A New Center for Education and Opportunity

Newark’s Ironbound District is a community of 50,000 that since the 19th century has attracted immigrants from around the world, especially in recent years from the Portuguese-speaking countries of Portugal, Brazil and Cape Verde. But today, despite its rich, diverse cultural heritage, the Ironbound faces critical challenges. Twenty-five percent of its residents live in poverty. Its elementary schools are so crowded that each year many of its children are unable to attend kindergarten due to the lack of space.

Those are challenges that the Legion of Good Will (LGW) is determined to take on.

With financial support and technical assistance from Leviticus Fund, LGW is developing the Paiva Netto Educational and Social Assistance Center, a new community facility that will provide early learning and after-school programs for children in the Ironbound as well as a variety of humanitarian programs and services for local residents.

LGW was founded in Brazil in 1950 to offer educational and social assistance programs to help break the cycle of poverty in underserved communities. The organization now operates a network of nonprofits in seven countries. Its affiliate in New York, which is creating the new center in Newark, was established in 1986.

The new Paiva Netto Educational and Social Assistance Center — named for LGW’s current president — will be the organization’s first early learning and social assistance center in the U.S. It is expected to serve 96 schoolchildren and 1,300 low-income families each year.

Leviticus provided a $626,020 construction-to-mini-permanent loan — our first loan to LGW — for the development of the new center. We also provided extensive technical assistance on structuring and managing construction financing. LGW’s office in New York had little experience managing a real estate development project and benefited from support in navigating the customary loan closing requirements of a lender.

Aware of the tremendous importance of this project to the people of the Ironbound, our team worked closely with LGW over several months to provide guidance so we could close the loan and disburse the funds for this transformative project. LGW’s staff is now better prepared for any future real estate development opportunities.