Category Archives: Uncategorized

Poverty Snapshot in Mecklenburg County

“The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute is working with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force to help shed light on questions surrounding poverty and economic mobility in our community.” Take a look at their powerpoint presentation below:

LEARN Works Soccer Clinic

Sports in school are expensive; many families lack the time and other resources to give their children that extracurricular opportunity. One of our goals with our LEARN Works program is to provide our students with club opportunities. Clubs range from learning about cars, to music lessons, to organic gardening and zumba classes.

Last week, Community School of Davidson put on a soccer clinic for some of our students. We are grateful for CSD’s support and all they are doing to ‘level the playing field’ with our students. It’s safe to say that everyone had a blast on Ada’s playing field!


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Volunteer Testimonies

At Ada Jenkins, we believe that any approach to breaking the cycles of poverty needs to be a multi-generational approach. One of our volunteers recently shared this story:

A student in our tutoring program recently showed some deterioration in behavior. He shared with his classroom coordinator that his father had become ill and was not able to work.

We connected the family with the Center’s Free Medical Clinic for assistance with the father’s medical issues, and we also connected the family with Ada’s Care Coordinator. The Care Coordinator was able to do a full case assessment of the entire family’s needs, and was able to refer the family to the Ada Food Pantry and to find assistance with some crisis bills.

The father is now back on his feet, the family is now in case management with the Center, and the student is back on track!


Credit Card Debt: History, Management, and Resources

Unforeseen circumstances can place anyone into crisis, no matter what walk of life they come from. Lack of savings, a job loss, emergency medical bills and credit card debt are common problems that our client-partners face. Many client-partners are low-income and with fewer resources on hand to pay financial obligations, they often walk through our doors with credit issues.

While the practice of buying goods and services on credit has existed for centuries, the first actual “credit card” was invented after the Great Depression. In 1946, banker John Biggins of New York created the “Charge-It” program between customers and local merchants. In 1950, the card evolved into the Diners Club Card. Customers charged to their card, the bank would pay the merchant, and then the customer would pay the Diners Club. Sounds a lot like our system today, right? But unlike credit cards of today, each balance had to be paid off in full at the end of the month. Banks quickly realized they could make more by charging fees and higher interest rates to riskier customers. Over time, the modern credit card system has evolved into what it is today: a convenient, yet incredibly dangerous system that creates an illusion of wealth.

American debt flows freely. In order to keep up with the Joneses, we’ve got to buy nice cars, nice houses, and nice stuff to put into our nice houses. Studies show that millennials graduate from high school or college expecting to have the same lifestyle as their parents – a lifestyle that often takes 30 years or more to achieve. None of this is necessarily wrong. A high-quality standard of living is something everyone should work toward, if they want to. But unfortunately, many of us can’t afford that lifestyle and live beyond our means. We quickly accumulate debt that can take years or even decades to pay off, if we’re able to pay it off at all.

On the other hand, many of us still live well within our means but have trouble with credit and debt because of problems with access. Once seen as a sign of foolishness, holding debt and having a credit score is now considered a requirement to gain access to many of our most basic needs. Want to rent an apartment? Need to buy a house? Or, are you a recent college graduate who’s looking for their dream job? More likely than not, you’re going to need a credit check. FICO scores reflect your credit history and how risky you are to lenders. Scores range from 300-850; scores that are 620 and below are considered subprime by lenders. In Mecklenburg County, 59% of residents have a subprime credit score. It’s difficult for consumers with subprime scores to gain access to credit and if they can, that access comes at a steep price.

In the Economic Mobility Corporation’s article “Building Credit Where it’s Needed: Why Workforce Programs Should Focus on Credit”, authors Mark Elliot and Anne Roder illustrate a subprime lending score through this scenario:
Most people have to borrow money to make major purchases. For someone with a FICO score of 700–759 to purchase a home at current interest rates, a $150,000 30-year fixed mortgage would entail a monthly payment of $716. A borrower with a credit score of 620–639 would pay $839 each month, which might not seem like that much more, but it adds about $44,000 to the total interest paid over the life of the mortgage. Similarly, people with poor credit also pay more when they borrow to buy a car. A four-year used-auto loan of $5,000 would require someone with poor credit (a FICO score of 500–589) to pay about $2,100 more in interest payments than someone with good credit.

If you’ve never purchased anything on credit before, then you don’t exist in the system and lenders have no reason to trust you. This is what happened to one of our employees here at Ada:
“I always paid everything on time, but I paid it out of my checking account. When I graduated college and needed to get a car, I went to a used dealership and found a great car for $8,000. The dealers checked my credit score and found nothing; the salesman came back to me with an offer on the car with a 26% interest rate. Over 5 years, I would have paid $10,080 for an $8,000 car. I had a sizeable down payment and money and proof of bill payment in the past, but the dealers refused to budge. I bought a car from a family member instead.

I’ve since opened a line of credit and built some history, but it took 6 months for my FICO score to be considered prime. My bank keeps me up to date on what’s helping and what’s hurting my score. It seems that in order to stay in the credit system’s good graces, I’ll need to remain in some kind of debt.”

We can’t think of anyone who would rather pay a few thousand dollars extra in interest because of bad credit, and that’s why it is so important to take control of our finances. As predatory as lenders may be, it is ultimately up to the individual to correct their spending habits and reverse the debt cycle. At the Ada Jenkins Center, we help people regain control of their finances every day. We help client-partners find and keep a job, encourage them to save money, and train them to get out of debt.
Below are some resources that can help to educate more on this topic, as well as achieve financial stability and self-sufficiency.

Spent: Looking for Change — This documentary follows several Americans struggling with common financial issues. See the movie and the “Get Financially Ready” plan here. – Dave Ramsey is a financial author and radio personality. His debt snowball plan explains how to get out of debt, step by step. His website has numerous articles that can aid you in changing your financial life.
Legal Services of the Southern Piedmont  provides a wide range of assistance to eligible low-income persons. Their office is in Charlotte, but they will come to Ada and consult if needed.

Charlotte has many other assistance programs – come in and talk with us, or use our free computers, to research what fits your needs.

The Charlotte Region’s Lack of Economic Mobility, and What Ada Jenkins Is Doing to Help

On my way to work at Ada Jenkins Center, I often listen to NPR’s Charlotte Talks. The subject one morning was Charlotte’s center city expansion and how planners intend to make Uptown more attractive. Over twenty five new housing projects – mostly expensive apartment complexes – are under construction or will begin in 2015. Seven new office space projects have been announced; two are already under way. Planners want to bring new businesses, conventions, and tourism to Charlotte to aid its economic growth. However, a significant population outside of Uptown remains stuck on the slick lower rungs of society’s economic ladder.

The ability of an individual to “move up the ladder”, or improve their economic status, is called upward mobility; this is usually measured by a series of economic factors including income, liquid assets, and wealth. Factors that limit one’s movement include income inequality, education quality, community involvement, family structure, and segregated ethnic communities. Charlotte deals with all of these problems, so it should be no surprise that the city ranked 50/50 for upward mobility in major U.S. commuting zones.

A historically segregated Charlotte is still divided along major transportation arteries. As many affluent (and usually Caucasian) citizens left inner city schools with little money and even fewer teachers who were willing to stick around for more than a few years. A growing number of Charlotte citizens are working full-time or multiple part-time jobs at a wage that fails to protect from various crises that can and will occur. And as many as 36% of households live in poverty; over half of these are single-parent households.

In North Mecklenburg county and South Iredell county, a significant number of people are still facing some form of crisis. Usually, the issues we see are tied to a lack of financial resources. At the Ada Jenkins Center, we work with clients to end the immediate crisis and then establish a foundation that allows them to build their own success. Our goal is to promote upward mobility and to establish safety nets that will protect community members from future incidents. We realize this goal by offering a variety of programs including case management, job search assistance, emergency rent and utility assistance, and referrals to specific partners in our community such as Lydia’s Loft, The Bin, and Crisis Assistance Ministry.

When people walk through the door at Ada, they know that they are welcome. It’s a tangible feeling, and our client partners experience it through our hardworking staff and volunteers. I was able to talk to a staff member who works with client partners to improve their economic standing. She had this to say:


For the most part, income levels have gone from nothing to something. Other times, we work with client partners who were formerly in stable situations, but in the blink of an eye they found themselves in crisis.

One client partner has a college degree. She has always had professional, well-paying jobs. Her last job ended several years ago around the time of the recession, and she’s in her 50’s. She’s sent out hundreds, maybe thousands, of resumes. She gets interviews in her field and former pay rate, but never a job offer. Eventually she applied for jobs that paid less and was hired. She is now employed for the first time in years and although it’s not exactly what she was hoping for – after years of no income – she’s grateful for it.

Another client partner worked in the fast food industry on and off for years and was barely able to make ends meet. When she lost a job, she would take advantage of Ada’s free computer stations to job search. She was referred by Ada to a business in the area, hired, and has been there for a year now! She is able to be creative with her work and looks happier than she has in years. Her attitude changed others around her. Her daughter, previously unmotivated, has found and kept employment for several months now.

Here at Ada, we serve client partners like these every day.  We open doors and partner with people to achieve upward mobility.  We strive to cooperate with other nonprofits in the community, so as to not duplicate services. We could not possibly achieve all of this without the help of our amazing volunteers. Together, we are working for a better tomorrow.




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