Washington CASH coming to Kitsap

"People in Kitsap County who have dreamed of self-sufficiency will soon have a resource to get them on their feet.Washington CASH, or Community Alliance for Self-Help, a non-profit organization based in Seattle that fosters self-sufficiency through self-employment, will start offering its collateral-free loan services to Kitsap County later this month.CASH, founded in 1996, is one of about 500 micro-credit organizations nationwide that offer small loans to low-income people trying to start their own businesses.Alan Newberg of Bremerton heard about the organization while volunteering for an activist group called Results and rallied to get the group to come to Kitsap County. Peter Rose, executive director of Washington CASH, said the organization had wanted to come to Kitsap for a while but had always run into money problems. Since the group relies on federal grants, getting money to expand beyond Seattle has been difficult. Ultimately, it all comes down to money, Rose said.The loan process starts with a 12-week course that CASH puts on free of charge to those looking to launch a small business. After the course is completed, loan applicants are placed in groups of four to seven. Each member pitches ideas to the rest of the group, which acts as a loan review board. The groups then pick who will receive this first loan, which can range from $500 to $5,000. Once the initial loan is paid back, a second person is picked for their loan. The cycle continues until all members of the group have received and paid back their loans. If a member defaults, the group is frozen and unable to get any more money until they find a way to pay it back. Rose said this keeps the group critical of what it financially backs.A lot of these people are very savvy, Rose said. They have good bull detectors.CASH has helped small businesses that produce everything from pens made of wood to barbecue sauce turn into money makers in Seattle. Rose said Kitsap County will be challenging because of its rural geography - marketing in Kitsap will be more difficult then in Seattle because people in Kitsap County are spread out.But Newberg said studies have shown that the very poor actually are most likely to repay loans. So are women in general, he added.Women's values tend to focus on family, so that's where they spend their money, Newberg said. The only two defaulted loans have been by men.Organizers also are hopeful because micro-lending has a successful history. CASH was modeled after a similar Bangladeshi establishment called Grameen Bank. Since it was started about 25 years ago, Grameen has loaned money to 2.3 million people, with two-thirds of them earning their way up to self-sufficiency.Although the life-span of CASH in Kitsap County is dependent on funding, Rose said he is devoted to stay as long as possibleOur goal is to there as long as there is interest in taking the program, Rose said.Washington CASH informational meetings are scheduled for 6:30-7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 18, and noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23. Both meetings will be held at the Westpark Community Center, 76 Russell Road in Bremerton. Space is limited so reservations are required. Call (360) 698-4088 or (206) 352-1945 for reservations. The first business training class is scheduled for 6-8:30 p.m. Monday, Sept 25. "

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