Financial wellness graduates ready for success

Jesse Hollett
Posted 3/15/17

ORANGE PARK – Twelve women are a bit more money savvy today after completing a new financial literacy course offered by the Miller Street Renewal Program.

They were honored March 9 for …

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Financial wellness graduates ready for success


ORANGE PARK – Twelve women are a bit more money savvy today after completing a new financial literacy course offered by the Miller Street Renewal Program.

They were honored March 9 for completing the six-week ‘Empower U’ financial literacy course offered through a partnership with Fifth Third Bank and the Miller Street Neighborhood Renewal Program.

Since 2001, the Renewal Program has assisted low-income citizens through a combination of education, spiritual and financial help.

Among the graduates are current students, victims of credit fraud and mothers. Women comprised the inaugural class in honor of women’s history month.

“[This program is for] people that may not have had this opportunity, some that have wanted to go back to school but may have not have the means to do so,” said Sonya Wells, with the Miller Street Renewal Program. “These are stepping stones, this is what these are, stepping stones. Now they can learn how to manage their money.”

The program covers identity theft, credit building, homeownership, loans – among other integral topics.

Program coordinators raise money throughout the year through church donations at St. Simon Church on Miller Street where the program leader preaches. Funds are also raised through various events honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The funds provide education and vocational training for their neighbors as well as provide various scholarships.

Recently, Pastor William Randall paid for two women’s Certified Nursing Assistant courses. One graduate has a job, and Randall is confident the others will soon as well. Randall said the overall goal of every program is to gain meaningful employment.

“Yes, the jobs are available, but they’re not educated to the level that they can get those jobs and elevate themselves to the level of middle class,” Randall said.

The Empower U program, while free, remains an important ladder to economic success. During the program, students visit businesses where they are educated in tandem with the course material.

Randall said the need for programs such as Empower U will increase yearly.

“There’s an increased need in every area of low income people in the community of Clay County,” he said. “Each year it continues to rise and there’s always a need to lift them up.”

He pointed to single mothers and citizens who are fresh out of jail or prison as common examples of those who don’t always have the resources to rise above their situations.

So, Randall combats poverty at multiple angles. He also runs a program to pay for the down payment on cars for those who don’t have transportation, or other transportation to work. He said getting a job is just the first step, and it’s important for the program to continue to support community members even after they ace the interview.

The largest business employment sectors in Clay County are retail, food service and healthcare. There is an inordinate number of low-income jobs that require little job experience on one end and a growing number of jobs that require high-skills on the other end of the spectrum.

There is a lack of a middle ground between the two, however. This leaves many on the low end of the economic spectrum stranded.

At the start of the class, Randall awarded a scholarship of $150 to each student so they can start a savings accounts and begin to plan for their future.


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