While you are out holiday shopping, I encourage you to stop for a latte and pick up this year’s fashion statement — a red, white, and blue wristband with the message "Indivisible.”

All you have to do is contribute $5 or more to receive a wristband, designed to serve as a symbol of Americans uniting with other Americans to help create jobs.

Starbucks Coffee Co. has teamed up with Opportunity Finance Network to launch Create Jobs for USA, pooling 100 percent of all donations from Starbucks customers, partners and concerned citizens into a nationwide fund for community business lending — including small businesses, microenterprises, nonprofit organizations, commercial real estate, and affordable housing — with the goal of creating and sustaining jobs.

The Opportunity Finance Network is a national network of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which are specialized financial institutions committed to providing capital to help low-wealth people and communities join the economic mainstream.

Here are a few examples of how some CDFIs and their community partners are working to grow community businesses and create jobs in Baltimore.

Expanding opportunities

The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), one of the most effective CDFIs in the nation, finances community businesses that bring housing, community facilities, fresh-food retail and other amenities to low-income communities. TRF is also among the first CDFIs in the nation to win a grant in the Create Jobs for USA Fund’s inaugural funding round.

As part of its work in Baltimore, TRF is also collaborating with a range of private and public partners to expand opportunities for low-income residents and communities by unifying workforce development with revitalization investment. The collaborative is known as the Baltimore Integration Partnership, which is housed at the Maryland Philanthropy Network.

Among its first projects is a housing development by Mi Casa, an organization which aims to provide quality home-ownership opportunities to low- and moderate-income people. The three-phase project will rehabilitate 40 units across 34 properties in the Johnston Square neighborhood in East Baltimore.

TRF financing is supporting the second phase, which is rehabilitating 12 rowhome shells to bring affordable housing options to neighborhood families. To date, six individuals from the community have been hired or are a pending hire for the project.

The project’s contractor and other Baltimore Integration Partnership partners are also working together to help refer other individuals from the community for workforce training resources.

Another well-regarded CDFI is Baltimore Community Lending, which offers rehabilitation loans for housing and commercial properties to non-profit and for-profit entities to create projects in Baltimore City neighborhoods and commercial districts. One of their projects is St. James Place at Franklin and Howard streets, which included rehabilitation of a vacant historic building by a minority developer into 22 rental apartments, with first-floor commercial space now occupied by a Women Business Enterprise-certified architectural firm in the city’s West Side redevelopment area. This project has resulted in five new permanent jobs.

A great example

Maryland is also home to the Enterprise Community Loan Fund, a national CDFI with nearly 30 years of lending history. Enterprise Community Loan Fund’s investments provide affordable and sustainable housing for vulnerable populations throughout the country.

A great example of Enterprise’s local commitment is its financing of an Empire Homes of Maryland development that provides 18 units of supportive housing to individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Through new partnerships and new funding models, Enterprise has broadened its focus to reach the heart of communities nationwide by investing in charter schools, health care centers and other community facilities that spur small-business growth and job opportunities in the same communities where they are creating and preserving homes.

The Create Jobs for USA initiative lets us all participate in this effort to get Americans back to work. Show your support this holiday season by making a donation to the initiative in Starbucks stores or online at www.createjobsforusa.com. Together, we truly can be indivisible.


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