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Commonwealth Newsletter: September 2018

Building Assets with Confidence: Coop Fed Teams Up with RISE

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder (Marketing & Communications Specialist)

Inside the Refugee and Immigrant Self-Empowerment (RISE) center on Burt Street, the cream walls are covered in photos and quotes from New Americans who are putting down roots in Syracuse with help from RISE. In a hallway lined with photos of different people posing in front of cars and houses, sits Isabelle Wiles at a small desk helping two women in hijab understand a document that was sent to them in the mail. Isabelle is the Individual Development Account (IDA) Program Coordinator at RISE, an initiative to help New Americans develop financial independence. The program combines Financial Education with small matching grants to participants saving for a home, car, business, or other asset that has the potential to create better stability in their lives.

Cooperative Federal has partnered with the IDA program since it began. “People feel comfortable going to your credit union to manage their savings accounts,” Isabelle explains, “because it’s close by.” Cooperative Federal’s newest office on Burt Street is within walking distance of RISE’s location. Plus, Coop Fed has spent over 35 years working with all kinds of people to demystify homeownership, car buying, and business lending. “Our clients are hard-working people,” Isabelle emphasizes, “who are happy to put in the work . . . But they don’t know our general banking system.” This system can be confusing to anyone, but especially to someone trying to access it for the first time. Once an IDA participant has a connection with a credit union like Coop Fed, they have a trusted resource for seeking help in the future.

From January 2017 to May 2018, RISE has enrolled 98 people into the IDA Program and administered  $206,000 in matching grants. To learn more about this program and others, visit their website at




“When I wanted a ride to my job and to my medical appointment, I had to ask my father to give me a ride, my father who has uncontrollable diabetes. I knew it was tough for my father but he had to do it because I'm his daughter and he loves me. When I got the car through the IDA program, my father was relieved and we were able to start only focusing on how to better my father's health. RISE made difference in my family because my father diabetes has gotten under control since I got the car.”

- Safia Issak, IDA Program Graduate