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Story of the Year

Some of the most extraordinary stories of personal transformation we hear come from the clients of LISC’s Financial Opportunity Centers (FOC), where people get the support they need to make concrete financial and professional goals—and make real progress toward realizing them.

Take Anthony Bygrave, a 59-year-old New Jersey resident who lost his job as a forklift operator when his employer’s company closed down in the summer of 2015. A year later, he was still job hunting, living with relatives, and coming to the end of his savings and unemployment benefits.

It was then that a friend told him about the Urban League of Essex County (ULEC) and the FOC program there (one of three in the Newark area). Bygrave began working with a financial coach, Kamilla Johnson, and within months had turned his financial life around.

Bygrave entered ULEC’s Fast Track to Success program, which offers intensive workshops over a two-week period for people receiving SNAP (formerly known as food stamps). The program provides coaching and financial assistance to clients as they transition to employment and training programs. Less than two months after enrolling, Bygrave landed a job with his current employer and has received two raises since.

Bygrave, who continues to meet regularly with Johnson, also opened a LISC Twin Account, a matched savings program that helps people build positive credit histories and savings. Clients deposit $25 per month, which is matched for 12 months, generating $600 in savings after a year.

At the end of 2017, Bygrave was nearing his two-year anniversary as a package loader at a Stop and Shop warehouse. He had boosted his credit score by 90 points, opened both checking and saving accounts, moved into his own apartment, purchased a used car and decreased his debt by more than $11,000. He also managed to save nearly $4,000 in 2017, and plans to buy another car in 2018 to earn extra income as a driver for a ridesharing service in order to realize his dream: purchasing a home of his own in a warmer climate by 2020.

For Johnson, Bygrave’s journey is typical of the kind of FOC success stories she hears routinely in her work as coach. "I am elated every time clients commit to coaching and reach their goals,” she said. “But I constantly remind them that they are the masters of their own lives. I am just a facilitator helping them along the way."

 “I know what I’m working for and I have a goal,” said Bygrave. “I feel independent. And it’s a wonderful feeling.” 

Photo credit: Jeff Valee


Since 1986

$100 million
total investment

$663 million

affordable homes
& apartments

533,681 sq. ft.
commercial &
community space

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Private Sector Support

Public Sector Support


Executive Director: Rhonda Lewis

17 Academy Street, Suite 912
Newark, NJ 07102

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