BRUNSWICK — A national coalition has awarded the Genesis Community Loan Fund the first-ever Trailblazer Award for exemplary service by a Community Development Financial Institution. CDFIs are lenders across the country that provide fair, responsible financing to rural, urban, Native, and other communities that mainstream finance doesn’t traditionally reach.

The National Disability Finance Coalition selected the Brunswick-based Genesis Fund because of its record of success delivering financial products and services to people with disabilities as well as incorporating accessibility into the fund’s priorities for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“We’re grateful and proud to be recognized as trailblazers expanding options for community-based facilities for housing, education, recovery, and more for people with disabilities,” said Liza Fleming-Ives, executive director of the Genesis Fund. “This is a central part of our work and substantial amount of our loan portfolio. In fact, 30 percent of Genesis Fund loans over the past three years have benefited nearly 800 people with disabilities.

“The transformative power of this work is confirmed when I hear feedback such as what a new resident recently shared: ‘Living here is a breath of fresh air.’”

Founded 30 years ago by Midcoast Maine residents concerned about a lack of affordable housing for their neighbors, the Genesis Fund, which works across Maine and in New Hampshire communities, expanded on its founders’ approach by becoming certified as a CDFI in 2002.

As the winner of the NDFC Trailblazer Award, the Genesis Fund was honored in New York City on Oct. 21 at the sold-out annual conference of the Opportunity Finance Network, attended by more than 2,000 people who are part of the nationwide CDFI network. Genesis will receive a $10,000 stipend as part of the award, to benefit individuals with disabilities.

“Congratulations to a great organization on receiving the inaugural NDFC Trailblazer Award!” said Charles D. Hammerman, NDFC board chair. Hammerman helped launch the national coalition in 2015 to highlight the exemplary efforts by CDFIs to address the needs of people with disabilities and their families. Private philanthropy supports the Trailblazer Award.

Among the loans and technical assistance the Genesis Fund provides for diverse rural and urban community development projects are loans to create, rehab and/or preserve safe, accessible, and affordable multifamily rental housing for individuals to live independently, without being cost-burdened by unaffordable rents. In addition, for people with disabilities such as chronic mental illness, substance use disorders, intellectual and development disabilities (I/DD), and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Genesis makes loans to develop transitional and permanent supportive housing in which residents receive services in a community-based setting.

At the award presentation in New York, three other applicants received honorable mentions: Solar Energy Loan Fund, for financing for home improvements for people with disabilities; Justine Petersen, for providing credit-builder loans to people with disabilities; and Mobility Trust, for financing wheelchair accessible vans and accessibility equipment.

The Genesis Fund brings together resources to create housing and other economic and social opportunities with people and places being left out of the mainstream economy. We make projects happen that otherwise wouldn’t, throughout Maine and in other communities in Northern New England. We do this by lending capital, delivering expert advice, leveraging our experience to promote systemic change and policy solutions, and opening channels for people and institutions to move resources toward community needs.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL DISABILITY FINANCE COALITITON: NDFC is the only national organization in the United States supporting community development financial institutions (CDFIs) that serve the historically underserved target market of people with disabilities, their families, and the communities in which they live, work, and go to school. Launched in 2015 and incorporated in 2017, NDCF operates as a 501c3 membership network of CDFIs, financial institutions, disability service providers, and individuals with disabilities addressing the unique set of challenges faced by people with disabilities and their families. The NDFC network represents over 100 organizations across the United States, including over 40 organizations that have received dedicated funding from the CDFI Fund (DF-FA) to advance lending and development services to people with disabilities.