By: Heather McWilliams
April 17, 2010
Denver residents hungry to feed their financial stability now have a smorgasbord of services available in one place: The Economic Prosperity Center.
One idea drives the center.
"How do we help people get prosperous and stay prosperous?" said Doug Linkhart, a city councilman.
He means people like Marjorie Silva. She moved to Denver from Peru a decade ago with three cake pans and her son. She wanted to make wedding cakes for a living, she said, and started the Azucar Sweet Shop and Bakery.
Silva received a matching grant from Mile High United Way's Individual Development Account, one of the organizations offering services from the center.
"It helped me keep my doors open, keep my house and keep my car," Silva said. She revamped her website and bought equipment for the business with the cash influx, she said. Since the grant, her website traffic has increased 300-fold and her business has grown 40 percent in the past year.
The center sprang from the Economic Prosperity Task Force convened by the Denver City Council and the mayor's office about two years ago. The Denver Office of Economic Development, Mile High United Way, Denver Asset Building Coalition and Denver Housing Authority, among others, joined to make the center a reality.
"It's not about homeless, it's not about people under the poverty level, it's about everyone," Linkhart said. However, some services do target low-income earners, such as the tax preparation help provided by the Denver Asset Building Coalition. About 2,000 people used the coalition's tax services since January, said John Russell, executive director of the organization. They qualified for $2 million in tax refunds, he said.
People could find the services offered at the center other places, but the many providers at one hub make the center special, Linkhart said.
"No one is trying to get a client; they are trying to help a person."