Nilda Ruiz - The Builder

portrait by Mark Likosky

portrait by Mark Likosky

“Bricks and mortar alone do not build healthy and sustainable communities... the shared vision and engagement of residents into the development of the physical and quality of life planning is the key ingredient to stewardship of the community’s future.”  — NR

You can’t build a neighborhood or a community without building up its people. As the Chief Executive Officer of Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha, Inc. (APM), Nilda Ruiz leads a robust network of health and human services programs in Eastern North Philadelphia, as well as APM’s innovative community redevelopment arm. She feels that it’s particularly important to help build kids up early on in life, the charge of APM's four-star early childhood centers. “APM centers provide quality Head Start and daycare to hundreds of children a year,” says Ruiz. “It is our goal to nurture our children and provide them with the foundation to become future leaders.”

Before coming to APM in 2005, Ruiz was the Senior Community Development Director for the East Coast at National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest constituency-based Hispanic organization, where she managed community development activities from Maine to Puerto Rico. It was good training for what Ruiz is trying to accomplish now at APM, where she says she is, “transforming a community of blight into one of choice with the vision and engagement of the residents and community stakeholders.” 

One of the organization’s crown jewels is Paseo Verde, a mixed-use, mixed-income, transit-oriented development project near Temple. It was the first project of its kind in the country to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest rating. “APM's Platinum LEED-ND status [for Paseo Verde] created an environment that provides opportunities to grow programming around healthy foods, walkability and addressing the social determinants of health, crime and safety,” says Ruiz. “We are creating a tipping point where all of these innovative programs will become the standard for the residents of Eastern North Philadelphia.”

Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha

APM is a Latino-based health, human services, community and economic development nonprofit organization that serves all people in the Philadelphia area, and it works to help families achieve their greatest potential. It was founded in 1970 by Puerto Rican veterans of the Vietnam War, and the organization says it “reflects the spirit of activism and emerging political consciousness of the Puerto Rican community during that time.”

10 - Sites throughout North Philadelphia providing a broad network of social services

100 - Number of bilingual/bicultural professionals employed by APM

40K - Number of people served each year through APM’s health services, social services, and community and economic development activities

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