United Way opens financial education center in former bank building … – Mid-City Messenger

The United Way’s financial capability education center is now at 2401 Canal St., one block from its original location.
The J. Wayne Leonard Prosperity Center has moved from the mid-century office building at 2515 Canal, which was purchased in June by NO AIDS Task Force, property records show. The health care nonprofit plans to renovate the historic building, designed by Curtis & Davis, into a CrescentCare Health Clinic.
The United Way financial services center, part of an initiative to eliminate poverty in Southeast Louisiana, first opened in 2017.  After the building at 2515 Canal lost its roof and sustained significant water damage in Hurricane Ida, the center’s staff has provided appointment-only services out of the ground-floor conference room.
Its new building, a former Iberia Bank and First Horizon Bank branch, will allow United Way to expand its services, officials said.
“Our financial capability team did a remarkable job reaching clients over the last year to ensure they could still access the center’s life-changing services,” said Michael Williamson, UWSELA president and CEO, “but the urgent need to expand our capacity amidst the pandemic and storm recovery drove our search for a new location.”
The center is named for the longest-serving chairman and CEO of Entergy, the late J. Wayne Leonard, who facilitated more than $50 million in charitable donations to move people out of poverty and improve early childhood education. Leonard, the 2017 UWSELA Tocqueville Society Award honoree, provided a surprise $1 million contribution to the local United Way, which helped open the center five years ago.
The center’s helps low- to moderate-income participants gain financial stability through an array of services, including financial education and coaching, access to safe and affordable financial services, free tax preparation, an incentivized savings program and workforce soft-skill training.
The center targets the 55% of households in Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes living below the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) threshold. Households living below this threshold do not earn enough money to afford a basic survival budget, including housing, transportation, health care, child care, food, technology and emergency savings.
The Individual Development Account (IDA) Project, a cornerstone of the Prosperity Center, helps move families living under the ALICE Threshold to long-term financial stability.
“When I decided to take my fashion design business from a hobby to my sole source of income, the United Way’s IDA program became a huge catapult for me,” said Renee Johnson, a former client. “As a single mother, I was able to take a leap of faith and build a successful fashion design business because of the mentorship and financial resources provided to me by the program.”
Now in its fifth year of serving clients in New Orleans and the surrounding area, the center has helped participants save an average of $1,500 within six months; assisted with $15.5 million in asset purchases through the IDA Project; and granted over $1.3 million in mortgage and rental assistance.
Programming will be available to the public at no cost beginning in January. For more information, call 504-822-5540 or visit UnitedWaySELA.org/ProsperityCenter.
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