Monday, September 30, 2013

OnTrack WNC celebrates 40 years of service

Founded in 1973 as Consumer Credit Counseling Service of WNC to provide budget and credit counseling to a few hundred people, OnTrack WNC has grown to serve 18 counties in Western North Carolina – annually helping more than 12,000 people achieve their money and housing goals.
Since the early 1970s, OnTrack WNC has expanded services beyond Asheville’s main office and now offers local counseling at seven satellite locations across WNC. Twenty staff members provide credit/housing counseling, debt management plans, financial literacy education, and administrative/client support.

In 2007 the agency changed its name to OnTrack Financial Education & Counseling to better represent the broad range of services it offers to help people get “on track” with their money and credit.

As needs have changed, OnTrack WNC’s services have also evolved. Today our certified financial/housing counselors help consumers with budgets, debt, student loans, reverse mortgages, home buying, and foreclosure prevention. Our educators offer dynamic financial literacy programs for adult, children and youth. We’ve expanded our collaborative programs through matched savings for homeownership; partnerships with local employers, like Mission Hospitals and The Biltmore Company; the Women’s Financial Empowerment Center; and the Free Tax Prep Project. 
"It's exciting to look back over our history to see how the agency has continued to adapt and evolve to meet Western North Carolina’s ever-changing needs. We could not have done it without the steady support of funders, the strong network of nonprofit agencies, our amazing board and dedicated staff!" says Executive Director Celeste Collins.
The agency's strategic planning in 2000 created the stair steps to financial empowerment which depicts the journey from crisis to stability, to self-sufficiency and ultimately to gaining assets. This continuum continues to provide the framework for identifying client needs, analyzing service gaps, and evaluating program expansion opportunities.

The economic recession and mortgage crisis challenged OnTrack WNC to restructure and expand to meet the ever-growing demand for intensive foreclosure prevention counseling. Board President Dawn Starks states “OnTrack WNC’s ability to respond quickly to the recent economic crisis by offering pertinent programs and expanding services reflects the nimbleness and expertise of the agency’s leadership.”

Important OnTrack WNC highlights include: 

·   In December 2010, at the height of the economic crisis, the NC Housing Finance launched the statewide NC Foreclosure Prevention Loan Fund.  Realizing the program would be an important resource for families, OnTrack WNC quickly agreed to manage the program for the 18 counties in Western NC.  As of August 2013, over $11.5 million in mortgage assistance has enabled 560 Western NC families to keep their homes.
·    OnTrack WNC launched the Women’s Financial Empowerment Center (WFEC) in 2010, and since the program’s inception has served over 1,200 women. The second Women and Money Conference will be held on Saturday, October 5th of this year. 

·    OnTrack WNC’s Free Tax Preparation Project has grown by leaps and bounds since its beginning in 2007. For the 2013 tax season, the agency filed 857 returns for a total of $1,269,604 in refunds. We helped our clients, who had an average household income of $22,144, save an estimated $170,000 on tax preparation fees. 

On Monday, September 16th, OnTrack WNC launched a year of celebration with a successful 40th Birthday Party donor reception.  Donors, sponsors, staff and board gathered at Metro Wines in Asheville for the event, which featured three poets from Asheville’s own amazing Brave New Voices/Slam Asheville Youth.  Shanita Jackson, Bryan Head and Brooke Paley performed “spoken word poetry” on the themes of Poverty, Passion and Privilege which are central to OnTrack WNC’s mission.

OnTrack WNC helps people achieve their money and housing goals through financial education, counseling, and support so they can overcome crises, afford basic needs, improve money management skills, and make sound financial choices rooted in their values.

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