Financial Opportunity Corps Program Will Engage Volunteers to Help Broward Residents Improve Financial Health

Points of Light, Bank of America and AmeriCorps VISTA partner with HandsOn Broward to bring financial coaching program to area

[LAUDERHILL, August 21, 2014] — HandsOn Broward was chosen as one of 9 sites across the country to host a volunteer-driven financial coaching program announced by Points of Light, in partnership with Bank of America and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

New FOC members, Carolina Linares and Tamika Mallard join HandsOn Broward

New FOC members, Carolina Linares and Tamika Mallard join HandsOn Broward

Eighteen AmeriCorps VISTA members will be commissioned nationwide for service in the Financial Opportunity Corps. Two of those members, Carolina Linares of Margate and Tamika Mallard of Lauderhill, joined local volunteer mobilization organization HandsOn Broward this month. Linares and Mallard will help the organization train community-based volunteers – including employees at local Bank of America offices – to provide financial coaching to low- and moderate-income families in Broward County.

“Financial literacy plays an important role in the strengthening of our community,” said Linares. “Building upon the preceding VISTAs’ efforts, this year we want to expand our program’s reach into our community, with an added effort to include Spanish and French speakers from the area.”

This marks the second group of National Service Members to be inducted to the Financial Opportunity Corps, which was launched in 2013. In the program’s first year, 18 AmeriCorps VISTA members helped train more than 200 volunteer financial coaches at local nonprofits in 9 U.S. cities – serving more than 240 residents who participated in the program.

“The Financial Opportunity Corps Program comes at a time when our community truly needs it. For the past year we have had a large response to the program and have seen it grow exponentially,” said Kathy Wint, Director of Economic Development at HandsOn Broward. “With the second year and some strategic partnerships, we are poised to grow even more. This valuable service allows our members and clients to see how access to financial education directly benefits our community and we see the impact daily.”

Financial Opportunity Corps volunteers will help community members develop strategies to reduce debt, improve credit, start saving for emergencies, access benefits and build assets for long-term financial health.

“Financial coaching is the first step toward financial stability,” said Lilia Ciciolla, Assistant Vice President of Global Marketing & Corporate Affairs for Bank of America in Fort Lauderdale. “While providing tools and resources through education is imperative, the coaching aspect enables individuals to create their own path to success, by holding themselves accountable for their goals and building a foundation for long-term financial stability.”

For more information on how you can volunteer or participate in Financial Opportunity Corps programs, visit http://www.HandsOnBroward.org or contact Kathy Wint at 954-233-1296.

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About Points of Light: Points of Light – the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service – mobilizes millions of people to take action that is changing the world. Through affiliates in 250 cities and partnerships with thousands of nonprofits and corporations, Points of Light engages 4 million volunteers in 30 million hours of service each year. We put people at the center of change. For more information, go to http://www.pointsoflight.org.

Bank of America Corporate Social Responsibility: Bank of America’s commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a strategic part of doing business globally. Our CSR efforts guide how we operate in a socially, economically, financially and environmentally responsible way around the world, to deliver for shareholders, customers, clients and employees. Our goal is to help create economically vibrant regions and communities through lending, investing and giving. By partnering with our stakeholders, we create value that empowers individuals and communities to thrive and contributes to the long-term success of our business. We have several core areas of focus for our CSR, including responsible business practices; environmental sustainability; strengthening local communities with a focus on housing, hunger and jobs; investing in global leadership development; and engaging through arts and culture. As part of these efforts, employee volunteers across the company contribute their time, passion and expertise to address issues in communities where they live and work. Learn more at http://www.bankofamerica.com/about and follow us on Twitter at @BofA_Community.

About Corporation for National and Community Service: AmeriCorps VISTA is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leads the President’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve. With passion, commitment, and hard work, AmeriCorps VISTA members create or expand programs designed to bring individuals and communities out of poverty. For more information, visit NationalService.gov.

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September Volunteer Spotlight: Eric Cummings

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September’s Volunteer Spotlight belongs to U.S. Army Combat Veteran Eric Cummings. Eric is a relatively new HandsOn Broward volunteer, starting with us in June of this year, but that hasn’t stopped him from getting tremendously involved right off the bat.

Eric said, “I recently retired and also was diagnosed with depression from past military experiences. I needed an outlet to get involved with projects and stay busy. I also wanted to give back to a community that has helped and given me so much. I’m blessed to have a wife and children and grandchildren. I needed to help people and animals less fortunate than I am. It was a blessing to find HandsOn Broward when I did.”

Eric was looking for some local volunteer opportunities when he stumbled upon the HandsOn Broward website. “I was actually looking for an organization that did volunteer work in the local community. After talking with some businesses and searching the internet, I found HandsOn Broward. I loved the variety of volunteer work throughout Broward County. It definitely seemed like the right fit for me to do work with adults, kids and animals in need,” Eric said.

In just a little over two months, Eric has already completed over 100 hours of service through HandsOn Broward. He has participated in a variety of volunteer opportunities, dedicating the majority of his hours to HAPPI Farm and the Special Olympics.

Eric has been volunteering with HAPPI Farm several days a week since June 30th. HAPPI Farm provides children and adults with special needs and limitations with Animal-Assisted Learning (AAL), which can help them overcome physical and emotional challenges, minimize stress, and gain confidence, self-esteem, trust and pride.

“I love the work being done at [HAPPI Farm],” Eric said. “Cherie and Marie have let me assist in the everyday activities and trust me with feeding, watering, saddling horses, fixing fences, stacking hay and feed among other chores needed to be done. I also assist with the disabled adults and children that come to ride horses and ponies for therapy. It’s such a joy to see them have fun and get the therapy they need. Of course the animals and other volunteers are wonderful to work with. It has been an uplifting experience.”

HandsOn Broward recently posted a new volunteer opportunity with Special Olympics for their bowling program. Eric began volunteering with this program about a month ago and has been really enjoying his experience so far.

“I can’t wait every week to get there and greet all of them as they arrive. Everyone is so wonderful and so passionate to partake in bowling,” Eric said. “Also, the volunteers are a joy to work with. They are kind and compassionate. I can’t wait to get involved in other activities with the Special Olympics.”

Eric’s kindness and desire to help others shines through whenever he talks about volunteering. “I have a love and compassion for people and animals and just needed to be able to express it,” he said. “HandsOn Broward gave me that opportunity, and I feel great to be able to help in any way. I enjoy the people I’m helping and the volunteers I meet. Everyone has been a thrill to work with. I also find a peaceful solidarity with the animals at HAPPI Farm.”

When asked what advice Eric has for new volunteers, he said, “My advice would be to find the right volunteer work and enjoy it to the fullest. Just know that your assistance is providing a better situation for other people or animals. Words alone cannot express the thrill and pride you will feel.”

If you are interested in volunteering with HAPPI Farm, please click here. If you’d like to volunteer with the Special Olympics’ bowling program, please click here.

“I encourage anyone to get involved with volunteering at HandsOn Broward. There are so many opportunities with different organizations, whether it be feeding the homeless or helping children to helping animals and assisting the disabled,” Eric said. “It also feels great to give back to your community. The smiles on the people’s faces that you assist are priceless. It’s a rewarding experience.”

Thank you, Eric, for being the change in Broward County! We hope other volunteers are inspired by the impact he has on our community.