President Recognizes Atlantic Grantees, Promotes Encore Careers

Resource type: News

The Atlantic Philanthropies |

Today in an event in the East Room of the White House, President Obama highlighted innovative non-profit programmes that are making a difference in communities across the country. Programmes such asHarlem Children’s Zone (an Atlantic grantee), Teach for America (an Atlantic grantee), HopeLab, Genesys Works, and Bonnie CLAC (an Atlantic grantee via thePurpose Prize) have developed models that are demonstrating results. These programmes and others like them have the potential to make progress in education, training, health care, and other areas in more communities across the country.

The President called on foundations, philanthropists, and others in the private sector to partner with the government to find and invest in these innovative, high-impact solutions. Now more than ever, we need to build cross-sector partnerships to transform our schools, improve the health of Americans, and employ more people in clean energy and other emerging industries. These community solutions will help build the new foundation for the economy and the nation.

From President Obama:

“We’ve got young-at-heart people like Robert Chambers, who finish out careers in business or health care or education, and instead of transitioning into retirement, they’re just too busy, they’re too restless, so they come back for an encore, plowing a lifetime of experience into helping people in need. We’ve got people from all backgrounds, all walks of life succeeding where others have failed; getting real, measurable results; changing the way we think about some of our toughest problems.”

Atlantic grantee Robert Chambers, co-founder of Bonnie CLAC (Car Loans and Counseling), along with three other social entrepreneurs, delivered a brief statement.

Remarks of Robert Chambers, co-founder of Bonnie CLAC:

“I worked as a car salesman. A young working mother who was earning $11 an hour came to our dealership. Recently divorced, she was desperate for a car. Her credit rating was poor and her negotiating skills even worse. It wasn’t a surprise when she ended up with a 5-year loan at a very high-interest rate on a car that would last no more than 2 years. As she drove off, the business manager and the salesman “high-fived” each other because they had made a $5,000 profit on this vulnerable working mother.

I couldn’t stand the unfairness.

I knew that, for the same money, this young woman could have bought a base model new car that got far better gas mileage and was better for the planet. That’s how Bonnie CLAC was born.

Bonnie CLAC helps struggling individuals buy affordable, reliable, fuel-efficient cars that improve their lives and support a sustainable environment.
We partially guarantee loans to help our clients gain very-low-interest rates. And we insist people work on personal financial skills and adopt behaviors that promote personal responsibility for the financial & health decisions in their lives. 

Bonnie CLAC helps the working poor to build assets and lead better lives.

Three years ago, Chandra Rebeiro, who is here with me, was a single mother working two jobs and going to school to better her life. She couldn’t qualify for a low interest rate loan for a car. Through Bonnie CLAC, Chandra learned how to manage her finances, she repaired her credit, and she got a low interest car loan. Today, Chandra is married and is a Registered Nurse. Getting a reasonably priced new car with an affordable loan was a catalyst for that change.

This service is desperately needed throughout the United States. Since winning the Purpose Prize for Social Entrepreneurship in 2006, Bonnie CLAC has developed a business plan for expansion with the help of Andrew Wolk, hired a CEO, and received major support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Strategic Grant Partners. We have great partners and support, but we need more help to bring this service to more low income Americans.

I’d like to say one last thing. I was 57 when I started Bonnie CLAC, old enough to understand the injustice I saw and experienced enough to do something about it. It’s important to note here today that social innovators come in all ages. Given the size of our baby boomer population, it’s time to figure out how to build on all that experience, and to use it to solve our nation’s most pressing social problems.

Thank you for the emphasis that the Obama administration is placing on social innovation and community solutions. It will help us to tackle our nation’s problems. This gives me great hope.”

Photo: Robert Chambers and client Chandra Rebeiro