New Haven couple help ease virus-imposed drain on nonprofit's loan fund

Capital for Change, Amalgamated Bank, Connecticut Green Bank team to boost successful loan program

For Immediate Release Contact: Kim Forde – (860) 233-5165 May 8, 2020

WALLINGFORD, Conn. – A New Haven couple's proactive generosity is helping to ease the coronavirus pandemic's potential drain on a loan fund that serves financially challenged residents and low-income communities.

Frank B. Cochran and Stephanie Fitzgerald recently provided a helping hand to Wallingford-based Capital for Change Inc., Connecticut's largest full-service community development financial institution. The nonprofit organization receives charitable contributions and allows people to invest in its mission.

“These social-impact investors are standing with us at a time that we really need them,” said Darcy Arcand, development officer for the organization. “They aren't retreating and becoming fearful, but showing that they still support us. They're wonderful people who are committed to social justice.”

The couple stepped forward in response to a recent message Arcand shared with investors in Capital for Change’s Social Impact Fund, describing efforts undertaken by the organization to ensure the nonprofit organization's long-term stability in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

Among the organization's challenges is the fact that C4C’s Commercial Lending Division is allowing borrowers in good standing to delay their payments for up to three months. The target population largely served by the division are communities with low-income residents most severely affected by COVID-19.

Cochran and Fitzgerald, who have invested in the nonprofit's work since 2016, responded to Arcand's message that – to help alleviate the virus-imposed crisis – they would donate their earned interest for the current year, plus renew their investment for another year with no expectation of a return on the investment.

“I said to Darcy, 'I really want to make sure you're able to be as flexible as you can be, because that's what's going to be needed to get past the economic effects of the pandemic,” Cochran said.

That action will help ease the burden on the organizations, keep it more flexible and financially sustainable and eventually assist more people in need, Arcand said.

Cochran, a native of the Chicago area, is a retired attorney who specialized in environmental law for much of his practice. He moved to Connecticut more than 50 years ago and now resides with Fitzgerald in New Haven's Edgewood neighborhood.

Cochran's focus on community improvement – and housing in particular – originated with his parents, who worked in Chicago's housing and architectural industries. Cochran's own background includes volunteer efforts on behalf of New Haven-based Interfaith Cooperative Ministries as well as Habitat for Humanity.

Cochran, who has been involved in several interfaith efforts and has a background in the Episcopal church, observed that his actions aren't motivated by any specific faith tradition.

“Racial discrimination and class discrimination were the subject of sermons I heard while I was growing up,” Cochran said. “I took that in, and it never has left the way I think about things.”

Rather, Cochran said his actions stem from a long-standing conviction that excessive financial interest charges erode many individuals' quality of life, including those in small business and overcommitted consumers. He also expressed hope that others in secure financial circumstances would step forward in a similar fashion.

“I imagine there are other people who can increase their contributions to nonprofits that may be struggling and doing things helpful to the national economic recovery,” Cochran said. “Let's invest locally, and target where people are hurting.”

“Capital for Change's Social Impact Investing Community Loan Pool holds approximately $4.8 million from private individuals, foundations, faith-based organizations and nonprofit organizations who receive a fixed rate return for their investment,” Arcand said.

“Capital for Change has net assets of more than $17 million and, in addition to social impact investors, it is capitalized by several commercial banks, federal and state agencies, allowing it to offer low-cost, flexible loans to people and businesses that are unable to access conventional credit,” she said.

“Because the social impact fund is the least restrictive source of financing available I like to call it 'the Hero Fund,' because it allows us to achieve a lot of really wonderful things that otherwise wouldn’t be possible,” Arcand added.

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