United Way of Summit County, Huntington team with city to open Akron’s first financial empowerment center

Oct 12, 2017

Published on October 12, 2017 by Crain's Cleveland Business>

United Way of Summit County will partner with the city of Akron and Huntington National Bank to help achieve one of the nonprofit's "bold goals" — working to financially empower 11,000 Akron residents with a focus on those who are working but still struggling financially.

The three announced on Thursday, Oct. 12, that they will partner to launch the county's first financial empowerment center, a mechanism United Way has said will be a key feature of its empowerment strategy.

Huntington Bank is donating its Kenmore branch at 1060 Kenmore Blvd. to the cause, according to a news release. The 4,000-square-foot facility will provide a venue for financial counselors — hired and trained by United Way — to meet with local residents and help them build assets, reduce debt, budget for the future, improve their credit scores and access safe and affordable banking services, the agency said in announcing the partnership. The center will open in the first quarter of 2018, the release said.

Financial empowerment is a goal that United Way is pursuing with new vigor under its president and CEO, Jim Mullen, who came from Nashville to run the local arm of United Way in 2015. He and other staffers have been working with Huntington, the city and other partners to make the centers a reality, and plans call for several to be established in key Akron neighborhoods, he and the city said previously.

"We are extremely grateful to Huntington Bank for giving us the opportunity to accelerate our Bold Goal work in partnership with the City of Akron," Mullen said in the release. "United Way's Financial Empowerment Centers will help thousands of Akron residents build more stable, financially secure lives. And we are thrilled that the people of Kenmore will be there to help us build a better future for Akron, just as they are working so hard to revitalize their own community."

Kenmore is one of several Akron neighborhoods where engaged residents and funding sources such as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation are hoping to spur change. The neighborhood recently organized a Better Block event and its fledgling music industry has received positive attention as well.

It's also got its challenges, much like Summit County as a whole, where a recent United Way report found that 40% of households — and 57% in Akron — earn less than Ohio's basic cost of living. City leaders hope Kenmore will be a neighborhood that breaks that cycle.

"Kenmore is a vibrant neighborhood at a tipping point in its development," said Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan in the release. "The city is working hard to facilitate a continued stream of public, private and philanthropic investment into Akron that will have a significant impact on the social and economic health of our neighborhoods. … We look forward to being a key partner in the Center's success here in Akron."

Huntington's Akron regional president, Nicholas Browning, said the bank hopes its assistance will "benefit thousands of people in Summit County."

"Our friends and neighbors will now have access to sound financial education and counseling, which will strengthen the fabric of our community by enabling families to pursue their dreams and secure a future filled with financial success," Browning said in a statement.

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