A Partnership Years in the Making: Goddard Riverside and Isaacs Center

Two Historic Settlement Houses Announce Strategic Alignment 

Rod Jones and Greg Morris

Goddard Riverside Executive Director Roderick Jones is New York City born and raised, but when he took over the leadership position here he was also the new kid on the block. He’d been the head of a settlement house in St. Louis for several years, and before that he’d worked for nonprofits upstate. Gregory Morris of the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center was one of the first people Jones got to know in the big city, and the two hit it off.

Goddard and Isaacs Center are announcing their strategic alignment this month—the culmination of a series of conversations between our leaders over the course of the last few years. As institutions we have a lot in common: we’re both community-based organizations that work closely with public housing tenants; we’re members of United Neighborhood Houses, the umbrella organization for historic settlement houses across the city. We both have deep roots on the East Side; the Isaacs Center opened in Yorkville in 1964, while one of Goddard’s predecessors, the Goddard Neighborhood Center, was located in the East 30s until it moved across the park in 1959.

“We shared concerns about the frailty of the sector — and the frailty of the social safety net,” says Jones. “We talked a lot about being able to move the needle on the things that matter for nonprofits.”

Each organization has different strengths, and Jones and Morris feel they complement each other.

“This partnership doesn’t come from a place of institutional crisis, but from a place of wanting to see the sector stronger, and wanting to create sustainable, multi-generational opportunities for the people we serve and pathways to financial security for the people who do the essential work required to create an equitable recovery for our City,” said Morris.

“We believe the coming together of the two organizations will position us as a collective strength,” said Jones. “They have phenomenal programs for economic advancement, as we have them on our side for educational success. Combined we can push forward ambitious two-generation approaches to family well-being. One of their other sweet spots is around aging services. Together, we will support the health and wellness of seniors on both sides of the park.”

Morris has deep roots in the city’s nonprofit world: He worked his way up through University Settlement and the well-respected youth development agency, The Door, before joining Children’s Aid as a senior leader assigned to oversee new organizational initiatives and strategy. Morris accepted the role of President and Executive Director of Isaacs Center nearly eight years ago, and serves on the Boards of Human Services Council and the New York City Employment and Training Coalition. When the two men talk, even across a Zoom connection, there’s a spark: a sense of ease, and an excitement about things to come.

“This is very new for us at a time when our organizations have been called upon to serve the communities in crisis while responding to the pandemics associated with health and safety and social-justice. We could not have chosen a more dynamic and capable partner to align and collaborate with,” said Morris.

“This is an educated leap of faith at a moment that requires bold action to secure the sort of future that our neighbors and neighborhoods deserve,” Morris noted. “We think this will be a model that others will follow.”