Loans: Workforce Development

Featured Loan: Sure We Can

Ensuring fairer incomes for Brooklyn canners

$250,000 bridge loan (March 2022)

Sure We Can (SWC) is a nonprofit recycling center, community space, and sustainability hub in Brooklyn, New York where canners – people who collect cans and bottles from streets to make a living – come together with students and neighbors through recycling, composting, gardening, and arts. Founded by canners for canners, SWC addresses the economic, emotional, educational, and language barriers that limit canners’ full participation in society.

New York City’s 1983 “Bottle Bill” allows people to generate a modest income by collecting and redeeming discarded cans and bottles. Canning is physically demanding, logistically complex, and often emotionally demeaning, yet for many non-English speaking immigrants and unhoused neighbors, it is the only available source of income. SWC helps canners make a living by redeeming returnable cans and paying these New Yorkers the full $0.05 refund per container, as required by law, and up to 20-25% added value for sorted containers, which is not required by law. In addition, SWC’s gardening, composting, and art initiatives facilitate civic engagement and spur economic growth by creating opportunities for canners and community members to gather.

When canners deposit cans and bottles at SWC, the nonprofit pays them immediately. However, SWC occasionally experiences reimbursement delays from distributors, causing cash flow challenges for operations. Financed through NFF’s zero-interest CARE Fund, this loan will help SWC smooth over this cash flow issue, ensuring that it has enough money available to pay rent, staff salaries, and compensate the canners who need that money most. As SWC continues to grow with more than 400 canners now in its community – and millions of cans and bottles recovered each year – it will promote social inclusion, environmental awareness, and economic empowerment.

Mandela Partners was established in West Oakland to fill a gap in access to healthy food, good jobs, and ownership opportunities that was created through deeply rooted inequities – legacies of redlining and economic disinvestment and long-standing barriers to opportunities for entrepreneurs. They do this by weaving together several areas of work: sourcing from sustainable family farmers, creating accessible and affordable healthy food access points, supporting local food business creation and expansion, and increasing capital for BIPOC entrepreneurs. They envision a future where small sustainable farmers are invested in, local food enterprises are central to community wealth building, and residents are thriving.

In looking toward future opportunities to better serve local entrepreneurs and community residents in a post-COVID-19 environment, Mandela Partners developed plans for a community kitchen that would increase the production capacity of current vendors and local food business owners, allow for test kitchen and hands-on workshop opportunities for burgeoning food entrepreneurs, and provide much-needed space for community-building events. Financed through NFF's zero-interest CARE Fund, this loan will be used for renovations and kitchen equipment for the new space – investments that will support Bay Area food entrepreneurs and thriving communities.
The mission of Latino Leadership Institute (LLI) is to honor the heritage of leadership, advance Latino professionals to positions of influence, and prepare organizations to innovate for the workplace of tomorrow. LLI provides relevant, innovative, and results-driven Leadership and Inclusion Training to develop more effective leaders, cultivate inclusive teams, and improve innovation. LLI also offers DEI training to companies, organizes six-month fellowships for cohorts of Latino leaders, and convenes Latino professionals at community events.

Established in 2014 under the University of Denver, LLI recently spun off into a fully independent nonprofit. This loan will ensure that LLI has a runway of funding in its first few months as a new organization to build out the infrastructure it needs to scale its programs to more individuals and businesses.
WorkLife Partnership is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating socially sustainable communities and thriving workplaces in Colorado. Through partnership with employers, the organization provides direct services and training to employees to help them overcome barriers – programs like access to affordable childcare, budgeting and financial planning, rental and utility assistance, and mental health support. By directly responding to the individual challenges their clients face, WorkLife can help them build strong, sustainable careers.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, WorkLife launched its Small Dollar Loans Program in March 2020 to provide employees of corporate clients with safe and affordable loans for emergency expenses. This loan will allow WorkLife to expand this program, ensuring that even more of the people they support can access cash when they need it at rates they can afford.

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