OnTrack Financial Education & Counseling
Asheville – At its Financial Literacy Luncheon on Friday, May 9, OnTrack Financial Education & Counseling (OnTrack WNC) celebrated its 40th anniversary by recognizing projects and partnerships which demonstrate a commitment to financial literacy and empowerment. Over 200 people gathered at the Crest Pavilion where OnTrack WNC presented 2014 Awards to: Western Carolina Community Action; The United Way of Transylvania County; Dawn Starks, Starks Financial Group; and Randall Barnett, The Buyer’s Agent. The 2014 Client of the Year Award Winner was Esther Rodriguez. Prior to the awards luncheon, Tom Tveidt, president of SYNEVA Economics, LLC provided a morning seminar, Economic Trends in Western North Carolina, which included an overview of important regional economic data.
2014 Financial Literacy Award Winners:
Western Carolina Community Action and the United Way of Transylvania County received the Financial Literacy Community Partners Award for “Families & Money”, a collaborative project which provides on-site financial counseling and education to low-income families and those living in poverty, including Head Start families, Family Self-Sufficiency participants, daycare teachers, and clients of other nonprofits. Also included is youth financial literacy education for kindergarteners, with the goal of expanding to middle school and high school this fall.
The 2014 Credit Where Credit Is Due Award winner was Dawn Starks, President Starks Financial Group. Starks is a successful small business owner, who began her financial planning firm fifteen years ago. She was recognized for investing her time, energy, expertise and financial resources in OnTrack WNC’s mission, including serving on the agency’s board of directors, two terms as board president, teaching financial education classes, providing sponsorships for programs/events and contributing to the OnTrack WNC endowment.
Randall Barnett, Realtor with The Buyer’s Agent, received the 2014 R.E.G.I. Volunteer of the Year Award for his volunteer work with OnTrack WNC’s homebuyer education, community-wide affordable housing fairs, and Mad City Money, the high school experiential learning program. The R.E.G.I. Award (Reliable, Energetic, Generous, Involved) is named after long-term OnTrack WNC volunteer, Regi Blackburn.
In addition to the community awards, the 2014 Client of the Year was Esther Rodriguez. Esther’s financial journey through divorce, single-parenting, and rebuilding her credit has not been easy, and her perseverance — despite the odds — is inspirational. Esther uses a powerful image as she reflects on her situation; she calls her initial desperation “an insurmountable wall of monetary enslavement” and celebrates that the “wall” has fallen and turned into stepping stones to her financially free future, which will soon include homeownership.
OnTrack WNC’s Executive Director Celeste Collins recapped the evolution of agency services over its
40 years of serving Western North Carolina, including impressive statistics that span multiple years:
- Debt Management Program has helped consumers repay $29 million in unsecured debt since 2003.
- Since its beginning in 2007 through the end of this year’s tax season, the Free Tax Preparation Project (VITA) has filed over 4400 tax returns for $6 million in refunds for low-income tax payers.
- In the last 5 years, OnTrack WNC’s educators have educated and empowered participants with 83,000 hours of financial classes.
- Youth Financial Literacy Programs including DIME-a-Saurus and Mad City Money have reached 7500 students (K-12) since 2005.
- The Women’s Financial Empowerment Center which offers education, counseling and support with programming customized to meet women’s unique needs.
- In response to the mortgage meltdown and foreclosure crisis, from 2007 through 2013, foreclosure prevention counseling helped stabilize housing for 3800 families who were facing foreclosure.
- 630 WNC families have received over $13 million from the NC Foreclosure Prevention Fund which provides mortgage payment assistance to people experiencing temporary financial hardship, while they search for a job or retrain for a new career.
A highlight of this year’s Financial Literacy Luncheon was presentations of original poems from three local Spoken Word / Slam poets. Shanita Jackson, a junior at Henderson County Early College High School, presented “Red Skinned Potatoes”; Bryan Head, a freshman at UNC-Asheville, presented “Teacher” and Brooke Paly, a senior at Asheville High School, presented “Museums”. The poets are part of the Slam Asheville Youth / Brave New Voices poetry group, coached by Heidi Freeman, an English teacher at Asheville High School. The event ended with OnTrack WNC’s Executive Director, Celeste Collins, performing her own Spoken Word poem, “Money”.
Collins said, “The projects, partnerships and people we recognized today have been important of our journey and the evolution of our programs. We are proud of our forty year history and look forward to continuing to provide services to meet needs throughout the region. At OnTrack WNC we help people manage debt, formulate budgets, avoid foreclosure, increase savings, control spending, and develop a healthy relationship to money to meet their needs and reach their life goals.”
Through sponsorships, ticket sales and in-kind contributions, the Financial Literacy Luncheon raised $37,235. The event was made possible by support from Platinum Sponsors: The Biltmore Company and Starks Financial Group. Gold Sponsors: Asheville Radio Group, Clear Channel Asheville, Dixon Hughes Goodman, LLP, HomeTrust Bank, which is also the exclusive sponsor of OnTrack WNC’s Adult Financial Literacy Programs, Parsec Financial, PNC Bank, and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Additional sponsors are listed on the Our Partners webpage athttp://www.ontrackwnc.org/sponsors.htm
About OnTrack WNC
OnTrack Financial Education & Counseling (OnTrack WNC) is a community-based non-profit agency dedicated to helping people achieve their money and housing goals. Since 1973 OnTrack WNC has provided professional, confidential financial counseling, education programs, foreclosure prevention services and debt repayment plans. For additional information or to schedule an appointment please call OnTrack WNC at 255-5166, toll free 1-800-737-5485, or visit www.ontrackwnc.org.