Outreach at California First Lady’s We Connect Event

Consumer Action offered its free publications and advice at We Connect, an event organized by California First Lady Maria Shriver.
Published: Wednesday, March 25, 2009
No sooner had Community Outreach Manager Nelson Santiago set up Consumer Action's literature table at California First Lady Maria Shriver's We Connect event in Fresno than consumers quickly lined up to gather information and ask a lot of questions. "My son's mortgage lender won't talk to him about loan modification because he's not behind on his payments. Where can he go for help?" asked one consumer. "Where can I get advice on first-time homebuyer programs?" asked another. Others asked questions about credit cards, credit scores, and more.

Santiago was well equipped to answer consumer questions and to provide consumers with referrals and resources. Many of the publications Santiago brought to the Fresno event on March 10 had the information consumers were seeking. These included CA's popular brochures You Can Buy a Home, Successful Homeownership, Don't Lose Your Home, and Improve Your Credit.

First Lady Shriver's We Connect campaign strives to connect working families to "money, opportunities, and dreams" by connecting them to programs and resources they might not be aware of. The campaign promotes awareness of the Earned Income Tax Credit which can lead to returns of up to $4,700; the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program which provides 20% discounts on monthly gas bills for eligible consumers; low cost auto insurance; and the Homeowner's HOPE housing counseling program, among others.

Consumer Action was one of several We Connect partner agencies staffing information tables at Fresno's Manchester Shopping Center where the event was held. Consumers were also given the opportunity to receive tax preparation assistance before visiting the resource tables. One bright young consumer and her younger siblings visited Consumer Action's table during the event. She told Santiago that her parents were upstairs getting tax help, and that she was gathering information for them. The family didn't yet own a home so Santiago prepared a home-buying package for the youth's parents and gave her a copy of the Talking to Teens about Money brochure.

First Lady Maria Shriver addressed the participants during a short presentation. Shriver thanked all the We Connect partner agencies for bringing resources to Fresno. Addressing the community members she said, "We're happy to help you in Fresno, you have a great need in Fresno." She also announced that 18 governors around the country now want to bring the We Connect campaign to their states.

The First Lady added, "Government doesn't do a good job of connecting information and facts to the people who can benefit from programs. That's what the We Connect program is about." She urged everyone to "spread the word." Before the event was over, the First Lady visited every agency table and personally thanked agency representatives for their participation.




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