Monday, October 21, 2013

Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Niagara To Hold Ribbon Cutting;
Launches Economic Empowerment Coalition in Niagara County

Niagara County Financial Literacy Coalition Will Have Sites in Lockport and Niagara Falls

October 29, 2013, 10:00 am
1522 Main Street, Niagara Falls

 Economic prosperity in Niagara Falls has eluded many residents in the past several years. While there are many reasons for this, it is not so much a question of how this happened…the better question is, what do we do now?

While there is no magic cure, Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) has established the Niagara County Financial Literacy Coalition (NCFLC) to provide opportunities for financial education and awareness, and set up an office at 1522 Main Street, in the Family and Children’s Services’ Niagara Family Center.

On Tuesday, October 29th at 10:00 am, CCCS will cut the ribbon for their new office, and invites the community to join their economic empowerment initiative.

CCCS began implementing this project in September 2013, with offices in Niagara Falls staffed as of October 15th. A Lockport Office will be opened in Winter 2014. To date, CCCS has received $70,500 in funding toward this initiative (along with a pledge of an unspecified amount of funding from the United Way of Greater Niagara), ensuring successful implementation. In the past year, the East Hill Foundation awarded $23,000, the John R. Oishei Foundation awarded $45,000 and First Niagara provided $2,500.

“We are proud to launch this much needed service in Niagara County,” said Paul C. Atkinson, CEO and President of CCCS. “Our goal is to provide the community with financial education that will help them attain security and success.”
The  NCFLC approach identifies financial coaching for low-income populations as a core feature because its effectiveness helps families achieve their long term financial goals. CCCS has modeled this project on the Center for Working Families approach.  The One Stop Shop concept already in place at Family & Children’s Services’ Niagara Family Center made this location a perfect fit. 

Our project is the first time that a model similar to the CASH Coalition in Buffalo is being used to benefit Niagara County residents.  It addresses the community need for economic empowerment and serves a community that CCCS has served for over 45 years—low-income individuals and families. We plan to serve 750-1,000 residents annually. 
The Niagara Falls community is strongly embracing this new project.

“We are extremely excited to be a part of the launching of this program for Niagara County residents. Financial Literacy is a huge area of concern and funding a program to address this need is critical to the future stability of our community.”  Said Carol G. Houwaart-Diez, President, United Way of Greater Niagara

The Consumer Credit Counseling Service office is located in the Niagara Family Center—a one stop of human service providers.

“We are happy to have Consumer Credit Counseling as a partner in the Niagara Family Center to provide services to individuals and families with financial needs and to complement the other services available in our building “ said Ken Sass, President and CEO of Family & Children’s Service of Niagara.

As is well documented, there is great need for economic empowerment in Niagara County. Low income levels and poverty are pervasive. The poverty rates in Niagara Falls from 2005-2007 indicated that an overall 22% of residents were living in poverty. Within this figure, 33% of related children under age 18 were below poverty level and 34% of female led households had incomes below poverty level. According to the Niagara Falls Reporter, “those who actually deal with the problems in the City of Niagara Falls will tell you that the biggest problem in this city is the crushing poverty under which many of our neighbors subsist, a poverty so widespread that generations of the same families are tied to welfare, public housing, drugs, street crime and other social ills.” In Niagara County’s other major city, Lockport, nearly 12,800 documented people  are doing poorly or struggling financially. This is almost 1 out of every 3 in Lockport.

 The philosophy behind the NCFLC is to break the cycle of poverty via free educational opportunities and counseling.

“First Niagara is committed to collaborating with our community partners to make a difference in Western New York,” said Buford Sears, First Niagara Buffalo Market Executive.  “Our contribution to Consumer Credit Counseling Service will help provide the resources and opportunities for all citizens to achieve financial independence and success.”

Here is the array of services that CCCS and the NCFLC now offer: 

1.            Financial Coaching (One on One): Participants will meet with certified financial counselors for sessions on a quarterly basis.

2.            Financial Literacy: Classes-Dollars & Sense; Credit Counts and Money in Motion

3.            Access to Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

Collaboration and synergistic partnerships play a key a role in the project. CCCS is counting on community engagement with partners in building the Coalition, and has received an overwhelmingly positive response from many local agencies. CCCS will use partners’ offices to deliver financial education and counseling services as needed--or requested. Participants in our financial counseling program will be provided with referrals to other agencies with whom we collaborate.

To date, CCCS has forged partnerships with the following Niagara County providers:

•             United Way of Greater Niagara

•             Family & Children’s Service of Niagara

•             The American Red Cross

•             Literacy Volunteers

•             NiaCap (Niagara Community Action Program)

•             Child & Family Services Ways to Work Program

                    YWCA of Niagara

                    Niagara Falls Housing Authority

                    City of Niagara Falls Department of Community Development

                    Worksource One

                    Niagara University

                    Soul for Heart, Love and Soul

                    Highland Community Revitalization Services

For more information on the Coalition and CCCS —or to get involved—contact Tara Vogel at 716-712-2062 or

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