HOLYOKE — Nueva Esperanza Inc. (NEI) board of directors named Nelson Rafael Roman executive director of Nueva Esperanza’s community, property and cultural development corporation. First appointed interim director in June of 2017, Roman previously worked at Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen & Pantry in Chicopee Mass. Prior to that, he was associate director of operations at the LightHouse Personalized Education for Teens Center in Holyoke. Nelson’s story of overcoming obstacles of homeless, poverty, HIV and discrimination as an openly Gay male have all given him rich context into the work he is now leading at Nueva Esperanza.
“Nelson’s leadership, passion, superb business acumen, strong operational skills, fundraising talents, team-building focus, and dedication to building strong powerful and vibrant Puerto Rican/Afro Caribbean Community of Holyoke will only strengthen our institution and the City of Holyoke as whole,” said Irene Feliciano-Sims, Board President.
Roman is currently on the Board of Advisers for the Sojourner Truth School for Social Change and Leadership, the Co-Chair of the Puerto Rican Cultural District Council of Holyoke, and the Puerto Rican/Afro Caribbean Cultural Center of Holyoke. In addition, Nelson has served as the Ward 2 City Council representative since 2016. Business West included Roman in its 40 Under Forty class of 2017, and El Mundo Boston included Roman in its Latino 30 Under 30 for 2017.
“We are excited and humbled to have Nelson as our new executive director,” said Mildred Lefebvre, chair of Nueva Esperanza’s personnel committee. “He brings great credibility and deep community connections that are needed to help take Nueava Esperanza next level.” Roman in one year has increased Nueva Esperanza’s budget, filed all back taxes and has assisted the agency in becoming 501 C 3 pending status again with the Internal Revenue Services, he has worked in collaboration the City of Holyoke to demo the abandoned and most dangerous building in the City at 405 Main Street, has begun programming/services that have assisted Nueva in seeing over 2,300 families during the past year. Nelson also led Nueva in the recovery efforts of Puerto Rico.
“I am humbled and grateful that the Board of Directors for selecting me as the latest steward in a long line of legendary individuals who have led this amazing organization. I would be re-missed if I didn’t thank the Community and all of the men but more importantly the strong women who have helped build Nueva Esperanza to what it is today. ” Roman said. “Furthermore, Nueva is forever indebted to Mr. Stephen Huntley, and Valley Opportunity Council Inc. for serving as our fiscal agent and partner in the rebuilding and rebirth of the renovated and now stronger Nueva Esperanza.”
Nueva Esperanza, Inc. was originally founded in 1982 by the residents of many landlord-neglected apartment buildings in South Holyoke, one of four neighborhoods in what was once the industrial heart of the city. The founders mobilized residents, collaboratively assisted by three other social organizations, and on their behalf secured the needed financing to rehabilitate the properties in order to provide safe and affordable housing. With great success, the organization incorporated as a community development corporation (CDC) and expanded it’s mission to include social and community services for all the neighborhood residents.
Today, Nueva Esperanza, Inc. is regarded as a pioneer for community-based programs in Holyoke that celebrate and highlight the Puerto Rican/Afro Caribbean Culture. Nueva is rooted in its new Mission and Vision that will help it rise again from the ashes to a place of developing the community as a whole.