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Common Wealth Athens (CWA) is a new, innovative program in partnership with Common Wealth Charlotte ( that provides financial empowerment to low-wage workers in Athens Clarke-County and surrounding counties through financial education coupled with the banking of clients to provide them with access to specially designed financial products. 
CWA expands economic opportunity for the very low-income and fragile workers in our community by addressing some of the contributing factors that perpetuate poverty and lack of upward mobility. Our client-centered financial education curriculum results in long-lasting change and creates financially educated low-wage workers.
  • We offer help in all financial subjects including basic/advanced budgeting, credit counseling and rebuilding, insurance needs, savings, and more!

  • To be eligible for an Ark loan, you must complete both an advanced budgeting session and a credit counseling session.

  • Our financial education is client-centered and solutions focused. You are entering a judgement-free zone. Our hope is that you leave uplifted, inspired, and equipped for your financial future!

  • Your credit impacts almost everything you do these days; from buying a car, paying auto insurance, utility deposit charges, cell phone rates, and even landing a job!

  • Our loan program is designed to give your credit score the boost it needs to grant you access to further banking products as well as reduced rates and premiums on existing bills.

  • On average, upon completion of The Ark loan program (1-3 loans), clients experience a credit score increase of 41 points.

Some successes our clients experience over the course of 1-3 Ark loans:

  • An average credit score increases by 41 points

  • Ability to refinance high interest loans with Georgia United Credit Union

  • Ability to refinance a car loan at a great low rate through the Georgia United Credit Union

  • Access to banking products that were once limited by credit score and history

Darlesa, a single working mother, has experienced many life difficulties, including homelessness.  When Darlesa signed up for a CWA workshop at The Ark, she had been laid off and was struggling to keep her bills current while living on a significantly reduced income. She went from a full-time job to living on unemployment benefits and a small part-time job she managed to find. As a result, she was dangerously behind on all of her living expenses. Desperate for help, Darlesa began attending financial education workshops through CWA.​

Darlesa is committed to becoming financially stable and has been a very active participant in CWA’s financial coaching sessions. After attending our first workshop, Darlesa received immediate extended coaching with our Financial Education Director, Stephanie Cockfield.  Since then, she has completed several one-on-one counseling sessions, and within 3 months Darlesa secured a full-time job, began utilizing her new checking account, and was able to put money into savings.

Darlesa currently serves as a CWA Financial Education mentor, helping others who are now where she was only a few months ago. 

Leah, a hard-working single mother of two, lives paycheck to paycheck.  Although she works full-time for a local company, she has no room at the end of each month for anything unexpected.  Like many Athens area low-income workers, Leah describes her day-to-day life as extremely stressful and full of worry.  When she encountered an unexpected car repair a few years ago, she turned to a high-interest predatory loan to cover the cost. “I did not have any other options and I needed my car to get to work.”  Little did she know that 2 years into this loan she would pay over $2000 for the original loan amount of $487.

When Leah came to The Ark, she was seeking emergency financial assistance for her rent due to a reduction in hours at work.  She also attended our CWA financial education workshop and then worked with Financial Education Director Stephanie Cockfield in a one-on-one session to rebuild her budget and develop cost-saving habits.  Leah qualified for our CWA Opportunity Loan to refinance her 400% interest predatory payday loan to a 3% loan through the Georgia United Credit Union. She has since completed additional one-on-one coaching sessions, opened checking and savings accounts, as well as fully repaid her CWA loan in 6 months.

“Since completing the program, I have been able to open a traditional checking and savings account. I also monitor my credit reports weekly and my score has increased about 55 points! I learned life skills that have made a huge difference in the way I handle my budget. I no longer have a car payment, I put money in savings every week and I got the promotion I have been focused on for the last year!”

Commonwealth Athens Loan Program

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640A Barber St., Athens, GA 30601

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