Where We Live (WWL) is a five-year, $1.6 billion lending and philanthropic investment in Washington, D.C. neighborhoods. Launched by Wells Fargo in 2018, its purpose is to improve lives, strengthen communities and increase economic opportunity by concentrating on four areas of need, identified by community leaders:

– Housing affordability

– Workforce development

– Financial health

– Small business growth

Part of WWL includes $16 million in strategic philanthropy. Through collaborating with nearly 100 community-based organizations, more than $12.8 million has been contributed D.C. neighborhoods thus far.

Monica Mitchell

Expanding access to housing affordability

Access to safe, healthy and affordable housing is fundamental to a family’s ability to thrive. Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) is one of many organizations addressing this need. Through $400,000 in WWL grants, POAH will provide pathways for economic mobility through its resident-centered programs at Barry Farms and Garfield Hills.

“Wells Fargo’s support has helped our residents make significant strides in many areas of their lives including housing, employment, education and health. As a result, residents are empowered to achieve greater economic mobility and security,” said Aaron Gornstein, president and CEO of POAH.

A WWL contribution will also help MANNA Inc. hire two additional housing counselors who will help D.C. residents struggling to maintain their housing or who are ready to make the dream of homeownership a reality.

Expanding opportunities for work

When we invest in people, we invest in the prosperity of our economy. WWL’s commitment to workforce development continues to create long term results. DC Central Kitchen’s (DCCK), DCCK Café empowers young adults with high barriers to employment through culinary training, life skills and work experiences. Wells Fargo has donated more than $425,000 to DCCK to support their mission of expanding employment opportunities and advancing the workforce.

“When I first started the program, it was a lot to take it, but DCCK broke me out of my shell and pushed me forward to be in a career like this.” Marshall Wynn, DCCK graduate.

Expanding access to financial health

Wells Fargo believes in expanding access to tools and coaching that empower people to save money, reduce debt and build financial stability. Through Wells Fargo’s support of Capital Area Assets Builders’ D.C. Opportunity Accounts Program, residents take control of their finances, increase their savings and build better financial futures.

“Thanks to the key support and contributions from Wells Fargo, we have been able to advance CAAB’s mission and financially empower over 250 Black and Brown low- and moderate-income families over the past year.” said, Joseph Leitmann-Santa Cruz, CEO and Executive Director of Capital Area Asset Builders. “CAAB proudly focuses on intentionally addressing and minimizing the racial wealth gap in the Washington, DC metropolitan region. We appreciate the opportunity to work with Wells Fargo so that we can provide access to education, resources and tools so that all have an opportunity to achieve financial stability and long-term asset building and prosperity.”

Expanding small business growth

Small businesses are the cornerstone of communities. To drive growth and opportunity, business owners need support. WWL has created local jobs by providing access to capital and technical assistance to underrepresented entrepreneurs

“Thanks to Wells Fargo deepening its investments in D.C., it has become a major philanthropic and business partner in affordable housing and small business development,” said Steve Glaude, CEO of Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) “While its increased investments are noteworthy, Wells Fargo doesn’t just give, it is a thought-partner with us in the process of thinking through market challenges and the design of innovative strategies and new initiatives.”

In response to the financial crisis facing small businesses this spring, Wells Fargo quickly donated over $1 million to Community Development Financial Institutions in D.C. Through this support, the Washington Area Community Investment Fund, Latino Economic Development Center and City First Enterprises provided lifelines to small businesses in the way of capital and technical support. Additional donations in the Greater Washington Urban League, Life Assets and 1863 Ventures followed, placing particular emphasis on assisting businesses owned by people of color.

Better Together

“Where We Live began by listening to community leaders who serve this great city every day.” said Anna Bard, Wells Fargo Community Relations Manager. “We chose to focus on big, systemic issues for which there are no easy solutions. What we do know is that in order to chip away at these problems and make a real impact, we have to trust one another and work together. As I look back over our long history of supporting DC – and the past three years of WWL – I’m encouraged by the lives I’ve seen impacted, relationships we’ve formed and all that we will continue to do together.”

To our partners, community leaders and D.C. residents – thank you. We’re creating better together.

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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