Flint, MI — Communities First, Inc. (CFI), a Flint-based nonprofit, received $146,268 in grant money to start up a partnership program with AmeriCorps.

Chief Strategy Officer Essence Wilson said CFI will use the funding to prepare and create a plan to apply for an AmeriCorps cohort. The resulting AmeriCorps program would focus on improving financial literacy and economic wellbeing for low-to-moderate income families.

“This just represents another opportunity for us to meet community needs and to expand our programming,” she said of the hoped-for program, which, she added, would include helping people with budgeting and tools to increase their income.

After seeing the financial effects the COVID-19 pandemic had on families, Wilson said she wanted to help people get the resources they need. And while financial literacy may seem a slight stray from CFI’s regular work in affordable housing and economic development, Wilson pointed to the direct connection.

According to CFI’s data, Flint, Detroit, Saginaw and Gary, Indiana—where the organization operates—all have poverty rates that are at least three times the national average.

“We want to really help people move into, you know, being out of crisis and building wealth for their family,” she said.

The funding was awarded through the 2023 AmeriCorps American Rescue Plan Planning Grants competition and announced by Congressman Dan Kildee’s office this week.

AmeriCorps members are volunteers who receive a stipend to come and serve full time, part time or seasonally. Wilson said Communities First has worked with AmeriCorps members in the past, some of whom have gone on to join the organization as staff.

Despite operating across multiple cities, Wilson noted CFI’s soul remains in Flint, which is why they sought out funding to support development of the potential new program.

“At the core of it, our heart and our passion is for Flint and Genesee County,” she said. “We absolutely love our city, we love the opportunity to support and help people.”

Sophia is Flint Beat's City Hall reporter. She joins the team after previously reporting for the Livingston Daily and the Lansing State Journal, along with some freelance work with The New York Times....