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Grants will improve access and equity for Black RI'ers
By Chris Barnett / January 23, 2017 /   Loading Disqus...
Five Providence nonprofit organizations serving the African-American community have been awarded $26,600 in the final round of grants from the Rhode Island Foundation's Black Philanthropy Initiative (BPI).

BPI was the first fund at the Foundation devoted exclusively to causes and issues affecting Black Rhode Islanders. Its final round of grants came just a month after it announced a merger with the former Bannister House that has created a new $2.5 million endowment at the Foundation to serve the African-American and Black communities.

“By investing in activities that expand equity and access, we can enhance the future of Rhode Island’s Black community. Promoting permanent, systemic improvements will build routes to accomplishment and success,” said Linda Newton, who co-chaired the BPI advisory committee.

The Boys and Girls Club of Providence received $5,000 to offer financial literacy training through its Money Matters: Make It Count program. Topics include financial goal-setting, budgeting, savings strategies, banking, paying for college, long-term investing and entrepreneurship.

An adult facilitator will lead teens through the program, with each teen supported by the teen-friendly Personal Finance Guide handbook and the Money Matters website, both of which include a variety of interactive financial literacy tools, such as goal-setting activities and budget planning sheets.

“Young people, especially those from high-poverty areas, need to know that they can go to college, they can have successful careers, they can become financially stable, they can build a happy life that includes a good job, buying a house, supporting a family, and enjoying the rewards of financial stability,” said Mary Morgan, grants manager.

“They need to know that these goals are achieved by skills and knowledge that is accessible to them, and that they have the ability to acquire. It’s not magic and it’s not reserved for only those who start off from an advantaged position,” she said.

Capital Good Fund received $5,000 to offer its Financial Empowerment for Families program to 40 low-income, Black families. Participants will receive 20 hours of one-on-one coaching that covers the basics of budgeting, banking, credit, debt management and savings. In addition, families will be encouraged to eat healthy on a budget, access primary care and health insurance, reduce emergency room visits and sign up for public benefits such as food stamps.

Capital Good Fund anticipates that participants will see their credit scores increase an average of 65 points and more than a third will reduce their debt balance.

“Clients come out of our Financial Empowerment program with a new budget, debt management plan and a whole host of other skills and tools that empower them to set and meet goals and get on a path to financial and life success,” said CEO and founder Andy Posner.

ONE Neighborhood Builders received $4,000 to offer the Accessing Home program. The program is designed to put African Americans on the path to homeownership by helping them move into affordable apartments and build assets to increase economic stability.

“As the homeownership rate of African Americans remains stubbornly low, especially when compared to their white and Latino counterparts, we have become increasingly aware of the need for direct marketing and engagement of that community,” said Michael DeVos, executive director of the Olneyville-based housing developer.

“We will design and implement a culturally appropriate and competent marketing strategy that will seek to inform the African American community about the financial strengthening programs we offer and recruit participants to actively engage in these programs,” he said.

ONE Neighborhood Builders estimates at least 40 people will complete a home-buying preparation class and at least five will purchase a home with an affordable loan within one year of completing the class.

The Urban League of Rhode Island received $10,000 to offer the Helping Others Prosper through Empowerment (HOPE) Initiative, which targets under-employed or unemployed adults of color. The program will consist of two, 10-week series of classes that focus on business planning, leadership and personal growth. Approximately 60 people are expected to enroll.

“African-Americans in Rhode Island face innumerable obstacles, including racial discrimination and injustice, discrimination for a criminal past, lack of networks to find a job, emotional trauma brought by war and defeatism,” said Gerald Price Jr., a consultant working with the Urban League.

“Despite the many barriers, they have the potential to bring valuable resources for leadership, strong motivation to succeed and an untapped well of hopes and dreams that can lead them to use these periods of transition in their lives to create new career pathways and financial betterment,” he said.

Year Up Providence received $2,600 to provide scholarship assistance to African-American alumni who pursue IT training after graduation. Year Up is an intensive training program that makes low-income young adults more employable through a combination of hands-on skills development, coursework eligible for college credit and corporate internships.

“As we grow, we have identified our alumni as crucial in closing the divide between employers who need talent and young adults who need employment. We are actively looking for more ways to support them in their educational and career pursuits, and we have recognized IT certifications as critical in that endeavor. Our knowledge of the IT industry and data collected from alumni reveal that certifications for middle-skilled jobs is the one of the most efficient and cost-effective paths for increasing value in the job market,” said Cathy Doyle, executive director.

“Our positive outcomes prove that once given access to employment opportunities, our students consistently demonstrate that they are the talent Rhode Island employers need. The implications for our alumni, their communities and families, our state’s economy and the local labor market are tremendous,” she said.

The new Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund is expected to make its first grants later this year.

“Promoting real change takes significant resources. This partnership with Bannister House gives us the resources to do even more to improve the economic security of Black Rhode Islanders,” said Newton, who will serve on the new fund’s advisory committee along with Edward Clifton, Jason Fowler, Brendan Kane, Beverly Ledbetter and Walter Stone.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. In 2015, the Foundation awarded $41.5 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.
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