, Plants, and Community

Growing a Business, Plants, and Community  

Omicelo Cares has enabled business owners in Pittsburgh communities to grow their business through strategic planning within their 7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business program. Within this program, participants have the opportunity to focus on seven sectors of their business: strategy, technology, communication, finance, legal, capital, and people.

Ebony Lunsford-Evans recently graduated from the 2021-22 program of 7 Pillars™, concentrating on the financial pillar of her business.

“It’s helped me as a business owner learn to focus on the important things in my business and keep an eye on the way things grow in business,” she said.

And Lunsford-Evans certainly loves to watch things grow. As an urban farmer and lifelong educator located in the West End of Pittsburgh, Lunsford-Evans has dedicated a good portion of her life to helping things grow: fresh produce, the community members she teaches, and her businesses, Farmer Girl Eb and Out of The End, Incorporated.

Through her participation in Omicelo Cares’ 7 Pillars™ program, Lunsford-Evans had the opportunity to work with attorneys and create a consignment agreement for her business, Farmer Girl Eb. Before she completed this program, her consignment agreement created a 100% increase in entrepreneurial partnerships for her produce store.

The 7 Pillars™ Process: Growing Her Business

Through the 7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business program, Omicelo Cares came alongside Lunsford-Evans to help her build her strategic plan. Her plan outlined her personal and financial goals in a yearly structure. Omicelo Cares’ employees were able to support her by helping her to create a clear focus on where she was headed. As a result, this strategic plan produced tangible results.

With the guidance of Omicelo Cares, Lunsford-Evans increased her entrepreneurial partnerships by 100% before completing the 7 Pillars program.

During the program, Lunsford-Evans felt respected for who she was in her creativity. She said that the Omicelo Cares Staff supported and guided her by listening to her goals and recognizing her strengths. This support enabled her to successfully develop her business into what she truly wanted it to be. 

Impacting Her Community Through Growing Plants

Lunsford-Evans began her business pursuit with a desire to educate others. After teaching in the public school, she utilized her skills as an educator to build her business in urban farming and agricultural education. 

She began by renovating an “eye-sore” of a vacant lot into a beautifully lush urban farm. She now owns two urban farms, one in the West End and the other in the North Side. These farms supply her corner produce store, Farmer Girl Eb, along with other entrepreneurs she partners with. 

“We grow fresh produce there on both lots,” Lunsford-Evens said. “They’re both teaching sites for the community to come and learn to grow and sustain fresh food that we grow right in the ground.” 

With these resources, she has impacted her community in many ways. Through her non-profit organization, Out of the End, Inc., she has educated community members on how to sustain and grow food from seed, harvest produces, build a relationship with the land, understand soil health, scale and distribute food, and understand herbal medicines. 

“We have farmers from 3 years old all the way up to 83 years old,” she said about her students within the community. 

Lunsford-Evans explained how the ability to grow and sustain food decreases the social determinants of health, saying, “Now that a lot of people are becoming more aware of how to have a relationship with their land, grow food, and eat healthier, negative impacts on the social determinants of health are decreasing. People are not having the illnesses that they were experiencing.”

She is passionate about educating her community on the importance of eating healthy because of how it can impact their overall health issues. 

“I’ve had to literally tell the community, ‘I’m not a doctor,’” she said. “But I’ve had people literally be healed from just eating right and creating medicine from the land.”

7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business

The 7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business program empowers business owners to create clear goals and achieve substantial results. This program unites business owners passionate about their communities with our experts at Omicelo Cares, who strive to co-power community members to own financial assets, grow their business, and increase their income. 

Lunsford-Evans was able to take part in this program and watch not only her business grow but also the communities she is serving. Her desire to benefit her community overflows into her work as she strives to make fresh food available for the community as a whole.

Learn more about how the 7 Pillars™ of Sustainable Business program can help you impact your community through business growth.