A press conference was held at the Austin Senior Satellite Center, 5701 W. Congress Pkwy., May 17, to announce a $250,000 grant given by the Citigroup Foundation to the National Training & Information Center (NTIC) for Neighborhood Revitalization and Preservation through Financial Education, a project designed to build wealth and promote stable home ownership in communities across the country.

Making the presentation was Mary Louise Preis, community relations director, CitiFinancial to Joseph W. Mariano, executive director, NTIC. Also on hand were Inez Killingsworth, NTIC board member; Kimberly G. McKenzie, vice president, Public Relations & Communications; Helen Hammond Redding, vice president and community relations director; Sandy Fernandez, program manager; Theresa Welch, organizer with the South Austin Coalition Community Council (SACCC); and other community leaders. The event was hosted by SACCC’s Juanita Rutues.

Rutues said SACCC “has fought red-lining in the 1970s, mortgage red-lining and insurance red-lining?”we’ve been here for the community for these 30-something years,” states Rutues.

Preis said, “At Citigroup, we believe that strong financial education programs raise the quality of life for individuals, families and institutions and strengthen communities around the world. Last year we hit upon the idea that expanded financial educational programs in the seven cities that we work in would be a real advantage, so we encouraged NTIC to go for a much larger chuck of money. This year [they received] $250,000. We cannot make commitments for future years, but our intent is to have this money available again the next year and then for a third year. The total commitment is to gather in people like today, who have questions and problems who can benefit from knowing non-sales-related financial information.”

NTIC’s Mariano said, “We want people to realize that they are not alone?”that there are ways they can get help. People don’t like to talk about their financial problems. They think, ‘Oh my God, I don’t understand.’ We need to stick together, we need to work together, and that is what this money provides?”for people like Theresa Welch and South Austin Coalition who help people and prevent these kinds of problems.”

Preis and Mariano said the grant goes directly to NTIC, which then divides it among community groups like SACCC.

Preis said, “It’s enough money to establish personnel, to do marketing, to provide servicing. I think the most wonderful part of this whole thing is that Citigroup knows there is a problem, understands, and we have money. But we are in the business of being at the bank branches. We can’t be here doing this, so when we have a partner who can deliver the messages that we all agree on, it’s a win-win [proposition].”

Mariano said SACCC would receive “approximately $20,000.”

Preis explained the main purpose of the grant “is to get more information to the communities about the problems they are facing and financial circumstances. These are the people who have trained personnel to help them. We don’t deliver the message; the community partners deliver the message. That’s what I think makes it so helpful.

Mariano said the partnership between NTIC and Citigroup came about because “CitiFinancial bought this outfit back in the day that had some problems. It was called ‘The Associates,’ a mortgage company. It had a history of some bad loans out there. We said, ‘We can help you clean it up.'”

Other representatives on hand for the check presentation were Helen Hammond Redding, Citibank vice president of community relations; Kimberly G. McKenzie, Citibank vice president of public relations and communications; and Sandy Fernandez, Citigroup’s program manager, global community programs.

To date, Citigroup and Citigroup Foundation have invested $53 million of its 10-year $200 million commitment to financial education programs in 68 countries.