United Way Re-Opens SparkPoint Oakland Financial Help Center for Low-Income Residents

Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan Attend Re-Opening of SparkPoint Financial Education Center.

Online PR News – 04-February-2013 – OAKLAND, CA, USA (January 31, 2013) – The United Way of the Bay Area will hold an Open House and Ribbon-Cutting today, Thursday, January 31, from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m., to celebrate the new downtown Oakland location for SparkPoint, the financial education center that offers a wide range of services to help people achieve financial stability. Scheduled to be on hand for the ribbon cutting are Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, and Councilperson Desley Brooks.

The SparkPoint program now has 10 Bay Area locations, as well as three locations in Fresno and Orange County. Today's ribbon-cutting on the Oakland SparkPoint center at Eastmont Town Center is partly a celebration of the first SparkPoint Center that opened in Oakland in March 2009. With the relocation to the Eastmont Town Center, SparkPoint now has a larger facility in a permanent home ready to assist East Bay residents.

The SparkPoint Centers have offered a model for community outreach to assist families in achieving financial sustainability. SparkPoint brings together non-profit and government partners to help its clients increase their income, build assets, and manage their debt. Clients are assigned a financial coach who works with them for two to three years to help them achieve financial stability.

Since it was founded, more than 8,000 individuals have received assistance from SparkPoint Oakland. The typical SparkPoint client is female, head of household, earning $30,000 or less. With the aid of SparkPoint services, the average client is able to raise his or her credit score by 80 points, increase savings $215, reduce debt by $1,710, and increase annual income by $9,132.

"Finding a permanent home for SparkPoint Oakland has always been our goal, and with the move to Eastmont Town Center, we now have a central location that will make our services more accessible to better serve the community," said Lorne Needle, Chief Community Investment Officer for United Way of the Bay Area. "Seventeen and one-half percent of Oakland residents currently live below the poverty line. With support from services such as SparkPoint, we hope to be able to help low-income residents achieve financial stability. Already our clients tell us they love the new location, and we are seeing more new clients than ever."

The SparkPoint initiative is part of the United Way's response to address the systemic issues that keep families in poverty. The United Way's goal is to reduce poverty in the Bay Area by 50 percent by the year 2020. To achieve that goal, the initiative has targeted four at-risk groups: female-headed households, families with young children, linguistically isolated individuals, and those with a high school diploma or less.

Major funding for the SparkPoint Oakland and for other SparkPoint programs in the Bay Area comes from generous donations by Chevron and Wells Fargo.

About SparkPoint Centers
Created by United Way of the Bay Area, SparkPoint Centers are one-stop, financial education centers that help individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet. SparkPoint helps clients address immediate financial crises, get back on their feet, and build financially secure futures. Each center brings together a full range of services at one convenient location, including job training, career development, and financial coaching, as well as access to higher education and savings accounts. Every SparkPoint client is provided a coach who helps create a step-by-step plan to set and achieve financial goals. United Way's SparkPoint model has garnered both national and international attention with poverty experts traveling from around the country and as far away as the Netherlands to study it. Learn more at http://www.sparkpointcenters.org.

About United Way of the Bay Area
United Way of the Bay Area is a nonprofit organization, leading a movement to cut Bay Area poverty in half by 2020. We're harnessing the collective power of nonprofits, government, corporations, labor and thousands of individuals to create change through giving, advocating, and volunteering. Every year, our programs - SparkPoint, Earn It! Keep It! Save It!, 211, MatchBridge and Community Schools - help more than 250,000 Bay Area residents. We connect people to food and shelter, put people back to work, bring tax dollars back to our community, help youth succeed in school and in the workplace, and move people toward financial stability. Founded in 1922, United Way of the Bay Area serves Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Solano Counties. For more information, visit http://www.uwba.org.

Media Contact:
Micheline Savarin
United Way of the Bay Area
221 Main Street, Suite 300
San Francisco, CA 94105