Penquis CEO Receives National NeighborWorks® Association Award

By Penquis | Mar 13, 2019
Penquis CEO Kara Hay receives National NeighborWorks Association Excellence Award

Penquis President and CEO Kara Hay was recognized by the National NeighborWorks® Association (NNA) at the Annual NeighborWorks® Executive Directors Symposium in Washington D.C. Hay was one of three leaders nationwide acknowledged at the NNA’s 15th Annual Excellence Awards, which honors outstanding practitioners in the field of housing and community development.

The NNA Excellence Awards highlight individuals who foster and lead great projects and practices in the housing and community development industry and who are shining examples of the Network of Excellence. A jury comprised of industry-related judges from outside the NeighborWorks network, as well as prior winners, selected the award recipients. Hay received the Practitioner of the Year Award, which recognizes an executive director, staff, or board member for a recent accomplishment or contribution to the industry and the NeighborWorks Network.

Hay was nominated by Ann Matlack, chair of the Penquis Board of Directors, and Cynthia Freeman Cyr, Penquis board member and former chair of the Charlotte White Center Board of Directors. Matlack and Cyr highlighted the merger of Penquis and the Charlotte White Center on January 1, 2019 and Hay’s leadership of the Charlotte White Center prior to the merger. They wrote, “Her success in simultaneously leading two prominent local organizations and navigating the various legal, financial, logistical, and cultural issues for a successful merger speaks volumes to her ability to lead and inspire.”

As a result of the merger, Penquis has grown in size and breadth of services. Hay now leads an organization of 650 staff, whom she credits for the smooth transition and the quality services that make a difference in the lives of individuals and families across Maine. “Penquis staff is deeply committed to our communities and the people we serve. It is my honor and privilege to work with this talented and dedicated group of people for a stronger, healthier, and more prosperous Maine,” said Hay.

The award comes with an honorarium of $2,500, which Hay is gifting to MaineStream Finance, a subsidiary of Penquis. MaineStream supports small business development by providing business advice and access to financing, and by assisting new owners, including family members and employees, to buy out retiring owners of established businesses. The gift of her honorarium will fuel small business entrepreneurship training and technical assistance among a cohort of formerly incarcerated individuals. Hay’s contribution will leverage public and private funding to increase support for this unusual group of entrepreneurs.

This is Hay’s second award in two years from the National NeighborWorks Association. In 2017, she received the Emerging Leader Award, which recognizes an executive director with less than five years with a NeighborWorks organization whose energy and innovation has improved the value of their organization and the NeighborWorks Network.

“The National NeighborWorks Association has helped to increase awareness of the importance of rural development and the need for a comprehensive community development approach in helping all people to be safe, stable, connected, and financially secure,” said Hay. “I am honored for the recognition and grateful to be a part of this group that is working every day to improve communities across the country. Knowing many of these professionals personally and the amazing work that is taking place nationally, I am very optimistic about the future.”

The mission of NeighborWorks is to strengthen communities and expand the supply of affordable housing through a network of partnership-based organizations. Penquis became a chartered member of NeighborWorks America in 2013 and maintains exemplary status. Currently, more than 240 community development organizations are part of the NeighborWorks network.


About Penquis

Penquis is a nonprofit organization incorporated in 1967 to alleviate and eliminate the causes and conditions of poverty. Through our programs and subsidiaries, Penquis impacts all of Maine’s sixteen counties, but primarily serves low- and moderate-income individuals in Penobscot, Piscataquis, and Knox counties.

Penquis’s mission is to assist individuals and families in preventing, reducing, or eliminating poverty in their lives and, through partnerships, to engage the community in addressing economic and social needs.

Penquis’s vision is for a poverty-free Maine, where all people lead healthy lives full of opportunities to work and learn.

About National NeighborWorks® Association

National NeighborWorks Association unites housing and community development practitioners to advocate for affordable housing and economic opportunities for individuals, families, communities and neighborhoods throughout the United States.

If you appreciated reading this news story and want to support local journalism, consider subscribing today.
Call (207) 594-4401 or join online at
Donate directly to keeping quality journalism alive at
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.
Note: If you signed up using our new subscriber portal, your username is the email address you registered with and your password is in all caps