On the Rise Financial Center may not be a new company in Atlanta but their new digs are.

On the Rise is located in historic Vine City and opened July 1. The center opened in 2017 with support from Equifax and The Arthur M. Blank Foundation among others and has been dedicated to helping the community strengthen financial health through coaching, credit counseling, workshops, home-buyer education.

With several offices dedicated to conferences and a child’s playroom in the plans, the people behind the Financial Center believe no obstacle should prohibit the public from coming in.

On the Rise Executive Director, Olivia Maxwell, and her staff of coaches don’t just give those who want to ‘live their best financial life’ literature and leave them to do on their own.

“One of the challenges that we face and that we don’t recognize is that we assume black equity means that we’re equitable in knowledge,” Maxwell said. “We assume that people have the knowledge and just don’t do it or practice the behavior. When the challenge is there’s a lack of knowledge and lack of behavior in practice. We’re having to conquer it in two fronts so we’re having to look at, yes, infusing individuals with the knowledge and family members and people that know something has to change but how to change it, they don’t know.

“And then moving from that to the knowledge and knowhow to the accountability of actually doing it is also where we thrive,” she continued. “We thrive because we create relationships, we walk with the person as evidenced today. We’re here with you in this.” 

Maxwell says that her job doesn’t end at the beginning but it carries on beyond that. Proof of the success of the program happened to visit the Center one afternoon. Working at the Family Dollar directly below the Financial Center, the woman wanted to share the news that she finally opened a bank account. Jamesha Hillman has a story to tell and is grateful for the Financial Center.

“I started from the bottom, literally, I had nowhere to stay,” Hillman said. “I was staying with friends and family from pillar to post and it was one day I just was tired. I was frustrated and I came up here and I saw Ms. Beverly (Westbrooks) first and then I talked to Ms. Olivia and since then, she has helped me.

“I have a bank account now, and they helped me open it. They helped me find a place to stay for me and my two kids and it’s amazing,” she continued. “It’s amazing to have people like this on my side, cause my mom and dad have passed away, it’s like God has sent me an angel.”

Maxwell says that it’s a measure of success for On The Rise to know that they’re working with each individual who walks in those doors and looks to help turn their lives around.

“We’re walking with our individuals, we’re walking with our family members, we’re walking with people that come to us,” Maxwell said. “We’re not just leaving them at the door with the information. We see them all the way through the process. In terms of equity, we often forget that those are impoverished, those who are check-by-check who are trying to live – those individuals are exhausted.”

Maxwell goes on to say that the emotional toll on the people who are trying to figure out how to live check-to-check, month-by-month is oftentimes negated.

“We take that into account and we recognize that it’s ok,” Maxwell continued. “You didn’t get to do that assignment, we’re going to work with you on that assignment and we’re going to get you to the next assignment to progress forward.”

Although the center had a great relationship with Simpson Street Church, their previous location, a move to a bigger location made sense.

“This has allowed us because so many people come to the Family Dollar,” Maxwell said. “The Family Dollar was such a need space and we’ve partnered with them to the point where they give our postcards downstairs and people come running from downstairs to up here. We’ve got five or six clients from downstairs so that has been a pivotal part for us.”

(On the Rise Financial Center opened a permanent location over the summer. Photo Credit: Equifax)