Father and son playing with toy

A smarter way to fight poverty

With programs for both parents and children, an Indianapolis community center is working to lift entire families

Helping families get — and remain — ahead financially often requires a unique focus on supporting both the parents and the children in the household. For instance, a parent may need job and skills training, while the children may need better access to academic assistance.

The Indianapolis nonprofit Hawthorne Community Center understands this, and it is using a two-generation approach it calls “2Gen” to improve the lives of both parents and children simultaneously. The bundle of services offered by the organization’s Center for Working Families (CWF) combines offerings such as workforce skills training with academic enrichment programs. “Although goals may vary from family to family, at its core all the work is focused on building long-term financial stability for that family,” says Caleb Sutton, executive director of the Hawthorne Community Center.

The 2Gen program, which was piloted and funded by United Way of Central Indiana prior to being adopted by Hawthorne, is designed to encompass everything from early childhood education to job training to bettering a family’s overall health and well-being. For parents and caregivers, Hawthorne offers services and classes to help them obtain and maintain jobs, learn money management skills and achieve financial stability. “The 2Gen programming looks at each family holistically and works with them to meet their own goals,” says Sutton. Emergency income assistance and a monthly food pantry are also available for families struggling to cover basic living expenses.

Setting parents on a better path to employment has the added benefit of creating structure and consistency for their children. “Safety and stability in the home are essential to the success of young people,” says Sutton. While parents take advantage of the rich CWF program lineup, their kids can take part in the center’s youth programs, which aim to empower them with social and life skills. Children’s programs include tutoring options, homework help and other structured extracurricular activities.

As part of its $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance equality and economic opportunity, Bank of America is supporting the Hawthorne Community Center’s mission and its 2Gen program, which is staffed by a mix of paid professionals and volunteers. The program can already boast some notable successes: “We have had families move from experiencing homelessness to homeownership, and other families work to open their own businesses,” says Sutton. With 2Gen, the center hopes to help families reach their full potential, for this generation and the next.


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