J. Wayne Leonard Prosperity Center Reopens After Hurricane Ida

17362076 10154542824162309 9021221981427442964 NNEW ORLEANS – On Dec. 13, the United Way of Southeast Louisiana reopened the doors to its J. Wayne Leonard Prosperity Center at 2401 Canal Street, one block from its original location.

The financial capability education center first opened in 2017 at 2515 Canal, but the building lost its roof and sustained significant water damage in Hurricane Ida, leaving staff to provide appointment-only services out of the ground-floor conference room.

“Our financial capability team did a remarkable job reaching clients over the last year to ensure they could still access the center’s life-changing services, but the urgent need to expand our capacity amidst the pandemic and storm recovery drove our search for a new location,” said Michael Williamson, UWSELA president and CEO. “Just as the center’s namesake envisioned, we’re thrilled to reopen our doors and offer clients the full scope of expert services in a setting that demonstrates they matter and their community cares about them.”

As the longest-serving chairman and CEO of Entergy, the late J. Wayne Leonard facilitated more than $50 million in charitable donations to move people out of poverty and improve early childhood education. Leonard – the 2017 UWSELA Tocqueville Society Award honoree – provided a surprise $1 million contribution to UWSELA, which helped open the center five years ago. 

Today, the new location will expand the center’s one-stop approach, helping low-to-moderate-income participants gain financial stability through an array of services, including financial education, financial coaching, credit improvement and free tax preparation assistance.

“The longstanding partnership between the City of New Orleans and United Way of Southeast Louisiana has provided residents with the support they need to reach financial stability and to thrive,” said New Orleans City Councilmember Lesli Harris. “I’m thrilled about our collective ability to reach even more families, thanks to the generosity of the Leonard family and United Way’s commitment to its ongoing services.  Thank you, United Way, for your expanded presence in District B and your dedication to our city.”

The center targets the 55% of households in Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes living below the ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Threshold. Households living below this threshold do not earn enough money to afford a basic survival budget, including housing, transportation, health care, child care, food and technology, or save for an emergency. 

The Individual Development Account (IDA) Project, a cornerstone of the Prosperity Center, helps move families living under the ALICE Threshold to long-term financial stability. “When I decided to take my fashion design business from a hobby to my sole source of income, the United Way’s IDA program became a huge catapult for me,” said Renee Johnson, a former UWSELA client. “As a single mother, I was able to take a leap of faith and build a successful fashion design business because of the mentorship and financial resources provided to me by the…program.”

Programming will be available in January to the public at no cost.

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