Free Loan is JFSA’s new partner
For more than 70 years, the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Tucson was “a self-sustaining business of moms and dads,” quietly doing its good job of providing interest-free financial assistance to thousands of Tucsonians, the president said. of the Phil Bregman Board of Directors. In fact, Bregman called it “Tucson’s best kept secret.” This is something he looks forward to changing, now that the organization has become a program of the Southern Arizona Jewish Federation, with a new name, The Free Loan at the Jewish Federation.
“The partnership with the Federation is really exciting,” giving the program additional credibility and visibility, says Bregman, who served as Chairman of the Board of Free Loan, a volunteer position, for 24 years. Earlier this year, the Free Loan moved its offices to the Harvey and Deanna Evenchik Center for Jewish Philanthropy, which is home to the Southern Arizona Jewish Community Federation and Foundation. The Free Loan also transferred its funds to the JCF, notes Bregman.
“The Free Loan has been a hidden treasure in our community – a powerful part of our community’s family of services,” said Federation President and CEO Stuart Mellan. “The Free Loan board of directors recently approached the Federation asking us to host and staff the program, and we were happy to be able to do so as we believe we can help extend its reach to serve our community.
Bregman thanks Free Loans Coordinator Yana Krone for pushing him to change the status quo. It’s about being able to help more people, he says, explaining that he especially wants the Free Loan to gain more visibility in the Jewish community, to reach more potential borrowers as well as potential donors.
As an autonomous organization, the Free Loan did not feel strongly connected to the larger Jewish community, says Krone. This connection, she adds, is especially important to Bregman, who is a member of the Handmaker family who helped found the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Tucson in 1947. Bregman, who wore many hats at once in the Jewish community and in the community at large, also currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging.
Unlike many Hebrew free loans, the Tucson organization has been non-sectarian since its founding and that won’t change with the move to Federation, Bregman says.
The free loan lends funds to help people in southern Arizona meet a variety of needs, such as medical bills, business investments, or auto repairs. Loans repaid by borrowers are recycled into new loans.
Prior to the partnership with the Federation, Krone had already done a lot to increase the visibility of the free loan, says Bregman, including meeting with heads of Jewish agencies and synagogues.
She also developed the Free Loan Employee Assistance Program, introduced last year, which allows borrowers working at registered businesses to repay loans of up to $ 750 through automatic payday deductions.
It’s a unique program, Bregman says, that the Hebrew Free Loan Society of New York – a much larger operation – adopted after Tucson introduced it at the International Free Loans Association conference. Hebrews of last year.
Krone also helped revitalize the Free Loan board with “a really pretty impressive roster of people,” Bregman says. A full list of board members is available on Free Loan’s new website, www.thefreeloan.org.
As part of the partnership with the Federation, Susannah Castro, Director of Women’s Philanthropy for the Federation, has been appointed Managing Director of Free Loan. Castro brings 20 years of nonprofit administration experience to Free Loan, having also served as Director of Operations for the Border Community Alliance and Art Director of the Tubac Center for the Arts.
“One of the cool things about the free loan here at the Federation is that there are opportunities to easily connect and collaborate with Women’s Philanthropy, with the Jewish community, and with other Jewish organizations on the shared campus,” explains Castro. “Shared community gives us all the opportunity to become more self-reliant. “
“It was really a great idea to invite Susannah” because she “understands the culture of giving to the Federation,” says Bregman.
Graham Hoffman, Chairman and CEO of JCF, sees the potential for synergies between the Federation, the Foundation and Free Loan. “I think there is a really important opportunity for us to make free loan resources more accessible to both members of the Jewish community and the community at large,” he says.
“Where 30 or 50 years ago [a Free Loan] could have given someone the chance to go to college or learn a trade, ”he says, today loans can help young families cope with expenses such as an education quality preschool, day classes, a Jewish or other summer camp, or even a trip to Israel.
One of the challenges the free loan has faced, he says, is finding guarantors for its traditional loans (employee financial assistance loans, which are capped at $ 750, do not require guarantors).
“I think we have a unique opportunity to appeal to the incredibly engaged and generous families in the community to act as guarantors for individuals and families in need,” Hoffman said.
Being part of the Federation gives more legitimacy to the free loan, says Krone: “Even though we are in the building, people find out about us. With about 3,700 nonprofits in Tucson, she said, “it’s very difficult to get the marketing space” to get the free loan message across, but the Federation’s partnership will make that easier.
Krone echoes Bregman’s point of view that getting more borrowers is the number one goal.
“The good thing about our nonprofit is that when I meet the borrowers and we make the loan, we see the donor money working immediately,” she says.
The employee financial assistance program is a great option, she says, and Castro helps her connect the free loan with more potential business partners.
Employee financial assistance loans don’t just help borrowers, Krone notes. They also inject funds into the local economy. With a loan for an auto repair, for example, it also helps the employer whose employee does not take time off work because he does not have transportation and the mechanic who is paid to do the repair.
She notes that the free loan is a much better deal for borrowers than high-interest options such as auto title loans, which can plunge the borrower into a never-ending cycle of debt. “We’ve paid off the title loans – and the interest stops,” she says. “Now all of a sudden they owe exactly what they’re borrowing, and it’s a lot more manageable.”
But Krone worries that many borrowers still feel a “stigma of shame.” It is something that she is trying to dispel.
“When I talk to people, I really try to put them at ease. There is no shame in asking for help. Everyone needs help from time to time, ”she emphasizes.
To make an appointment with the Free Loan, dial 297-5360. To apply for a loan online – or to donate – visit www.thefreeloan.org. Donations to the free loan are eligible for Arizona charitable tax