October 12, 2017
The Waterfall, Claymont, Delaware
Thank you for joining us tonight. The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was born 40 years ago today. It is uniquely and beautifully American! CRA is about giving access: the keys that unlock credit and capital. The Virginians in Jamestown, the Puritans in Massachusetts Bay, the Quakers in Pennsylvania and other early settlers of what later became the United States all brought with them elements of capitalism. Land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship. They created the operational systems for the conduct of economic life. Then as now, capitalism could serve despicable ends, noble ones, or some mixture of the two. I see CRA’s goal to be capitalism that serves noble ends. Today, we also celebrate something deeper. We celebrate a philosophy of community, of access to credit and capital, of education, and perhaps most of all, a philosophy of money.
What drives us?
My money philosophy is very simple. I work hard for my money. I want my money to work at least as hard for me. In India, we have a goddess of wealth named Laxmi. We worship money. Here, we call the love of money at the root of all evil. But, we are not so very different after all. The almighty dollar is an idiom for a cultural obsession with capitalism; implying that money is a kind of a deity! DCRAC believes money is worthy of our respect and reverence, and we believe that good money management can be taught. This is why our clients range from members of the low-income community to families with six-figure salaries. As a culture, we don’t seem to know how to take care of our money. This philosophy—that we can teach people to know their money and control their money—is what drives us.
What inspires us?
Just last year, 6 full-time and 1 part-time DCRAC staff, with help from volunteers, educated and served 1,380 Delawareans through our four programs: Tax, Credit, Housing, and credit union with 308 successful outcomes. Just one example of one of our 308 successes. While our client was overseas fighting for our country, one of the chemicals she worked with in the U.S. military made her terminally ill. To reward her for her valiant service to her country, Senator Coons assisted her with a student loan forgiveness of $100,000. Unfortunately, the IRS then taxed and assessed her $26,935 on the $100,000 student loan forgiven. Senator Coons not only introduced a Bill to carve out an exception for disabled veterans to be exempt from the student loan forgiveness tax but also applied for a $1.00 special circumstance offer in compromise so our client would not have to pay the $26,935 assessment. The IRS denied. Senator Coons referred the client to our office. We appealed the offer in compromise denial and won. IRS accepted $1.00. We exist in the corporate capital of America, and we’ve helped corporations become accountable, and it’s not inconceivable to think that the pressure we’ve placed has uplifted nonprofits across the state. Our [DCRAC’s] successes are OUR [collective] successes. Community reinvestment takes community resources. It could never have been done alone. Everyone in this room shares credit for the work we’ve done. Just last year, we educated and served 1,380 Delawareans 308 successful outcomes.
What sustains us?
Funding. Take Arsht Canon Fund for example. It so happened that Jaclyn shared a table with Dr. Chris Canon. During conversations about our work, we realized that our low-income tax clinic work especially with the Latino community was an area of great interest for the Arsht Canon Fund.
Volunteers. Some of you know Jim Angus. A US Department of Justice Attorney, Jim chose to retire in Dagsboro. With his honey do list complete, he looked for volunteer opportunities. Luckily, we nabbed him as our Tax attorney, until we hired Anthony. Jim remains the go to person for complex, complicated, and convoluted tax, title, and other case. Some of you know Blanche Jackson without whom our credit union will still be figuring how to do the day to day. Some of you know Jackie McDonald who volunteered as our credit union manager for our first several years. Some of you may remember Andrea Charry! She was our first deputy director until love and New York beckoned her. She continues to help me many ways. She drove here this evening to join us.
Space. Randy Taylor of Fulton Bank had numerous options with the building at 600 South Harrison Street. He gifted it to us because of Stepping Stones Community Federal Credit Union.
Our stretch goals keep us innovating and reaching. Just last year we have been busy with the Van, Capital Campaign; and an App called Mission 723.
Someone once said, “If you are not sitting on the edge, you are taking up too much space. Get off.” We have chosen to stay at the cutting edge. Take some time to see how busy we have been over the past 30 years!
Some of you know that I am deeply involved with AARP DE. Please consider signing up for their fraud watch network, which has become an even more of an imperative after the Equifax hack. 364 days a year, we’re doing the work. It’s only today that we promote it. And that’s our fault. It’s on us. But tell us your interest, tell us what impact you’re looking to make in the community, and I guarantee we’re doing it already.
Later this evening, we will recognize three amazing people. John Elasic and Barclaycard US Marketing Team. Unsung hero here is Paul Wilmore, Chief Marketing Officer. Without his faith and confidence in the work of Stepping Stones, the team would not go on to create something so amazing, that it is testing our stretch goals! The Van that will go to the community to make banking accessible. Bob Elder. He can do what he does because Bill Santora, the founder of Santora CPA believes that each of us does well when we all do well. Joe Zebleckes. He is his own boss. He brings brilliant young talent from diverse backgrounds under his wings and helps them pursue their architectural passions.
As I close, I have so many of you to thank for where we are today. Our founder Jim Sills who envisioned a need for advocacy! Our board and volunteers, past and present both at DCRAC and Stepping Stones. Our staff, past and present. All of you. Most of all, my granddaughters Adriana and Arya.