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Building Financial Opportunities for Chicagoans

For more than a decade, LISC Chicago and its Centers for Working Families (CWF) have helped families and individuals become more financially secure. Because April is National Financial Capability Month, and Money Smart Week takes place from April 18 – 25, over the next several weeks LISC Chicago will highlight each CWF through a series of videos showcasing their work throughout the city. 

CWF Video Features: 

LISC Chicago's Centers for Working Families, which provide a variety of financial and employment services, will be highlighted in a series of videos over the next several weeks.

Photos by Eric Young Smith

“It's exciting. I'm excited about my life right now,” said Christine Wilson, a Center for Working Families client. “When I first came here, I was depressed. I was having a hard time, I was struggling. Just coming home after so long, reconnecting with my family, trying to find a job.” 

Christine is a mother of three and grandmother of two. She had a hard time finding a job after being in prison for eight years on a drug charge. Christine is now employed as a computer numerical control operator using numbers to manufacture car parts. She received training for her new job at the Jane Addams Resource Corporation, one of LISC Chicago’s Centers for Working Families

Building financial opportunities for Chicagoans may begin with a job, but it doesn’t end there. Each year, LISC's 13 CWFs connect 12,000 residents to career development, financial coaching, digital-skills training, credit building and income support services. 

Based on a model developed by the Anne E. Casey Foundation, LISC Chicago’s CWF network started more than 10 years ago. Inspired by the community-based model and the impact in Chicago, National LISC expanded the program and called them Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs) eight years ago resulting in more than 70 sites nationwide today. 

But what exactly does this mean and what do these CWFs do? 

The CWFs, supported and guided by LISC Chicago, connect residents in economically distressed neighborhoods with comprehensive financial coaching that emphasizes long-term financial wellness. CWFs help people become more financially secure in three critical areas: employment and/or increased wages; improved financial condition; and improved access to public benefits. 

“Often, when clients get placed in a job they still don’t have enough income to pay for their monthly expenses,” said Jennifer McClain, director of financial opportunities at LISC Chicago. “Our sites not only assist our clients with what they need to get higher-wage jobs – whether that’s helping them think through advancement at their current employment or assess training needs and opportunities for higher skilled job – but, also determine their career goals and specific pathways toward those goals.”

Employment training is one of the services offered by some of LISC Chicago's CWFs.

One of the goals, McClain said, is to prepare clients for sustainable success on career paths with opportunities for advancement. Also unlike traditional job placement services, CWFs maintain relationships with clients even after they’ve secured employment. 

“Our CWF coaches are their clients’ cheerleaders – they’re there to support the client through dreaming big and defining progress toward their goals,” she said. 

And for Christine, she now has a five-year financial plan. 

“I can actually find a nice apartment for me and my children,” she said. “I was scared. But now, I feel like I'm kicking life in the tail. I’ve taken off. I'm so excited, and I'm not done yet.” 

Check every Tuesday starting April 21 to view the videos and learn more about how the CWFs are striving to make financial stability a reality for thousands of local families.

LISC’s CWF Network in Chicago is generously supported by JPMorgan Chase; the City of Chicago; The Social Innovation Fund (Corporation for National and Community Service); BMO Harris Bank; U.S. Bank; Comcast Internet Essentials; the Crown Family Philanthropies; State Farm Insurance; Bank of America; GCM Grosvenor; MetLife Foundation; First Midwest Bank; Accenture; Citi Foundation and Walmart Foundation. 

For more information on the Centers for Working Families, contact Jennifer McClain, or (312) 422-9563.

Posted in Financial Opportunities


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Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.

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