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LISC Jacksonville, Community Partners Launch Florida’s First Financial Opportunity Center

February 27, 2019

Originally published by LISC.

LISC Jacksonville celebrates the Steps 2 Success grand opening ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. Steps 2 Success uses a model that effects change in challenged communities.


Northwest Jacksonville has a powerful new weapon to help transform lives for residents of the New Town area. Business and community leaders gathered in early December 2018 to celebrate the opening of Steps 2 Success – a financial and career coaching model that has proven successful in more than 90 locations across the country.

“When I came here (to the new financial opportunity center) I was unemployed, homeless, with no vehicle,” said Kimberly Dorsey, a current participant in the Steps 2 Success program. “I’m employed now, with a vehicle and my own place to live.”

Dorsey is one of the initial participants in the Steps 2 Success program brought to Jacksonville by the nonprofit LISC Jacksonville, a United Way partner, and several other community and business partners.

The program’s multi-pronged, integrated services model is based on in-depth research with residents in challenged urban communities. The approach differs from other career training or financial literacy programs in that it uses team coaching to help participants obtain steady, living-wage jobs, boost their credit scores and increase net income/net worth. Independent research shows the approach helps people achieve greater success in meeting their financial goals, said Steve Kelley, vice president for Community Lending at TIAA Bank.

“The FOC goes beyond employment and focuses on family stability which is essential for safe and growing and vibrant communities,” Kelley told a crowd of about 50 who gathered this morning for the grand opening celebration.

Greg Smith, market president of Bank of America, added, “Through this center, participants will develop career paths that will enable them to secure a living wage job, make thoughtful and informed financial decisions for their families and ultimately make investments in their first homes and more importantly their futures and the futures of their family and this community.”

Local Initiatives Support Corporation supports a network of 91 financial opportunity centers in cities around the nation. The FOC model is based on the belief that thriving neighborhoods include residents who feel confident their incomes will grow, their job prospects will improve and their lives will stabilize. LISC supports the renewal of under-invested urban neighborhoods by helping families increase their income, decrease expenses, reduce debt, invest in themselves, and save money, according to LISC Jacksonville Executive Director Janet Owens.

FOCs provide career opportunity programs and financial coaching that help residents improve the financial bottom line for themselves and their families,” Owens said. “The strength of the FOC model lies in the fact that this method is based on employment along with long-term individual engagement with each client.”

The success of this approach extends beyond getting a job, said Michelle Hughes who is managing the Steps 2 Success program for LISC Jacksonville operating partner Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida.

“While employment is a true victory,” Hughes said. “True success is measured in long term financial stability that comes from participants investing in themselves and their neighborhoods.”

LISC’s FOC operating partners include United Way of Northeast Florida, Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida, Family Foundations of Northeast Florida and New Town Success Zone/Edward Waters College. Representatives from these partners and several funding organizations celebrated the grand opening and official launch of Jacksonville’s FOC on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018 at 10 a.m. at the corner of Kings Road and Tyler Street.

How you can help

With the support of United Way, agencies like LISC are able to help individuals and families in Northeast Florida have hope and reach their full potential. Through the power of partnerships, we help hardworking families become more financially secure through fostering economic growth and productive employment. To learn how you can join United Way in the fight for community change, visit unitedwaynefl.org/get-involved.