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LaSonya Thompson: HCCI's Lending Circles Program Success Story

LaSonya Thompson is a force of nature. 

An effusive, vibrant attorney who works in the compliance and antitrust space, she had several goals when she heard about the Lending Circle program at Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement (HCCI), funded by the New York Mortgage Coalition. 

LaSonya, an active member of HCCI member Riverside Church in Morningside Heights, wanted to begin laying the groundwork for becoming a homeowner by eliminating her student debt.
As a member of the creative class, she also wanted the freedom to pursue her artistic and entrepreneurial interest. She is currently launching the InterFaith Film and Music Festival to be held Nov 29-Dec 2 She also wanted to make sure that she had funds to participate in mission trips with Habitat for Humanity to needy parts of the world.

“Service helps me stay grounded and grateful for everything I have,” she explains. “I meet great people and spend time away from the grind of the New York City rat race. When you go somewhere where people do not have basic food, clothing or shelter, you appreciate it more.”

LaSonya’s Lending Circle was a little shorter than a full year and included nine people—working, semi-retired, families. Everyone had different situations but all were jumpstarting their savings.
Although homeownership was what brought LaSonya to the lending circles, through her participation she realized she had more work to do.

“The prices are cost prohibitive.  You absolutely need the right fit, the right neighborhood, enough room—and to have enough for maintenance and upkeep so you are prepared for a rainy day.”

So now, she is preparing to get a home by getting her financial house in order.

“In addition to cutting expenses, the circle also made me look at my streams of income and I took some online courses that introduced me to stocks and bonds to increase my revenue.  The Lending Circle helps you get in the right type of savings mindset no matter what your situation.”

She has recommended the program to friends, but understands that it is not for everyone.  In her case, she is also looking to the future.  Although she does not have children she is interested in wealth building in order to create a legacy so that she can assist her extended family.

“I feel like with the Lending Circle that I am recycling my savings account.  I am giving the savings into my own bank, I am empowering someone else to achieve their goals at the same time I am achieving mine.”

LaSonya thinks the program has great potential—maybe in Microlending for business or for those in the gig economy as some of the bank and even non-bank lenders still have very tough requirements re APR and credit scores.

And although you must be 18 to join the Lending Circle, LaSonya believes that someday it might be a great tool for kids.

“I love the idea of lending circles for young people who often don’t feel that sense of community—maybe with $5 or $10 but just to get them saving at an early age.”

The online educational courses on investing were attractive because they helped her explore stocks and options as a means to diversify her income sources and enjoy new ventures like her festival.
“Hopefully someday it will be profitable but this first year it is about seeing what potential the event has, meeting prospective investors, and figuring out future plans.”

She sums up her experience with Lending Circles this way: “My experience was life changing because I was excited about getting my credit score up.  The Lending Circle served as my accountability partner to stay focused on eliminating student loan debt.  I was in good company meeting other individuals who were serious about legacy building and wealth creation.  I highly recommend this program!”