It’s not uncommon for non-profit providers in Rice County to encounter people who have a lack of financial knowledge even on the most basic level.

While many of these non-profits offer educational resources such as classes in the areas of debt counseling, simple budgeting, foreclosure prevention counseling and monthly debt management, there haven’t been enough classes, forums or opportunities to educate all those in need.

Because of that all-too-common problem, a Financial Literacy Summit has been organized to get various stakeholders together to find a solution. Organizations, businesses, churches and individuals who have an interest in thinking about the most effective way to deliver financial education to adults, young adults and youth will be there to put their heads together to find answers.

“We want to create a plan on how to provide financial literacy in Rice County and we thought the best way to do this was to bring various organizations and individuals together to first find out what the problems really are and then make a plan of action to find solutions,” said Dayna Norvold, Rice County Habitat for Humanity director and one of the organizers of the summit. “All of the conversations we’re hearing are that we don’t have a place to send people for answers.”

The Financial Literacy Summit is set for 8:30-10 a.m. on Tuesday (Aug. 27). Norvold and the other organizers – Sharon Vangsness of the Northfield Community Action Center and Jason Hallen of the Healthy Community Initiative’s Dollars & Sense Program – believe that equipping people to be financially successful makes communities in Rice County vibrant and strong. And they think that will start with the summit.

Hallen, who primarily works with middle school and high school students in the Dollars & Sense Program, says that such an effort has never happened in Rice County and that the timing is right.

“It will be very helpful to coordinate the efforts of many organizations and make them available on a more consistent basis,” he said. “A big part of that is working collaboratively so one organization knows what another organization is doing.”

Norvold said that to date, 49 people have signed up to attend Tuesday’s summit. One of those is Rep. Patti Fritz (DFL-Faribault), who has represented District 24B since 2005.

Fritz said the topic fits well with the work she has been doing in the Legislature, including her work as a member of the “Ladder Out of Poverty Task Force." One of the specific strategies that came from that body of work was providing financial literacy information to low-income families.

“This is definitely a worthwhile event,” Fritz said. “I have a lot of passion for the folks who suffer because they don’t have the education to make informed decisions. People stand up straighter when they have financial security.”

Norvold is hoping that out of the summit comes a better infrastructure in which to help anyone in Rice County seeking financial education. It’s a first step, she says, but an important step.

“We want to come up with the best way to equip people to make smart decisions about their money,” she said. “That will help people move forward.”

Reach Managing Editor Jerry Smith at 645-1136, or follow him on Twitter.com @NewsNorthfield

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