A Spark After 90 Years
Oct 01, 2013
United Way of the Bay Area is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, but its work in San Francisco is not yet done. It is estimated that one in five residents still don’t earn enough money to make ends meet. To reverse that trend, United Way launched SparkPoint in 2009, a one-stop financial counseling center where local families can access the tools and resources they need to achieve financial stability. Ten such centers throughout the community served more than 4,500 individuals last year.
Each SparkPoint center has an anchor partner, such as Opportunity Junction, which forms a network of nonprofit partners to provide core services. They offer job training and placement assistance, home buying and foreclosure prevention workshops, and credit counseling sessions. Their goal is to ensure that participants make livable wages – in San Francisco, a family of four must earn $65,000 per year – and increase their credit scores to 650 or higher. United Way’s longer-term goal is to cut poverty in half by 2020.
Bank of America is a founding partner of both United Way and SparkPoint, having provided the seed money for the venture. Bank employees teach financial literacy courses, in addition to volunteering for board positions and service projects. United Way also appreciates the bank’s commitment to its network partners. “Bank of America has uniquely added value to the community and space,” said Eric McDonnell, chief operating officer, United Way of the Bay Area. “They've done a phenomenal job of investing in the leadership capacity of organizations like MEDA, Opportunity Junction and the list goes on.”
Erika Robbins applied for SparkPoint classes when working three jobs wasn’t enough to provide for her new child. She lost her car and her home went into foreclosure. Through SparkPoint, Robbins took computer and financial literacy courses, which she applied to her job search. She recently bought a new car and home, and celebrated six successful years working for a property management company. “It’s about sticking it out and striving for the best for me and my child; being an example for people around me,” said Robbins. “That’s what life is.” Bank of America continues to be an example for corporations in the Bay Area and beyond seeking to better the communities where they do business.