J. Wayne Leonard Prosperity Center Reopens

J. Wayne Leonard Prosperity Center reopens in new location after Hurricane Ida
Center to expand financial capability resources for Southshore residents


NEW ORLEANS – United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) Tuesday reopened the doors to the new location of its J. Wayne Leonard Prosperity Center – UWSELA’s financial capability education center serving Greater New Orleans residents – located at 2401 Canal Street, one block from its original location.

UWSELA first opened the center in 2017 in its offices at 2515 Canal, but the building lost its roof and sustained significant water damage in Hurricane Ida, leaving the center’s staff to provide appointment-only services out of the ground-floor conference room.

“Our financial capability team did a remarkable job reaching clients over the last year to ensure they could still access the center’s life-changing services, but the urgent need to expand our capacity amidst the pandemic and storm recovery drove our search for a new location,” said Michael Williamson, UWSELA president and CEO. “Just as the center’s namesake envisioned, we’re thrilled to reopen our doors and offer clients the full scope of expert services in a setting that demonstrates they matter and their community cares about them.”

As the longest-serving chairman and CEO of Entergy, the late J. Wayne Leonard facilitated more than $50 million in charitable donations to move people out of poverty and improve early childhood education. Leonard – the 2017 UWSELA Tocqueville Society Award honoree – provided a surprise $1 million contribution to UWSELA, which helped open the center five years ago.  

Today, the new location will expand the center’s one-stop approach, helping low-to-moderate-income participants gain financial stability through an array of services, including:

  • financial education – group seminars covering a broad spectrum of financial topics
  • financial coaching – ongoing one-on-one interactions empowering participants to address short- to long-term financial issues
  • credit improvement – counseling services designed to identify and prioritize credit-building strategies
  • access to safe and affordable financial products – provide alternative options to high-cost financial service providers (e.g., check cashers, payday lenders)
  • access to federal and state benefits – comprehensive screening to determine federal and state benefit eligibility for participants
  • free tax preparation assistance (VITA) – inclusive tax preparation services integrated with financial education
  • incentivized savings – matched-savings program designed to encourage savings behavior for specified assets
  • asset ownership programs (IDA) – wealth-building programming designed to help participants purchase and maintain assets, such as a home, business, or obtaining an education
  • workforce development soft skills – a combination of soft skills training that enables participants to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well and achieve employment

“The long-standing partnership between the City of New Orleans and United Way of Southeast Louisiana has provided residents with the support they need to reach financial stability and to thrive,” said New Orleans City Councilmember Lesli Harris. “I’m thrilled about our collective ability to reach even more families, thanks to the generosity of the Leonard family and United Way’s commitment to its ongoing services. The new J. Wayne Leonard Prosperity Center will continue to offer one-stop financial services and coaching, along with additional meeting spaces. Thank you, United Way, for your expanded presence in District B and your dedication to our city.”

The center targets the 55% of households in Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes living below the ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Threshold. Households living below this threshold do not earn enough money to afford a basic survival budget, including housing, transportation, health care, child care, food and technology, or save for an emergency. 

The Individual Development Account (IDA) Project, a cornerstone of the Prosperity Center, helps move families living under the ALICE Threshold to long-term financial stability. “When I decided to take my fashion design business from a hobby to my sole source of income, the United Way's IDA program became a huge catapult for me,” said Renee Johnson, a former UWSELA client. “As a single mother, I was able to take a leap of faith and build a successful fashion design business because of the mentorship and financial resources provided to me by the…program.”

Now in its fifth year of serving clients in New Orleans and the surrounding area, the center has:

  • helped participants save an average of $1,500 within six months and reduce their debts by $300+;
  • assisted with $15.5 million in asset purchases through the IDA Project;
  • granted over $1.3 million in mortgage and rental assistance;
  • prepared 5,800 tax returns at no cost; and
  • provided over 1,400 one-on-one coaching sessions and 102 financial education workshops. 

“There are few things more rewarding in this work than seeing our Prosperity Center clients come back time and again, making serious progress in their financial goals and creating long-term wealth for their families,” added Chiquita Lattimore, UWSELA SR. VP, Financial Capability. “For years to come, Southeast Louisiana households can count on our center’s judgment-free approach to financial capability services to help them rebuild their lives and reimagine futures brighter than they ever thought possible.”   

Programming will be available in January to the public at no cost. 

Call 504.822.5540 or visit UnitedWaySELA.org/ProsperityCenter to learn more about financial capability programming at both UWSELA Prosperity Center locations, serving Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes.