Friends of Children to launch financial literacy program with funding from new philanthropic organization

  • Ron Chapple

For the Gazette
Published: 3/27/2023 3:37:53 PM
Modified: 3/27/2023 3:37:43 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Backed in part by funding from a new Florence-based philanthropic organization, Friends of Children Inc. intends to start a financial literacy program for as many as 50 young people impacted by foster care or juvenile-justice involvement.

The program, called “Financial Fitness,” will provide young adults with the opportunity to take financial literacy coursework, work with a financial coach and save money. At the end of the program, participants will have saved $4,500, which will be matched so that each person leaves with $9,000.

Financial Fitness will be partially funded by Streetlight Financial Foundation, a philanthropic organization created out of financial services company Streetlight Financial. The foundation recently selected Friends of Children, a nonprofit that helps children involved in the foster care system, as the recipient of its first year of fundraising efforts.

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” said Jane Lyons, executive director at Friends of Children, “and I’m grateful to [Streetlight Financial Foundation] for having the foresight to think about how they can connect themselves and their constituents and clients to the larger community around them.”

Lyons said her goal is for Streetlight Financial to fund 30 of the 50 participants in Financial Fitness, while Friends of Children pays for the remaining students.

Streetlight Financial’s founding partners Aaron Smith and Mark Vaclavicek established the foundation in 2022, after recognizing a community need for a philanthropic effort supporting one organization per year.

“Our mission is to create a big impact one at a time for that organization or effort that’s in need the most,” said Smith.

Smith emphasized a clear distinction between the new foundation and the existing Streetlight Financial company, but added that the team plans to use its knowledge gained from the for-profit business to assess the community’s needs for the foundation.

“Our for-profit employees and staff are going to be volunteering their paid time to get this initiative launched,” said Smith. The idea has been in the works for around 10 years as what Smith calls a “boardroom idea,” so the team is looking forward to partnering with Friends of Children to finally get the initiative off the ground.

Smith said he hopes that by calling attention to one organization per year, “some of the people that donate may fall in love” with the highlighted effort and donate directly to the organization in the following years.

“We can make it easy for others to donate to a great cause and keep it fresh and new,” said Smith.

For its first of two main fundraising events, Streetlight Financial Foundation will host a pickleball event at Holyoke Community College on June 24. The second event will take place later in the year and will likely involve more traditional formal activities.

“We look forward to working with Streetlight throughout the year… because people need to know about children and families drawn into the child welfare system,” said Lyons. “It’s important because these are people who are really living on the outside of power structures, and we really want to educate people.”

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