Residents in the northern and eastern sections of town will soon have greater access to financial stability, thanks to a partnership between United Way of Forsyth County and Wells Fargo.
United Way officials joined Wells Fargo representatives at a press conference to unveil the result of the collaboration: The Mobile Prosperity Center, at Mineral Springs Middle School on Tuesday. Leslie Hayes, president of Wells Fargo’s Triad West Region, said Wells Fargo awarded grants to help extend financial education and support to economically distressed areas across the country.
“This grant was all about how a United Way could … figure out a way to help some of the communities, the hardest hit areas where we could make a difference,” Hayes said.
The agency landed the three year, $300,000 grant through a competitive program that the bank extended to United Way agencies nationwide.
“Our United Way was one of only eight United Ways in the country to receive this grant,” Hayes reported. “Our United Way was such a wonderful pick because it was already a model of collaboration.”
The center, which is currently being housed in the Northwest Piedmont Workforce Board’s mobile Job Link center, is supported by a collaborative of local agencies including Goodwill Industries, The Housing Authority of Winston-Salem, and Financial Pathways of the Piedmont, formerly Consumer Credit Counseling Service.
“We’ve been working hard to integrate our strategies across the community in different ways,” said United Way President and CEO Cindy Gordineer. “…We want to connect these strategies for maximum impact.”
William Pass, assistant director of the Northwest Piedmont Workforce Board, said the Board is happy to share its mobile unit until United Way can secure one of its own. He believes the Mobile Prosperity Center will leverage the reach of all the partner agencies, allowing them to more efficiently serve their target populations.
“We’re all working with the same individuals, so we’re really getting two or three things out of just one event, so this is really just perfect,” Pass declared. “We’re working as partners like we always do anyway so I’m just thrilled. With the budget cuts that all of us are taking, we’re having to come together and share our resources more. We’re able to really utilize our partnerships.”
The 55-foot mobile center will mimic the services that are already being provided in the United Way’s two brick and mortar Prosperity Centers, offering a wide spectrum of job preparation services and financial literacy components, but bring them to residents in the east and north sides of town, which are not currently home to free standing Prosperity Centers. Fred Terry, chair of Liberty CDC’s Organizational Committee, one of the mobile center’s partners, said the unit will be able to bring services to an area that has a disproportionately low number of financial institutions at its disposal.
“Building a community means not only businesses, but individuals and families and neighborhoods,” Terry said. “With this particular mobile unit, we’ll be able to bring the financial services to the community east of (Highway) 52 … we’re looking forward to having great success in getting people to become more financially literate.” United Way of Forsyth County COO Eric Aft said the mobile center will provide services based on what the individual communities tell United Way they need.
“We know transportation is a major barrier for a lot of folks to really seek services to help themselves be more successful,” he said. “The idea was to be able to eliminate that barrier but also have something that is flexible and can connect with their various needs.”
The mobile center, which is currently serving as a mobile tax preparation site, is already making an impact in the community. In its first 20 days of operation, the mobile center has served over 108 community members, secured over $175,000 in tax returns and saved its clients more than $21,000 in tax preparation fees.
Takia Miller, manager of Experiment in Self Reliance’s tax preparation program, said the unit has added another layer to the services ESR provides during tax time.
“It’s going really well. We have a total of 11 sites now, including the mobile unit, where we provide services six days a week,” said the city native. “It gives us the flexibility to be where the people are.”
Gordineer said she is excited about the possibilities the center holds, both for the partners and the greater community.
“We’re thankful to Wells Fargo and all of our partners for making this a reality,” she declared. “We look forward to where this will take us in the next three years, all of us.”
The Mobile Prosperity Unit will be stationed in the parking lot of Prosperity Center North, 1253 N. Liberty Street, during tax season on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 336-722-9400.