Community Action Duluth honored for financial advocacyCommunity Action Duluth was recently named one of six recipients of a statewide award for financial advocacy.
Community Action Duluth was recently named one of six recipients of a statewide award for financial advocacy.
The Lincoln Park-based nonprofit received the Financial Advocacy Award from Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota. Duluth Mayor Don Ness and Hermantown’s Superior Choice Credit Union have also been recognized with the award in past years.
“As people recover from the recession, they’re still facing foreclosure, unemployment and financial scams,” said Angie Miller, Community Action Duluth executive director. “People are finishing high school or college without a lot of knowledge of credit scores or credit reports, and it’s created a bigger need for financial advocacy or one-on-one coaching to improve financial stability.”
Community Action Duluth received the award for a number of financial programs and services offered to the Duluth community, including its “Common Cents” classes on budgeting basics, the “Jump Start” car loan program for people with poor credit, an annual free tax clinic and the “Circles of Support” group that provides connections for people to overcome poverty.
CAD staff received the award on Thursday, June 13, at the Center for Changing Lives in Minneapolis alongside five other recipients from around the state.
April Sanderson, a financial counselor at Lutheran Social Services, nominated CAD for the award. LSS has partnered with CAD in the past and Sanderson currently serves on the loan committee for the Jump Start program.
“They have a passion for helping people get out of poverty,” she said. “And it’s hands-on help. They get their hands dirty and get in and
help. I found that quite inspiring.”
While LSS’ work is mostly limited to providing financial counseling and services, CAD has a full spectrum of services that help identify financial problems, Sanderson said.
“Where Community Action thrives is looking for more of the hands-on support in the community,” she said. “They have support for everything. If you go to them because you’re having trouble balancing a budget, they look at whether or not part of that is because you’re having transportation issues or need some work on your interview skills or need more education. They look at the whole person.”
CAD dates back to 1965, when it was founded as a low-income assistance agency through the city of Duluth. It became an independent nonprofit in 1982, continuing programs like food assistance and energy assistance. But, due to state and federal grant cuts, the organization closed its doors in 1999.
However, the program was reborn later that year with a new board of directors. Instead of focusing on traditional poverty-related assistance like clothing, hunger and homelessness, the new board of directors decided to offer programs that focused on issues like employment, asset building and public policy.
Today, CAD, which recently moved into the former Lincoln Park Middle School, offers programs and financial assistance for topics ranging from buying a car and doing taxes to ending racism and getting a “green job.”
Dan Williams, program director for LSS Financial Counseling, called CAD one of the most “innovative, progressive community action agencies in the state.” It’s important to honor such financial advocacy groups, he said.
“They’re making a difference,” Williams said. “We need to make sure those organizations that don’t necessarily do high-profile work are getting recognized for the importance of it.”
Miller said she and her staff at CAD were honored to receive the award and be recognized alongside other state recipients.
“All the people there were truly amazing,” she said. “It was inspiring.”
The award also strengthens the existing relationship between CAD and LSS, she said.
“We work closely with LSS in Duluth and their financial counseling service,” Miller said. “They do really great work. It was great to be honored by them.”
The other Financial Advocacy Award recipients this year are:
• U.S. Sen. Al Franken for his work to change USDA foreclosure policies that adversely affected rural households;
• Prentiss Cox, a financial advocate and attorney at the University of Minnesota Law Clinic, who has led anti-predatory lending and consumer protection legislation efforts;
• The Ridgewater College Agriculture Department (Willmar, Minn.) for its commitment to providing personal finance education to first-year students;
• Kathleen Butts of the Plymouth Youth Center High School, an alternative high school in North Minneapolis that allows many students to live on their own and work various jobs;
• Darin Minkel and the Tribal Council at the Lower Sioux Indian Community in Southwest Minnesota, where financial counseling and education are available to all tribal members.