A sponsored series spotlighting Capital One’s commitment to the community.
Like so many of us, Reverend Gwendolyn Byrd’s days are full of meetings. She’s constantly balancing her leadership responsibilities at her tenant’s association, her volunteer hours at the local community center and the advocacy and community-improvement projects she spearheads.
Unlike most of us, Reverend Byrd has been at this for decades. She is the proud mother of three, grandmother of three, great-grandmother of 12 and great-great-grandmother of two — and she has no plans of slowing down.
In 2004, Reverend Byrd moved to the Northwest Side of Chicago, where she quickly
invested in the neighborhood around her. She took a leadership role in the tenant’s association at Montclare Senior Residences and started “Seniors on Fire for a Better Community,” an advocacy group that petitions the city to address her neighbors’ key concerns — projects like filling potholes, fixing traffic lights and extending the time allotted for crossing busy streets.
When a representative from the Northwest Side Housing Center (NWSHC) – a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the economic well-being and quality of life in Belmont Cragin and the surrounding communities — visited the Montclare tenants’ meeting, Reverend Byrd knew that she wanted to get involved there, too.
“I noticed right away that NWSHC cares about older adults,” she said. “That made me very interested, because sometimes we feel like we’re not recognized — but we’re a big part of this community.”
“We see older adults as the leaders and elders of the community,” added Linda Peters, Director of Older Adult and Parent Programming at NWSHC. “We create programs so that older adults can age with dignity, be more independent and feel less isolated. We want to ensure that they can get the resources and services they need.”
It was this desire to foster independence, community and skill-building that led NWSHC to partner with Capital One to launch Ready, Set, Bank, a program designed to help older adults become more comfortable with online and mobile banking.
“Ready, Set, Bank was born out of our desire to include everyone as the world becomes more digital — to ensure that no one was getting left behind,” explained Jamie Lutton, Senior Manager of Community Development Banking at Capital One. “When we first created the program, we looked for nonprofit partners who could help us bring it to the communities who needed it most. We immediately thought of NWSHC because of their deep existing commitment to older adults.”
Reverend Byrd was one of the first people to sign up for Ready, Set, Bank. Before long, she was helping teach the class to her neighbors.
“In the Ready, Set, Bank class, we learned to be comfortable with technology,” she explained. “We also learned about fraud. Many of us are vulnerable — we think things are legit, but they’re really not. The class taught us how to be aware and alert, how to take care of our own business.”
“We used to be afraid to use technology,” added Reverend Byrd. “But what if an emergency comes up? What if the person handling your affairs isn’t available to help you? We need to know how to do things ourselves.”
NWSHC is proud to offer programs like Ready, Set, Bank to the older adults in their community — and grateful for their partnership with Capital One that brought the program to life.
“Very few banks have the type of relational approach that Capital One has. They want to make transformational change in people’s lives,” said Peters. “Capital One is there talking to residents, building a program that meets a real need and then hearing from people who have gone through the program in order to improve it. That’s a model that needs to be replicated around the country.”
Lutton added, “We care passionately about trying to serve the communities in which we exist. We all need to thrive in order to succeed. Banking for good — that’s what we try to embody. What products or tools do we have, and how can we leverage those products to really help individuals on their financial journeys?”
In order to better serve even more people, Capital One put Ready, Set, Bank, which now includes both a Spanish-language course as well as the original older-adults program, online for public use. Anyone can access the material for free at www.readysetbank.org. The website has a series of short videos that address topics including how to download an app, how to spot a scam, how to set alerts to monitor your account and more.
For Reverend Byrd, the skills she has learned from Ready, Set, Bank, the NWSHC and Capital One are just a few more tools in her belt as she continues to serve her neighbors. She reflected, “My grandchildren look at me — at all I’m doing — and say, ‘Grandmother, you’re not old!’ I’m playful, I spend time with my family, I help my fellow residents. I make sure people know about the resources and programs available to them. I really love this community. I’m overjoyed to help others here.”
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