When Consumer Credit Counseling Service of WNC was founded 1973, the organization’s main focus was helping a few hundred clients to make sense of their new credit cards. As the economy has changed throughout the decades, so too, has this Asheville-based nonprofit.
“OnTrack WNC’s ability to respond quickly to the recent economic crisis by offering pertinent programs and expanding services reflects the nimbleness and expertise of the agency’s leadership,” says Board President Dawn Starks.
From small beginnings in a few offices at the United Way of Asheville building, the financial education and counseling organization has grown to serve 18 counties in Western North Carolina — annually helping more than 12,000 people achieve their money and housing goals. It has expanded services beyond its Asheville office and now offers local counseling at seven satellite locations across WNC. Twenty staff members provide credit and housing counseling, debt management plans, financial literacy education, and administrative/client support. In 2007 the agency changed its name to OnTrack Financial Education and Counseling to better represent the broad range of services it offers.
To address the economic recession and mortgage crisis, OnTrack created the NC Foreclosure Prevention Loan Fund in 2010. As of August 2013, the program has provided more than $11.5 million in mortgage assistance and has enabled 560 WNC families to keep their homes.
Executive Director Celeste Collins explains that helping clients to meet basic living expenses within the current job market is one of the biggest challenges facing OnTrack WNC’s clients today. “I am most proud of how our agency has expanded and thrived as the needs of the community have changed. … Our programs have become more diverse and at the same time, more targeted to meet the different needs of different constituents. As the community needs have changed and the economy has changed, we have been flexible in meeting those needs.”
She adds that these programs would not be possible without the support received from funders and donors.
One of OnTrack WNC’s most prominent initiatives is the Women’s Financial Empowerment Center, which launched in 2010, has served more than 1,200 women and hosted its second Women and Money Conference earlier this month.
Additional initiatives include the Free Tax Prep Project, financial literacy programs for adults and youth, services for seniors, homebuyer education, student loans, as well as partnerships with local employers like Mission Hospitals and The Biltmore Company.
For more information about OnTrack and its service, visit ontrackwnc.org or call 255-5166 or 800-737-5485.
— Lea McClellan is an Asheville writer.