In an effort to directly promote equity within communities, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley actively supports organizations that are making a difference through its Fund for Racial Justice and Equity (FRJE) grant program. Through the grant program, United Way gifted a total of $310,000 to support 21 organizations in the Lehigh Valley, which progresses United Way’s goal of advancing economic prosperity.
One of the recipients, the Financial Literacy Center, is dedicated to enhancing financial knowledge and skills among people of all ages by providing free, comprehensive education that leads to tangible transformation among its students.
The Financial Literacy Center’s mission is clear: to increase economic literacy in the Lehigh Valley. The primary course offering is a weekly 90-minute lesson for eight weeks, covering essential topics such as basic banking, budgeting, retirement planning and investing. However, its mission goes beyond imparting knowledge; it also focuses on building students’ confidence and critical thinking skills to empower them to take control of their financial futures.
“Our organization has grown and thrived thanks to the invaluable support of United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley’s Fund for Racial Justice and Equity grant,” said Gabriel Rendon, executive director and founder of the Financial Literacy Center. “These funds have enabled us to serve more students and make a meaningful difference in the financial literacy landscape of Lehigh Valley.”
The significance of the organization’s mission is underscored by the fact that financial literacy education is often lacking in traditional educational settings. Many individuals graduate from high school without the fundamental knowledge needed to manage their finances effectively.
One of its key partnerships is with BankOn Allentown, managed by United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, as part of the BankOn Lehigh Valley coalition. The partnership between nonprofits and financial institutions provides training and better access to safe and affordable banking in a coordinated effort to help people break the cycle of poverty. The BankOn Allentown coalition stands out as the only BankOn coalition with a third-party educator involved in the education process. Most coalitions rely on the banks to educate participants.
Thanks to funds received by United Way, the Financial Literacy Center hopes to expand its reach and impact in 2024. It has evolved from a one-teacher organization to a team of multiple educators, allowing it to offer more courses and accommodate more students. Currently, it can teach up to 50 students a month and sees the potential to educate even more individuals.
Moreover, the organization plans to translate its courses into Spanish and Arabic, making financial education more accessible to diverse communities in the Lehigh Valley.
The impact of the FRJE grant on the Financial Literacy Center is already evident. The grant has enabled the organization to replenish its resources and prepare for more courses, ultimately serving more students in the Lehigh Valley. The organization offers one-on-one coaching for course graduates, helping individuals work toward their financial goals while reinforcing the lessons learned during the courses. Additionally, it is exploring opportunities to provide financial literacy workshops for staff members of other nonprofits, recognizing the universal importance of financial literacy across social sectors.
The Financial Literacy Center’s dedication to improving financial literacy in Lehigh Valley is commendable, and its innovative approach to education, unbiased content, and commitment to helping individuals take control of their financial well-being make them a valuable asset to the community. As the organization continues to grow and expand its reach, the impact of its work will undoubtedly contribute to a more financially informed and empowered Lehigh Valley.
United Way awarded the following local organizations with grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 through the FRJE:
- Cohesion Network
- Epoch Tribe
- Financial Literacy Center of the Lehigh Valley
- Fine Feather Foundation Inc.
- Global Hope International
- Greater Community Development Corp.
- Juneteenth Lehigh Valley
- Lycan Media
- Lehigh Valley Black Church Housing Alliance
- Light on the Horizon
- Mother2Mother Inc.
- Movement Moves Media
- Resurrected Community Development Inc.
- The Rilyc
- The Rising Sun Initiative
- The Thrive Hub Inc.
- Unidos Inc.
- Vet Beds
Grant funding is made possible thanks to partners and donors who directed their support to the Fund for Racial Justice and Equity, including PPL Foundation, Crayola, Behr, Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation, Truist, Lehigh Valley Community Foundation and United Way Women United.
Learn more about United Way and the grant program by visiting our Fund for Racial Justice and Equity page.