Thousands of people in Durham and Orange Counties have jobs, homes and savings accounts due in large part to efforts in training, assistance and the use of technology by the Community Empowerment Fund.

Since 2011, the CEF, which operates in Durham and Orange Counties, has helped more than 600 people find home; more than 800 find jobs; more than 1,000 reach savings goals of close to $1 million, and in all helped improve the lives of nearly 4,000 people. Those totals are based on statistics provided by the CEF, with numbers increasing year-over-year in virtually all categories.

In the second part of an exclusive Q&A, CEF Co-director Jonathan Young talks about how CEF works with partners and utilizes technology to reach out to people who need a helping hand. The CEF recently won a $40,000 grant through the GlaxoSmithKline Impact program. [Published Monday, part one is available online.]

Our Q&A:

  • Given who your clients are, how do you overcome the digital divide in making them aware of what you are doing and maximizing what you can offer?

We partner with amazing organizations like the Kramden Institute to provide affordable laptop computers to our Members, and provide one-on-one computer literacy education to our Members.

In the context of our work with Members, our Advocates are often helping Members navigate digital tools, such as working side-by-side to complete online job applications, create resumes, manage email communication, or learn online banking [and] bill-pay tools. All of this side-by-side work is aimed at building Members’ own capability and confidence in navigating these tools safely and independently.

  • How will the funds from the grant be spent?

CEF is poised for growth in many ways, and the GSK IMPACT Award is a catalytic investment for us. We have grown exponentially over recent years, and we are seeking to growth the depth of our services just as the number of Members we serve has seen great growth over the years. The GSK IMPACT Award presents an opportunity for us to invest in new strategies and promote organizational sustainability.

  • What are your primary goals entering 2018?

Promote sustained transitions out of homelessness through collaborative approaches to ending homelessness

Integrate financial coaching and matched savings programs into affordable housing, workforce development, and other partner services to expand the reach and impact of these CEF services

Advance CEF members’ achievement of employment and career goals in partnership with local employers and area community colleges

Increase capacity to serve Spanish-speaking members and deepen relationships with organizations serving the Latinx community

  • What’s the message your organization is delivering?

CEF supports people experiencing homelessness or financial insecurity to gain employment, secure housing, and build savings.

CEF trains and pairs volunteer “Advocates,” many of whom are undergraduate students, to work one-on-one with Members.

We are valued by Members and partners alike for our ability to meet people where they are and walk alongside each individual to achieve personal goals, with a particular focus on financial empowerment.

We are passionate about sustaining transitions out of homelessness, and combine relationship-based support with innovative matched savings accounts to help Members achieve long-term dreams.