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$75K In Grants Boost Local Employment Programs

By Cece Nunn, posted Dec 1, 2021
Two bank-backed programs recently granted big chunks of change to nonprofits in Wilmington that are working on employment initiatives.

Bank of America named employment agency StepUp Wilmington its 2021 Bank of America Neighborhood Champion for coastal North Carolina, granting the organization $50,000.

Separately, the YWCA Lower Cape Fear announced Wednesday that it received a grant of $25,000 from the Truist Foundation in support of the YWCA’s New Choices Economic Empowerment program.

In addition to the $50,000 grant, StepUp Wilmington gets “an opportunity for engagement in virtual leadership training delivered by experts in the nonprofit sector on topics like human capital management, increasing financial sustainability and storytelling,” according to a Bank of America news release. 

StepUp Wilmington provides individuals seeking employment with tools to help them land jobs, from attire for interviews and access to public transit, to job-search techniques and skills training, the release stated. The organization’s programs also help participants address issues related to any past criminal history or employment gaps. 

“The unique resources offered by StepUp Wilmington are timely and critical for job seekers with varied needs, experiences, educational backgrounds and aspirations,” said Derek Cohen president, Bank of America Coastal NC, in the release. “StepUp Wilmington connects individuals and families to job opportunities that can help them chart a path toward economic opportunity and stability. Programs like Neighborhood Champions help these organizations grow sustainably and strategically for greater positive impact in the community.”

"StepUp Wilmington is incredibly honored and grateful to have been selected as a Neighborhood Champion in 2021, and for Bank of America's generous support in providing employment opportunities for residents of the Cape Fear region, and its commitment to racial equity," said Will Rikard, the organization's executive director.

The Neighborhood Champions program is an extension of the bank’s philanthropic initiative, Neighborhood Builders. Since the program’s inception in 2019, Bank of America has invested $6.3 million in 126 organizations within 42 communities through the Neighborhood Champions program.

The YWCA’s New Choices Economic Empowerment program has supported women in the Cape Fear region since 1985. 

“The program helps women who are taking steps towards financial independence through three pathways that support informed financial decision making to create impactful change in their lives, families and communities,” a YWCA news release stated. “The Truist Foundation grant enables YWCA to support more women in the Strive Workforce Development pathway, which helps define career goals to connect women with the digital skills they need to obtain gainful employment. Strive is a hands-on workforce development training program in digital skills designed to assist women and people of color who face employment barriers in finding careers.”

Velva Jenkins, CEO of the YWCA Lower Cape Fear, said that with the grant, her organization “will be able empower women, eliminate barriers and provide resources that allow women to become full participants in the economic mainstream of our community. We believe that when women are empowered to achieve economic self-sufficiency, communities thrive.”

Under New Choices, YWCA Lower Cape Fear also helps aspiring and existing entrepreneurs develop attainable business goals while strengthening long-term and short-term planning through its Living the Dream Center for Entrepreneurship, the release stated. Additionally, through YWCA’s Moving Ahead Curriculum, survivors of domestic violence are able to learn the basics of money and financial management. 
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