Build ‘Bridges to Prosperity’ in financial series


Published: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 2:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 2:10 p.m.

Are you interested in improving your financial situation and putting in the commitment and dedication needed to reach your goals?

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The Rev. James Dixon Jr., coordinator of “Bridges to Prosperity,” a three-phase financial program, speaks with participants during the October 2012 class.

LEE FERINDEN/Special to the Guardian

Facts

FINANCIAL CLASSES

What: Financial Fitness, the first phase of “Bridges to Prosperity,” a three-phase program.

When: 6-8 p.m. June 26, July 10, July 17 and July 24.

Where: Catholic Charities, 1701 NE 9th St.

Cost: Free.

Information: Call 352-372-0294 or email jdixon@catholiccharitiesgainesville.org.

If so, then you may want to consider participating in the free Financial Fitness series, the first phase of "Bridges to Prosperity," a three-phase program to help families save money and reach financial stability and prosperity.

The next Financial Fitness classes will take place from 6-8 p.m. June 26, July 10, July 17 and July 24 at Catholic Charities at 1701 NE 9th St. "Bridges to Prosperity" is sponsored by Catholic Charities. Child care is provided and dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m. before each class. To participate in the program, call 352-372-0294.

The Rev. James Dixon Jr., coordinator of "Bridges to Prosperity," said there are no requirements for participation.

"The only requirement is a determination to better your life and improve yourself personally and professionally," said Dixon, who also is pastor of Greater Faith Baptist Fellowship, which meets at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays at the Thelma Boltin Center.

Dixon said participants in the Financial Fitness phase will learn how to find extra dollars each month to save, create a spending plan, and avoid falling into money and credit traps.

And those Financial Fitness participants who are income eligible will have an opportunity to open an Individual Development Account, a dollar-for-dollar matched savings account that can be used for reliable transportation, better housing, education or owning a business.

Once the Financial Fitness series is completed, participants can take part in Phase 2, which is "Getting Ahead in a Just-Getting-By World," a 15-week series of personal development, planning and resource building workshops held from 6-8 p.m. Mondays, also at Catholic Charities. Dixon said the next Phase 2 classes are set to start in early August.

Dixon said those who participate in the Financial Fitness series can continue to have their savings matched in an Individual Development Account even if they don't sign up for Phase 2. However, Dixon said those who take all three phases of "Bridges to Prosperity" would benefit the most.

During Phase 2, Dixon said participants will dig deeper into the causes of poverty and how it impacts their lives. Dixon said participants will acquire life skills to help them get ahead and also map their own journey toward economic and career stability.

"Once you understand your situation, then you can see a way out of it," said Dixon, adding that "Getting Ahead" graduates then can advance to Phase 3, called "Circles to Prosper," which also is held from 6-8 p.m. Mondays at Catholic Charities. "Circles to Prosper" participants are matched with an "ally" to assist and support them to put their plan into action to achieve their economic and career goals.

Dixon emphasized the person who works with the participant is called an "ally" and not a "mentor" because the idea is to provide support, not to tell the participant what to do.

Dixon said residents considering taking "Bridges to Prosperity" may want to come to a class and observe to see if this is something they want to do.

Dixon said there are resources in place to provide assistance and to make the program more effective, such as the University of North Florida Small Business Development program, which provides individual counseling on topics that include how to start a business, how to get a business loan, and other topics.

"We have a network of resources," Dixon said, "and we all collaborate to be more effective for our program. We're trying to get people what they need, and we're constantly looking at ways to gain more resources."

Dixon said "Bridges to Prosperity" is a program that works.

"In all my years working and seeking the betterment for people," Dixon said, "this (Bridges to Prosperity) has been the most effective at meeting the needs of ordinary people."

Teletha Williams, a graduate of "Financial Fitness" and "Getting Ahead," said the program has changed her life for the better. Williams, who even established an Individual Development Account earmarked for transportation and college, plans to take Phase 3, "Circles to Prosper."

"This is an awesome program and I recommend it," said Williams, adding that she has been empowered to speak up and to communicate effectively.

Williams said the program has helped her in many ways, including getting help for her daughter who has special needs and getting her bank to refund money owed to her.

"I have gained confidence and I'm not afraid to speak up," Williams said. "I research now instead of taking somebody's word. I know my rights and I know what to say and how to say it. And that's very important."

Since its implementation in January 2012, Dixon said 160-165 people have participated in the program.

"If they're committed and follow the guidelines," Dixon said, "they will see improvement in their lives."

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