A group of nonprofit agencies is working to boost the level of financial education and awareness in Niagara Falls.
The Niagara County Financial Literacy Coalition is spearheaded by Consumer Credit Counseling Service, a Cheektowaga-based nonprofit dedicated to helping individuals and families achieve financial security.
The goal of the new group is to help families break the cycle of poverty via free educational opportunities and counseling.
The program operates from offices on Main Street at Family & Children's Niagara Family Center, a one-stop center that also houses programs of the American Red Cross, Rivershore Inc., Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara, the Girl Scouts of Western New York and Native American Community Services.
The Niagara Falls office opened to the public Oct. 15, providing individual and family financial coaching, financial literacy programs and access to the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. A ribbon-cutting will be held on Oct. 29.
Funding of more than $70,500 has come from the John R. Oishei Foundation, East Hill Foundation and First Niagara. The United Way of Greater Niagara has also pledged support.
Paul Atkinson, Consumer Credit Counseling president and CEO, said the coalition will provide similar programs to those offered in Buffalo through the CASH Coalition initiative operated by the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County.
Community leaders say the program is long overdue and much needed.
"Financial Literacy is a huge area of concern and funding a program to address this need is critical to the future stability of our community," said Carol Houwaart-Diez, president of the United Way of Greater Niagara.
A second office in Lockport will open in early 2014. The agency expects to serve up to 1,000 residents annually.
Other organizations in the county have also agreed to partner on the effort, some of which may also host programs at their sites, including the Niagara Community Action Program; Child & Family Services Ways to Work program; the YWCA of Niagara; the Niagara Falls Housing Authority; the City of Niagara Falls Department of Community Development; Worksource One; Niagara University; Soul for Heart, Love and Soul; and Highland Community Revitalization Services.