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Monday, April 28, 2014

       
Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Niagara To Hold Ribbon Cutting for New Site in Lockport; Seeks to Economically Empower Lockport Residents

Niagara County Financial Literacy Coalition Initiative Expands, Brings Number of Niagara County Sites to 2

 
May 20, 2014

10:00 am

The Dale Association

33 Ontario Street


Among Lockport’s population of 41,694, nearly 6,000 Lockport residents live on incomes under the federal poverty level. An additional 6,800 are close to poverty, with incomes between 100%- 200% of the poverty level and about 12,800 are doing poorly or struggling financially. This is almost one out of every three in Lockport.
Knowing the dire situation, last Fall, Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) launched an initiative designed to provide opportunities for financial empowerment, education and awareness. The Niagara County Financial Literacy Coalition is a collaboration among over 25 human service providers, government and private companies in Niagara County. Through the Coalition, CCCS launched three unique services: financial coaching, financial literacy classes and access to Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA).
CCCS opened its first office in Niagara Falls in the Family & Children’s Services’ Niagara Family Center in October 2013.

On Tuesday, May 20th at 10:00 am, CCCS will cut the ribbon for their new Lockport office at 33 Ontario Street, in partnership with the Dale Association. They invite the Lockport community to join their economic empowerment initiative.

CCCS raised $95,500 in funding toward this initiative ensuring successful implementation. In the past two years, the East Hill Foundation awarded $23,000, the John R. Oishei Foundation awarded $45,000, the United Way of Greater Niagara awarded $20,000 per year for the next three years and First Niagara provided $10,000.
“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. 

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 nearly 50 years—low-income individuals and families. We plan to serve 750-1,000 residents annually. 
The Niagara County community is already strongly embracing this new project.

“The Dale Association is pleased to be partnering with Consumer Credit Counseling Service,” said Maureen A. Wendt, President and CEO of the Dale Association.  “This partnership allows the residents of Niagara County easy access to financial counselors who will meet privately, one on one with people and  financial education on topics designed to help people with budgeting and debt control.  Consumer Credit Counseling Service has a proven track record of helping people with their financial goals and we are pleased to provide access to such a valuable service in the Lockport area on  a regular basis."
Support also came from the United Way of Greater Niagara.

 “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

First Niagara Financial Group has been a supportive partner in the coalition.

“First Niagara is proud to partner with Consumer Credit Counseling Service to invest in our community and empower all residents to thrive,” said Buford Sears, First Niagara Buffalo Market Executive.  “The financial education and literacy opportunities that will now be available in Lockport will help even more individuals in Western New York achieve their financial goals.”

The philosophy behind the NCFLC is to break the cycle of poverty via free educational opportunities and counseling.
The array of services that CCCS and the NCFLC offers: 

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)

                    YWCA of Niagara

                    YMCA of Lockport

                    Niagara Falls Housing Authority

                    Rivershore

                    City of Niagara Falls Department of Community Development

                    Worksource One

                    Niagara University

                    NCCC Single Moms Program

                    NYS Tax Department

                    Heart, Love and Soul

                    Highland Community Revitalization Services

                    Niagara Falls School District

                    The Dale Association

                    Niagara Orleans BOCES

                    Lockport Main Street Inc.

For more information on the Coalition and CCCS —or to get involved—contact Tara Vogel at 716-712-2062 or tara.vogel@cccsbuffalo.org
About CCCS
CCCS is a non-profit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling and credit repayment assistance to consumers since 1965.  CCCS of Buffalo helps consumers trim expenses, develop a spending plan and repay debts.  Counseling is available at our Main Office in West Seneca, in one of our Satellite Offices, by telephone and via Internet.  Visit www.consumercreditbuffalo.org for more information.

 

 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lots happening this Spring!

We will be opening a new location in Lockport--at the Dale Association--in May. Stay tuned for more details.

In the interim, read this beautiful piece written by a former client...

When I walked across the stage of New York University to receive my bachelor’s degree, I knew that my life would be forever changed. I believed that my hands held the key to my future and the assurance that my career would sustain me and my future family.

If someone had told me on that day, that many, many moons and a quite impressive resume later, that I would find myself an out of work single mother who was barely able to ensure a solid meal, I would have laughed in their face.

However, when I lost my job that is exactly where I was. I had some savings, and was given unemployment for a specified number of weeks. However, soon after my job disappeared, so did my 14 year old car and many other ways of my formerly employed life. The one thing that remained constant was the barrage of bills in my mailbox. Mail that was tossed on the table in a large pile, for the thought of being reminded of what I owe and furthermore, what I did not have, was much too depressing to withstand on a daily basis. 

Without transportation for myself and my then infant child, nor any reliable, affordable childcare my prospects were dim.

Eventually I received a job offer that was within my reach. It was certainly doable, but not without a great effort. Many parents of young children know all too well the struggle of rising and shining before the sun, to push a baby stroller through the snow with a diaper bag and work briefcase flung across the shoulders, all the while praying that the bus doesn’t happen to come early, or be too crowded, and that you don’t ruin your work clothes while trying to fold the stroller and find exact change for the fare.

Luckily, I found a program--Ways to Work—that was available for working parents. I qualified for the program but first needed to take certain steps, including improving my credit before I could be officially approved. I felt instant anxiety. Not only did I not want people in my financial business, but I wasn’t even sure I was ready to face that demon myself. Not ready to go through the piles of mail that decorated my kitchen table.

However after a particularly difficult day of missed busses and soiled clothes, I decided it was time to slay the dragon. I called the program and was told I needed to take a financial literacy class through Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo (CCCS). I still had no transportation—but was told I could take the class online. What a relief!

The class was broken up into a variety of segments. Initially I approached it as simply something to do. However, as I moved through the segments, I began to complete the optional worksheets, activities and suggestions. The more I completed, the less afraid I became of the situation and the more empowered I became. Gone was the anxiety in the pit of my stomach and I was eager to log in each day as I worked to rebuild my credit.

With the assistance of the CCCS and the Ways to Work program, I learned to accurately ready my credit report. I learned of several discrepancies that had been dragging my score down for many years, and how to get them removed from credit report. I was able to make arrangements with my student loans and get them out of default. I learned to budget to allow myself to save for a car, while paying off old debt.

I am grateful for the services offered by The Ways to Work program and Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo to help empower people who are paralyzed by debt or personal situation.  It feels good to finally have my finances in order!