Staff members of New Community’s Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) recently had the opportunity to share their work with others who are looking to duplicate a successful FOC model. New Community has run its FOC under the umbrella of Greater Newark LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) since 2016. The FOC operates out of New Community Career & Technical Institute (NCCTI) and helps individuals access financial education and financial coaching. Since its inception, New Community’s FOC has been a top performer in the LISC FOC network, which is made up of more than 100 sites nationwide. New Community FOC personnel hosted representatives from New Jersey agencies working with Greater Newark LISC to launch FOCs in four other New Jersey cities to explain how the model works and answer questions.
Greater Newark LISC Deputy Director Judith Thompson-Morris explained that LISC is expanding its programs to other parts of the state, starting with the FOC. The organization has plans to create FOCs in Camden, Elizabeth, Perth Amboy and Trenton.
The initiative has been in process for about two years and is now close to kickoff. The visit to New Community’s FOC was an opportunity to show partners how the program works in a practical way.
“You can explain what the FOC model is, but we thought it would be helpful for them to see and hear from the partners in the Newark footprint who have been doing this work for a while,” Thompson-Morris said.
While all LISC FOCs follow a particular framework, Thompson-Morris explained that each site has unique aspects to match the partner’s work in the neighborhood. For example, New Community’s FOC is tied to its career and technical education program at NCCTI, a service not every FOC partner offers.
NCCTI Director Dr. Sylvia McCray welcomed the visitors on June 27 and provided an overview of how the FOC operates. Then Financial Coach Tamara Brown went into greater detail about how she works with clients and answered the participants’ questions.
New Community Chief Operating Officer Fred Hunter was also on hand to greet the guests and provide a brief explanation of NCC as a whole.
“The LISC partner site visit presented a wonderful opportunity for the staff at NCCTI to discuss the FOC program. FOC staff provided a robust discussion that included outreach activities, program enrollment, measuring success and the future vision,” Hunter said. “The success of the FOC program can be measured by the clients’ increased knowledge of their financial potential. Positive outcomes include improvements in job placement due to job coaching sessions, improved personal credit scores and financial plans that increase clients’ net value.”
McCray was happy to host the agency representatives.
“It was a good opportunity to meet other partners who are also committed to working with the community in understanding financial health, stability, growth and wealth legacy building for their future generations,” McCray said. “I look forward to our continued collaboration with not only LISC but its partners across New Jersey and the United States.”
Brown believes increasing the number of FOCs in the state is positive for residents, particularly those with limited financial resources.
“Access to having a financial coach is an important resource for low-income and moderate-income families,” she said. “In the past, a lot of wealth-building information was only available to the rich and the very few. The prospect of adding more Financial Opportunity Centers means more access to financial education and wealth-building services for everyday people.”
Four groups that will be launching FOCs participated in the event, both in-person and virtually: Center for Family Services in Camden, Isles Inc. in Trenton, Union County Department of Human Services in Elizabeth and United Way of Central Jersey in Milltown which will operate the Perth Amboy FOC.
Thompson-Morris said the Perth Amboy location will likely be the first new site since Congressman Frank Pallone secured funds in a federal bill for that FOC location. It could become operational in the fall.
There are currently three LISC FOCs in Newark: at New Community, Ironbound Community Corporation and Urban League of Essex County.
Since 1986, Greater Newark LISC has collaborated with community-based organizations in Newark and the surrounding region to improve the quality of life for residents and shopkeepers.