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NeighborImpact’s Sonia Capece named state ‘Financial Empowerment Community Champion’

(Update: Adding video interview)

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- NeighborImpact Director of HomeSource Sonia Capece was named Tuesday by Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read as the Financial Empowerment Community Champion for Oregon.

The award recognizes standout community champions for efforts to help people be prepared to navigate complex financial systems and for making a positive difference when it comes to improving financial wellness and empowerment for Oregonians. 

With the distinction comes an award of $2,000 to NeighborImpact’s HomeSource program and the opportunity to “Pay it Forward” with a $500 award to another financial empowerment-focused organization. HomeSource has chosen to “pay it forward” to the Latino Community Association.

NeighborImpact’s HomeSource is a homeownership and financial stability program. Capece has been the director of the program for the past seven years. She is highly regarded nationally and statewide for her skills in delivering financial education and her sensitivity to serving communities of color.

The work that she and her team of eight do includes home ownership counseling; helping homeowners through the qualification and purchase process; homeowner readiness, including financial stability education; mortgage assistance counseling; foreclosure avoidance counseling and reverse mortgage counseling.

The HomeSource team also runs an Individualized Development Account program that matches savings up to five times dollar for dollar to help enrolled participants save for home ownership, education, starting a business and many more important financial goals.

HomeSource serves between 800 and 900 households a year, facilitating more than $21 million in real estate purchases and $156,753 in mortgage assistance last year. The program provided 1,367 hours of financial education classes.

HomeSource counseling supported other affordable housing developers in the region as well, including First Story, Kôr Community Land Trust, Woodhaven Community Housing and all three Habitat for Humanity affiliates in Central Oregon.

“Sonia has been an invaluable community partner in so many ways,” said DeeDee Johnson, VP of Homeowner Services at Bend-Redmond Habitat for Humanity. “She has guided her staff in education of shared clients and future Bend-Redmond Habitat for Humanity homeowners. She has been involved on our selection committee over the years and has provided insight that has helped to shape our process and policy. She has shared continuing education opportunities that help better the work of affordable housing counselors in our region.

"In addition, I have seen Sonia at work statewide as an advocate for housing and related programs for marginalized communities. She brings thoughtful and unique awareness and insight to all her work and partnerships. I am grateful for her service to our community.”

“Oregon's housing crisis continues to keep affordable homeownership out of reach for many community members,” said Claire Duncan, executive director at First Story. “The HomeSource program puts families on a path toward asset-building, financial stability and economic mobility. We couldn’t do our work without valuable partners like NeighborImpact and Sonia.”

“Kôr's partnership with HomeSource is an integral part of supporting first-time homebuyers accomplish their goal of owning a home in Central Oregon,” said Tess Freeman, Kôr Community Land Trust outreach coordinator. “With Sonia’s and HomeSource's support we are able to provide resources and counseling to serve potential homebuyers no matter where they are on their homeownership journey.” 

The importance of Home Source programming was highlighted in a recent Financial Wellness Scorecard released by the State Treasurer’s office, which is viewable here. According to the Scorecard, the share of median household income needed to purchase a home in Bend or Redmond was 64 percent. Compare that to Astoria, 70 percent, or Klamath Falls, 35 percent.

One third of local renters and homeowners pay more than 30 percent of income to rent or mortgage each month. Households are considered “rent-burdened” when they pay more than 30% of their monthly income to housing expense.

Jefferson County residents had the third-highest level of subprime credit ratings of any county in the state with 22.4 percent of households falling into that category. (Crook’s rate was 17.4 percent; Deschutes rate was 14.4 percent.) The data presented also show that among Central Oregon households, 30-35 percent were debt burdened—about the same as the three counties in the Portland Metro Area.

“The report demonstrates the importance of work being done by Sonia and the HomeSource team,” said NeighborImpact Executive Director Scott Cooper. “With the sponsorship of organizations such as NeighborWorks America, we are able to help Central Oregonians make significant financial investments in themselves, which in turn puts them on a path to a more secure economic future for themselves and their children. We’re pretty proud of that group and thrilled to see them recognized.” 

About NeighborImpact: NeighborImpact is a private non-profit governed by a board of directors drawn from across the community. Since 1985, NeighborImpact has led the region in developing solutions and bringing resources to Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. We help meet the basic needs of Central Oregonians, build economic security and create a community where everyone thrives. NeighborImpact receives federal, state and local grants, foundation grants and donations from individuals and businesses in our community. To learn more about NeighborImpact please visit 

Here's the Oregon State Treasury release on the awards:

Hillsboro Economics Teacher and Central Oregon Housing Champion Win Oregon’s 2023 Financial Empowerment Awards

Salem, OR - The winners of the 2023 Oregon Financial Empowerment Awards are a Hillsboro high school teacher and a low-income homebuyer education program from Central Oregon, State Treasurer Tobias Read announced.

The awards celebrate standouts who go the extra mile to promote financial learning, financial security and financial inclusion. The winners were announced (April 4) as part of Treasury’s observance of Financial Literacy Month.

“We are all better off when Oregonians are prepared to make wise financial choices and to build long-term financial security,” said Treasurer Read, the chair of the Oregon Financial Empowerment Advisory Team. “I want to thank these dedicated champions for their work to help Oregonians improve their financial security and we look forward to continuing to support and amplify their good work.”

The awardees are:

Financial Empowerment Educator of the Year: Amy Fifth-Lince, a social studies and economics teacher at Liberty High School in Hillsboro. This is her first recognition by any entity for her outstanding financial education efforts. She received nine nominations for the award, most of them from her students.

Fifth-Lince will receive $1,500 and Liberty High School will receive $500. In addition, students chosen at random at the school will share a total of $500 in scholarships from the Oregon College Savings Plan.

Liberty High School School Principal Greg Timmons said Fifth-Lince worked incredibly hard to make her Senior Economics class interactive, engaging, and relevant. “She not only provides content that prepares students for their future, but she also partners with the Willamette Promise professional learning community to align her curriculum with that of Oregon colleges so students can earn Dual Credit,” he said.

Oregon State Rep. Nathan Sosa, D-Hillsboro, also applauded Fifth-Lance’s passion for equipping today’s youths to be better financially prepared and confident. “Her work is invaluable in giving students the tools to be financially successful for the rest of their lives.”

Financial Empowerment Community Champion: The HomeSource program and its director, Sonia Capece, at Redmond-based NeighborImpact. HomeSource offers education, services and coaching to help clients bolster financial knowledge, work toward buying a home, and maintain homeownership.

Originally from Argentina, Capece has led the program for seven years and also serves on several regional and national boards that promote homeownership.

One of her two nominations came from Lynne McConnell, City of Bend housing manager, who said HomeSource is helping address a massive need in Central Oregon. She also applauded expansion in bilingual programming. “Sonia and NeighborImpact’s HomeSource department are a great asset to our community providing much needed money management education, home ownership counseling and financial coaching,” McConnell wrote.

The HomeSource Program will receive $2,000, and as part of the “Pay It Forward” aspect of the award, it can designate a partner organization to receive an additional $500. That designee is the Latino Community Association, a Central Oregon community nonprofit.

State Rep. Emerson Levy, D-Bend, said Central Oregonians are well-served by NeighborImpact, and echoed the praise for the HomeSource director. "Ms. Capece provides such important tools of navigating literacy and home buying to our Central Oregon community. NeighborImpact is an essential partner with our cities and state, and I'm thrilled to see this recognition from the State Treasury."

Candidates for the Financial Empowerment Awards are identified via nominations to the Oregon Treasury’s financial empowerment initiative, and selected by a subcommittee of the Financial Empowerment Advisory Team, which meets quarterly to amplify financial literacy and financial inclusion efforts statewide. This is the second year for the awards.

Entries will be accepted beginning in November for the 2024 awards.

The awards are sponsored in partnership with the Oregon College Savings Plan, a Treasury program that helps Oregonians statewide save for job training and higher education costs – which reduces the need for student debt later.

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