10/24/2011 08:36 pm ET Updated Dec 24, 2011

Building Prosperity: Finding a Job is Just the First Step

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina in Winston-Salem. The last time I was there I visited a Prosperity Center. This time, I was excited to hear they opened another one.

Prosperity Centers are dedicated to assisting people in their community succeed financially. That doesn't just mean helping workers find jobs; it means giving them all the tools they need to build financial security and independence once they have a job, including resume-writing assistance, skills assessment, career counseling, access to computer and high-speed internet, and help with interviewing skills and financial counseling. Because nearly half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, I'm very excited about this new model of financial education and assistance that is helping people build that safety net for themselves.

It's initiatives like these that solve problems in the communities that people live in and allow for them to move toward greater economic stability, higher earnings and home ownership by providing a comprehensive package of free services all under one roof. Last year, Goodwill Industries of Lane and South Counties opened a Prosperity Center in Eugene, Oregon that allows people with low to moderate incomes work with a financial planner, free of charge, and come up with their own long-term financial plan. This month, Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina, in partnership with Consumer Credit Counseling Service and United Way, opened the Career Connections & Prosperity Center. At each of these centers, financial professionals talk to participants about what their financial goals are, and help them come up with a personal plan to meet that goal, whether it's regularly paying their bills on time, reducing personal debt, starting savings to go to school, or investing in a big purchase like a car or home.

At a time when just getting by can often seem like an insurmountable challenge, these centers are developing personal relationships with community agencies so that participants are not only able to get by, but learn how to build economically sustainable and self-sufficient lives and earn higher incomes. Community collaborations are critical as we face the challenges of a tough economy. I must commend the boards and leadership of the Goodwills and their partners for their collaborations to make their communities stronger.

By like-minded agencies partnering together, they are able to harness their resources, eliminate redundancies, strengthen their impact, and focus the delivery of their services to meet the needs of local communities, and have a meaningful impact on the citizens in those communities. I'm continually inspired in my travels by organizations that work within their own communities to implement resolutions to problems that translate into financial success.