Wednesday, June 3, 2015

OnTrack WNC recognizes leaders in financial literacy

At its annual Financial Literacy Luncheon on Friday, May 15, OnTrack WNC Financial Education & Counseling (OnTrack WNC) recognized projects and partnerships which demonstrate a commitment to financial literacy and empowerment. Over 200 people gathered at the Crest Pavilion for the presentation of the following awards [details below]: Community Financial Literacy Partner Award: Buncombe County Government; Credit Where Credit Is Due Award: The Sisters of Mercy of NC Foundation; and the Volunteer of the Year: Sherman Fearing, tax volunteer. A highlight of the event was the 2015 Clients of the Year in the agency’s focus program areas: Susan Cain was recognized for Paying Down Debt; Mara Bone was recognized for Improving Credit; and Molly Sprengelmeyer was recognized for Buying a Home. Prior to the awards luncheon, local author and UNC-Asheville professor, Mary Lynn Manns, Ph.D. presented a morning seminar based on her book “Fearless Change: Strategies for Making Your Ideas Happen.”

2015 Financial Literacy Award Winners:

  • As the Financial Literacy Community Partner Award winner, Buncombe County was recognized in two areas: as an employer and as a community leader in strategic initiatives and planning. The County has incorporated on-site education to help staff members enhance their financial knowledge and tools. In addition, it has demonstrated a commitment to financial stability and financial literacy with strategic initiatives, planning and funding including the ASPIRE Program, Aging Services, and the recently announced Family Justice Center. Buncombe County Commission Chairman, David Gantt, and Human Resources Analyst, Beth Ray accepted the award.
  • The Credit Where Credit Is Due Award went to the Sisters of Mercy of NC Foundation and Program Officer, Trish Mahoney, for the valuable investment in OnTrack WNC’s programs over the years. Highlights include funding for housing counseling during the mortgage crisis and funding which energized the women-centered education and counseling of the Women’s Financial Empowerment Center. The award thanked the Foundation for not only its financial support but also for help in refining programs to enhance the quality of outcomes for clients. 
  • Sherman Fearing received the 2015 Volunteer of the Year Award for his volunteer work with OnTrack WNC’s free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site. Over the five years of Sherman’s volunteer service he has completed 498 tax returns and volunteered more than 1000 hours to help low-income people complete and file their taxes! He is dedicated to the work and routinely helps OnTrack WNC manage day-to-day issues and unexpected challenges, including this year’s winter weather during the busiest weeks of the tax season. In addition, Sherman is one of the dedicated year-round volunteers who make the agency’s off-season tax preparation services possible.
Luncheon attendees were inspired by the 2015 Clients of the Year: Susan Cain - Paying Down Debt, Mara Bone -- Improving Credit; and Molly Sprengelmeyer -- Buying a Home. Each shared compelling stories of personal challenge and determination as they worked with the agency’s staff in education classes, individual appointments, and follow-up toward their goals.

In her opening remarks, Celeste Collins, OnTrack WNC Executive Director, elaborated on the event’s theme “Make Friends With Your Money.” She explained that as the agency assessed the emerging needs in Western North Carolina it has found that overall people don’t have a very “friendly” relationship with their money. Collins said, “Money-talk is often filled with stress and, even anger, because of the financial struggles people have had.” She stated that while people have weathered the recession’s financial storm, many still have a strained and even anxious relationship with their money, because of overwhelming debt, poor credit history and low credit scores, inadequate savings, and ineffective budgeting skills. Facing these barriers, people with the dream of homeownership often wonder if it could ever become a reality. OnTrack WNC is committed to helping people take action to address financial issues and find hope for a brighter future.

Luncheon attendees were encouraged to help increase awareness about the action-oriented programs available to people from OnTrack WNC in three key areas: Pay Down Debt, Improve Credit, Buy A Home. The agency’s education and counseling supports clients as they become confident and comfortable in their relationship with money and work to achieve their goals.

Through sponsorships, ticket sales and in-kind contributions, the Financial Literacy Luncheon raised $37,900. The event was made possible by support from Platinum Sponsors: The Biltmore Company and Starks Financial Group. Gold Sponsors: Asheville Radio Group, Dixon Hughes Goodman, LLP, HomeTrust Bank, iHeart Media, Parsec Financial, PNC Bank, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and Crest Center – M7 Event Solutions.

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