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By Associate Dee Ann Joyner
Director, Portfolio Advisory Board
October 12, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – The Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) gathered via Zoom September 23-24, 2021, for its annual meeting. They welcomed new Board members, Carmen Mora and Joe Barker, who were both introduced on the PAB website last month. Elise García, OP, General Council liaison to the PAB, also attended her first meeting as a voting member following an amendment to the by-laws approved by the General Council in June.
The PAB also recommended to the General Council the appointment of Carla Mannings to an open position of the Board. The PAB recommended a change to the social impact environment policy to limit investments in any company receiving more than 3% of their revenues producing thermal coal or oil sands. The General Council approved both recommendations.
On Day 1 of the meeting, Judy Byron, OP, consultant on shareholder advocacy, facilitated a panel discussing pesticides and their impact on the environment. Margie Weber, a former PAB staff member and member of the Board, discussed the history of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ advocacy activities on pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). She emphasized the long, slow process of changing corporate practices, yet the process does result in important changes.
Caroline Boden, with Mercy Investment Services, discussed the work she has been doing with the Interfaith Coalition for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) with both food and beverage manufacturers and retailers. For example, the ICCR has gotten corporations to commit publicly to reduce their use of pesticides or at least to switch to less toxic treatments. She stressed the leverage these companies have on their supply chain and discussed success in dialogue with Campbell’s Soups and General Mills in reducing pesticide use on the ingredients in their products.
Corinne Sanders, OP, Director of the Congregation’s Office of Sustainability, discussed her office’s work on reducing pesticide use on the Motherhouse Campus. Her office ceased to use chemical-based pesticides that destroy the health of the soil and has transitioned to using neem oil to enhance fruit, berry, and nut tree growth. Neem oil only affects harmful insects, not pollinators.
In conclusion, the panel agreed on the need for a multifaceted approach to advocate consistently and continuously with companies to ensure their policies and practices reduce the use of harmful pesticides and to practice reducing our own personal use whenever and wherever possible.
Sister Judy and Pat Zerega, board consultant on shareholder advocacy from Mercy Investment Services, updated the Board on 2020-21 advocacy activities. On behalf of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, they engaged 43 companies on 65 engagement topics. The Adrian Dominican Sisters filed 17 shareholder resolutions and participated in 55 sign-on letters covering diverse topics. For example, a letter was sent to 21 food and beverage companies on issues of racial justice and food equity.
Pat and Sister Judy also presented the 2021-2022 advocacy plan which the PAB unanimously approved. The plan outlines strategies for PAB’s engagements with companies on issues such as the systemic inequities evident during COVID-19 and the quest for racial justice, as well as advocacy for policies that promote the rights of workers, food justice, and health equity. Investor statements and sign-on letters are often part of the advocacy process in these priority areas.
Day 2 focused on Community Investing. Corinne Florek, OP, Portfolio Manager for PAB, opened the meeting with a reflection excerpted from the social impact finance criteria developed by Richard Rohr’s Center for Contemplation and Action.
Sister Corinne provided historical background on the creation of the Religious Congregations Impact Fund (RCIF), for which she served as Founding Director until her retirement in 2020. Her successor, Sarah Geisler, provided an update on RCIF and its plans for future growth. The Adrian Dominican Sisters joined RCIF as a sponsor in 2017 and moved $1million from the PAB community investing portfolio to RCIF. RCIF and PAB often invest in the same non-profit organizations and collaborate in their approach to impact investing.
PAB then reviewed three loans presented by Sister Corinne. They approved the renewal of loans to Inclusiv, which provides capital to member credit unions serving low-income communities, and Fonkoze USA, a loan fund investing in small businesses in Haiti.
The Board also reviewed a new loan request from the Real People’s Fund, a collaboration among six non-profits serving the East Bay, California area. The purpose of the new Fund is to provide community capital funding to historically divested communities in the East Bay. The minimum loan term is seven years, which is longer that the Congregation’s policy of making loans for terms of one to five years. Because of its enthusiasm about the Real People’s Fund and its possible impact, the Board requested that the General Council amend the policy on the terms of loans so that they can consider approving a loan to the Real People’s Fund at a future meeting.
The last item on the agenda was a review of the community investing social impact criteria with a racial equity lens and discussion on possible changes. The Board postponed this discussion to the next meeting, giving them more time for an in-depth discussion of this important matter.
The next meeting of the PAB is scheduled for March 24-25, 2022.
The Portfolio Advisory Board is pleased to welcome two new members for three-year terms beginning July, 1, 2021.
Joseph Barker II was recently appointed Executive Director of the Sr. Thea Bowman Black Catholic Educational Foundation. Prior to assuming this position, Joe held various teaching and administrative positions with Cristo Rey schools in Atlanta, GA and Charleston, SC. He has also worked in private industry and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in engineering from Florida A & M University.
Joe has a strong commitment to helping African-American youth succeed and volunteers his time with community organizations such as The Black Man Lab, Unbound International Outreach, and West Atlanta Charter School. He currently serves as chair of the board formation committee for Aquinas Center for Theology at Emory University. In nominating Joe for PAB, Mary Priniski, OP, commented “Joe is very energized by the work of PAB and shares a deep commitment to inclusion and racial justice. He is a dynamic leader and not afraid to state his commitments.”
Carmen Mora is Executive Director of Saginaw-Shiawassee Habitat for Humanity where she has worked since 2008. She has also held pastoral ministry roles with various parishes in the Saginaw diocese. She received a Bachelor’s Degree from Barry University in 1995 and a Master’s Degree from Loyola University in New Orleans in 2000.
Carmen’s life focus is to serve those at a disadvantage and give them a hand up. Her volunteer activities are consistent with her work life. She serves as a scholarship grant reviewer for Saginaw Community Foundation; has been president of the Mustard Seed Homeless Shelter; and served as a missionary to the Dominican Republic through Amor en Acción. In nominating Carmen for PAB, Marilín Llanes, OP, stated, “Carmen is a Cuban-American woman steeped in her Latinx roots growing up in Miami, Florida. She is committed to inclusion, equity, and racial justice and wants to be able to contribute her gifts to the work of the PAB.”
As Board members welcomed these two new members to PAB, they also shared their gratitude to Leslie Watson who has completed her term. Chair of PAB Marilín Llanes, OP, expressed the sincere appreciation of the entire Board for Leslie’s commitment to the work of PAB. “We are so grateful for Leslie’s willingness to share her knowledge and experience in community investing with the Board during the past three years. Her active participation has enriched our work and we value her many contributions.”
Sister Corinne Florek, OP, has been praised as the “Godmother” of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDIFs) for her decades of ministry in the field of economic justice and community investment. She was profiled in a special Women’s History Month newsletter produced by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), founded in 1979 by executives of the Ford Foundation.
Through the years, Sister Corinne helped to shape the practice of community development, in which organizations such as the Adrian Dominican Sisters and other religious congregations invest in or make low-income loans to nonprofit organizations that serve the needs of local communities and low-income people.
Sister Corinne was one of the earliest members of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board and now serves as its consultant. She managed craft co-ops for women in Kentucky, ministered at the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, managed community investments for the Sisters of Mercy, and helped to found the Religious Communities Impact Fund.
Read about Sister Corinne and her community investment ministry in the LISC newsletter.
More than 2 billion people in the world – especially women and families living in poverty in rural areas – lack access to formal financial services and therefore live with financial insecurity on a daily basis. Friendship Bridge, like many other microfinance institutions (MFIs) around the world, is committed to providing access to capital, healthcare and health education, non-formal education, and technical assistance to Guatemala women, primarily indigenous, living in poverty. Read the article below to see how the investment by the Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) helps Friendship Bridge achieve its mission.
Article Courtesy of Friendship Bridge
Marcela was scared about the global pandemic. “I asked myself, ‘How are we going to survive?’ We live in Sololá [Guatemala] and we did not have a place to go and buy things,” she recalled. Even if the markets were open, Marcela thought, she would not be able to buy anything without money. “That affected me a lot,” she said.
But fear did not dampen Marcela’s resilient spirit. She had survived the armed conflict in Guatemala. She had become a business entrepreneur despite being widowed with young children. Again and again, she had outsmarted fear with resourcefulness and navigated hardship alongside a strong community of women.
Only a few weeks after learning about the pandemic, she used her hard-earned skills to gain income again. “I made scarves and shawls to survive,” she said. “Sometimes my neighbors celebrated their daughters’ birthdays in lockdown… They came to my house and asked for birthday gifts.”
As a trained artisan, Marcela was already selling her beautiful, textile-woven products to an international market through Friendship Bridge’s online store, Handmade by Friendship Bridge. In March 2020, she started investing more effort into selling to her nearby community to support her family during the earlier months of the pandemic.
Marcela belongs to a Friendship Bridge Trust Bank made up of 18 women, almost all of who became widowed during and after the armed conflict in Guatemala. “They had no way out,” she said, noting that when she herself joined 17 years ago, she only had about three pieces of fabric. “I needed capital in order to make more.”
All the women in her group have different interests, from artisanry to agriculture. Over time, they have acquired new skills through Friendship Bridge’s trainings, which have allowed them to diversify their income, an especially useful skill for this year. Marcela, for example, now knows how to use a backstrap loom, as well as a foot loom. She also learned to collect recycled plastics that some stores throw away to make durable, reusable shopping bags. “We go to collect and wash them, and when they are dry, we cut it to the size we need,” she explained.
As businesses slowly start to open and “normalize” in Guatemala, Marcela encourages women who are not yet part of Friendship Bridge to join. “They teach us about everything,” she said. “I feel that they are encouraging me again to create some products and deliver them. As they are asking me for orders, I feel that I am already getting out of this situation.”
The microloans, education, business training, and health services that Friendship Bridge provides to women in Guatemala matter now more than ever. Because of the investment of the PAB, women like Marcela continue to support themselves and their communities through innovation and hard work, even amid a pandemic.
Feature photo at top: Marcela creates a textile with capital and training from Friendship Bridge.
November 9, 2020, Berea, Kentucky – Fahe, a nonprofit organization that works to lift the people of Appalachia out of poverty, awarded the Adrian Dominican Congregation the Dwayne Yost Friend of Fahe Award at its annual meeting in recognition of the Portfolio Advisory Board’s long-standing support of the organization.
The PAB was the first to invest in Fahe 40 years ago, granting a $35,000 loan in 1981 at a time with the nonprofit worked on a budget of $16,000.
Sister Corinne Florek, OP, accepted the award virtually on behalf of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. “We are so grateful that we were able to be part of the beginning and nurtured a seed that has borne incredible fruit,” she said.
Watch the award presentation.
August 20, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – Cynthia Curry Crim was named Vice Chair of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB). In this position, she will be working on the PAB’s executive team with Associate Dee Joyner, Director of Resilient Communities for the Congregation, and Sister Marilín Llanes, OP, Chair.
Established by the Adrian Dominican Sisters more than 40 years ago, the PAB helps the Congregation to use its resources justly, in ways that resonate with its mission. The Corporate Responsibility aspect focuses on using dialogue and shareholder resolutions to keep corporations accountable in areas such as the environment, treatment of workers, and responsibility to local communities. The Community Investment aspect offers low-interest loans to community-based enterprises that serve communities and people in need.
Now in her second year as a PAB member, Cynthia is excited to be serving on the executive team as Vice Chair. The executive team is involved in behind-the-scenes work and strategic planning – “a lot of planning to make sure that each time the PAB meets, we have a productive meeting,” she said. “We’re just trying to make sure that the Board members have the right information, to make the meetings more engaging.”
Cynthia said serving on the PAB fits right in with her work experience. From about 1993 to 1998, she worked in Chicago as director of nonprofit organizations. “All my work centered on family and children, but I also realized you have to look at housing, education, and health,” she said. She wanted to change focus, “not to leave the nonprofit community but I really wanted to see a bigger part of the work.”
Cynthia then served as Associate Executive Director of the Steans Family Foundation in Chicago. The Executive Director was “totally committed to the community and really believed in engaging community residents about the decisions that were going on,” Cynthia said. She compared this work to the Congregation’s focus on helping to form resilient communities in specific geographic areas of the country.
Cynthia and her family moved to St. Louis in 2002. After working for Nonprofit Services Consortium, an intermediary that collaborates with local nonprofit organizations, Cynthia was hired 15 years ago by Dee Joyner to work at Commerce Bank, managing part of its corporate foundation and two family foundations.
Cynthia said Dee invited her to serve on the PAB. “I had known about her work with the Adrian Dominican Sisters while she was at Commerce,” Cynthia said. “She would talk about being on the PAB, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be asked [to serve on the Board].”
Working on the PAB has enhanced her knowledge. “What I have learned is that investment in the community can be direct or indirect,” she said. She sees the corporate responsibility aspect, and particularly shareholder advocacy, as having an indirect but profound effect on the community.
“How many people in underserved communities have any idea of the impact that corporations have?” she asked. “So the work that the Sisters are doing – advocating that corporations look at what they’re doing in terms of how they’re polluting the environment – has a major impact on those who have no voice. That is a powerful tool to use.”
Cynthia sees the work of community investment as being directly involved in the local communities. “I like that during this time of COVID and Black Lives Matter, I have really seen in our last meeting this commitment to walk the talk and try as best as possible to make a difference in the communities, making sure that people who are already struggling can somehow get some relief,” she said. “To be part of this is pretty special.”
On behalf of the Congregation, Sister Elise D. García, OP, General Councilor of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, recently signed the Catholic Impact Investing Pledge.
An initiative of the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative (CIIC), the pledge affirms that signatories will commit to making investments “on behalf of the poor and vulnerable, to promote human dignity, economic justice, and environmental stewardship,” pursuing a just society “with urgency, given the increasing needs of the poor and vulnerable and the continuing degradation of our common home.”
The pledge principles include the call to making investments “that provide financial returns while simultaneously creating measurable, positive social and environmental incomes in service of people and planet.”
Sister Elise serves as the General Council liaison to the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB). Since 1978, the Community Investment arm of the PAB has made more than 500 low-interest loans to a variety of community organizations. Currently, the PAB is investing in 38 organizations – throughout the United States and internationally – in banks, community credit unions, multi-purpose loan funds, housing programs, cooperatives, and international loan funds.
In signing the pledge, the Adrian Dominican Sisters joins a community of pledge supporters committed to investing for the common good. Signatories include Catholic Relief Services; Mercy Investment Services; Ascension, a faith-based healthcare organization; and other congregations of women religious, such as the Daughters of Charity, Conference of St. Louise, and the Felician Sisters of North America.
Feature photo: One of the affordable housing projects of New Way Homes, a Santa-Cruz, California-based housing organization that receives investments from the Portfolio Advisory Board.
The Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB), staff, and consultants warmly welcome their newest Board member, Sister Patricia Daly, OP, a Dominican Sister of Caldwell, New Jersey.
The PAB monitors the Adrian Dominican Congregation's investments and engages in shareholder activity on matters of justice. The PAB also makes low-interest loans to non-profit community organizations that benefit low-income people and underserved communities.
Sister Pat brings 40 years of experience to the PAB’s mission of corporate responsibility and socially responsible investing. She recently concluded her 24-year tenure as Executive Director of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investing, now Investor Advocates for Social Justice.
The Tri-State Coalition was an organization of 40 Catholic dioceses and congregations of women and men religious in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, primarily in the New York Metropolitan area. During her tenure, Sister Pat was involved in advocating with corporations for human rights, labor rights, ecological concerns, equality, and international debt and capital flows. In addition, she played a role in persuading U.S. corporations to address global climate change as one of their priorities. Upon leaving her position with the Tri-State Coalition, Sister Pat was recognized for her “leadership, determination, and persistence” in the corporate responsibility ministry.
Sister Pat worked with Sisters from a coalition of U.S. women’s Dominican congregations to launch the Climate Finance Investment products that aim to implement the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. She serves on the advisory boards of Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, the climate science arm of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and Jana Partners, the first hedge fund to implement corporate engagement and socially responsible principles.
She is the recipient of the 2014 Joan Bavaria Award presented by Ceres and Trillium Asset Management and the 2017 Legacy Award presented by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. In addition, Sister Pat holds honorary doctorates from William Paterson University, Wayne, New Jersey and Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Sister Pat joins the dedicated members, staff, and consultants of the Portfolio Advisory Board: Sister Marilín Llanes, OP, Chair; Lloyd Van Bylevelt, Vice Chair and Adrian Dominican Associate; Board members Cynthia Curry Crim, Sister Mary Priniski, OP, PhD, and Leslie Watson; Sister Elise García, OP, General Council Liaison; Kristine Cooper, Office Manager; Dee Joyner, Adrian Dominican Associate and Director of the Congregation’s Office of Resilient Communities; and Pat Zerega, Sister Judy Byron, OP, and Sister Corinne Florek, OP, consultants. Their professional backgrounds can be found on the Board and Staff page of the PAB website.
“It’s a tragedy.” That’s how Sibley Simon characterizes the affordable housing crisis in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas.
Sibley, president of New Way Homes, has seen firsthand the suffering that goes on when people can’t find a place to live. “More people are getting out of long-term homeless situations, but more people are becoming homeless. There just isn’t enough housing.”
Sibley’s organization is just four years old and is based in Santa Cruz, California. It seeks to fuel new construction of low- and moderate-income rental housing from Salinas to Santa Cruz to Oakland.
New Way Homes relies on churches and other mission driven groups – such as the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) and the Religious Communities Impact Fund (RCIF) – to help reach its goals. In the short time it has been around, New Way Homes has invested $7 million in new, affordable housing. “Our mission is to create housing without using public subsidies for construction,” Sibley said. “What’s needed is getting new sources of capital.”
New Way Homes attracts investors by offering a reasonable but limited return on investment. “We are responsible to investors to a point, but our main purpose is ‘How do we do more for housing,’” Sibley said.
New Way Homes is currently working on 10 housing projects, two of which are set to begin construction in the spring of 2020. One is in Santa Cruz and will provide seven units of permanent supportive housing for formerly chronic homeless individuals. The second project, being done in Oakland in conjunction with a local church, will create 12 work-live units.
Sibley said RCIF and the Adrian Dominicans were among the first to have invested with New Way Homes. “It is my belief that anyone doing impact investing, whether it’s big corporations or foundations, has to know what they are looking for and have very strong principals,” Sibley said. “They need a strong understanding of what’s going on, but they also should not be burdensome to the nonprofit group trying to do their work. Both the Adrian Dominicans and RCIF have maintained an impressive balance that has a track record of success.”
For decades, the popular – and, unfortunately, all too true – narrative, “Women don’t help other women,” was a prevalent message in American society. Michigan Women Forward (MWF), formerly Michigan Women’s Foundation, was founded 33 years ago to change that storyline – for good.
MWR is one of the many organizations the Portfolio Advisory Board supports through its Community Investments Fund. This fund provides investments and loans to community-based enterprises that demonstrate a commitment to social justice through alternative economic endeavors.
The founders of MWR crossed the state party lines and social strata and together leveled the playing field of the state’s female populace. They were early disrupters and innovators and they inspire the work of MWR every day.
MWF mission: To accelerate Michigan’s progress by advancing equality and opportunity for women and girls.
MWF vision: A Michigan where women are recognized leaders who thrive, contribute, and uplift the state’s future.
MWF focuses its work on four pillars:
Woman Up – Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative. With less than 10% of venture capital and traditional funding going to women – and much less than that to low- to moderate-income women and women of color, MWF provides access to capital, education, technical assistance, and mentorship to women wishing to start and grow successful businesses. Our underlying principal is simple: If you change the life of a woman, you change a family. When you change a family, you change their community.
UGOGirls – MWF works to ensure that this Unstoppable Generation of Girls (UGOGirls) is just that … unstoppable! MWF works with middle and high school girls who see themselves as being “smart” and “leaders” to help them see a path to college, career, and community service. Last year, 100% of their summer campers said they had learned to work together as a team and collaborate on shared goals, and 100% said they planned to pursue post-secondary education.
Behind Every Woman positions MWF to inform the state’s agenda around women and social justice. Its campaign, Enough Sexual Assault in Detroit (Enough SAID), generated sufficient funding to test all 11,341 rape kits previously ignored in a warehouse and guarantee adequate resources for five to seven years of investigation and prosecution of the offenders. These actions sparked statewide effort to eliminate backlogs everywhere and prevent this injustice from ever happening again.
HERstory is designed to ensure that the stories of amazing women throughout Michigan’s history are preserved to inspire those making history today and tomorrow. To date, 323 women have been inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.
While the hope was that inequity and inequality would be a thing of the past by now, women continue to need help, and MWF doesn’t see this changing in the foreseeable future. Much of its current work is geared toward financial sustainability for MWF and the women and girls of Michigan.
The Community Impact Notes, in which the Adrian Dominican Sisters invested, are key to a strong future sustained by those with the foresight to believe in MWF's mission.
Portfolio Advisory Board, Adrian Dominican Sisters | 1257 E. Siena Heights Drive | Adrian, Michigan 49221
Phone: (517) 266-3523 | Email: