Greater Bergen Community Action, Inc. (GBCA) received one of three $100,000 grants awarded by Impact 100 Garden State: a women-led philanthropic organization that provides high impact, transformational grants to local nonprofits that reach under-served populations in Morris, Passaic, Somerset and Sussex counties.
The grant funds GBCA’s Paterson Family Financial Empowerment Program, which offers banking services and financial empowerment classes through its associated Federal Credit Union, 1st Bergen. Half of the $100,000 is allocated to education and banking services for Paterson families and the other half is for direct access to loan funds to those same families. Additionally, in partnership with Impact 100, GBCA put $50,000 of its own funds into the loan pool.
A student of the Financial Empowerment Class, Sara Hussanin, said “It helped me so much to know what my next step is to get my credit built up. And it was wonderful to have knowledge of what is best for my future and my savings account for my family. To get a better future for a house, a car, and whatever I need to save for my family.”
Aligned with the agency’s work to build more sustainable families, community institutions, and neighborhoods, this initiative provides essential resources for lasting impact by offering GBCA’s Paterson Head Start families free classes on how to:
· increase their credit score
· manage and save money
· consolidate their debt at lower interest rates
Financial Empowerment Class Instructor Crystal Harrington said, “We know that finances can be difficult to undertake when you don’t really have a clear understanding. But I think the students in the class were able to grasp the concepts on the basics of learning about their finances – especially credit. Credit is essential. We need to be better prepared for our futures, for our families, and for our children.”
Integral parts of the initiative are 1st Bergen “satellite” branches, which function as once-a-week banking
locations at all GBCA Paterson Head Start schools to make services more accessible to Head Start families and staff.
At these satellite branches, parents can open a 1st Bergen bank account with only five dollars, conveniently deposit their checks for free, and apply for personal and auto loans.
Another student of the Financial Empowerment Class and grandmother to a GBCA Head Start student, Luz Garcia, said “It’s great because you can come to the school to open your account and bank.”
To date, GBCA has held five Financial Empowerment Classes, at which 129 students have received their
certificates and signed up to become 1st Bergen Federal Credit Union members and now have access to banking services at Paterson GBCA Head Start schools. In August, GBCA offered a condensed class at the New Destiny Family Success Center, and also visited senior centers for classes in September.