Loan repayment's 'warm fuzzies'

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Susanne Rowse (Te Rongopai Community Trust) and David Cowley (WEL Energy Trust)
Susanne Rowse (Te Rongopai Community Trust) and David Cowley (WEL Energy Trust)

WEL Energy Trust staff and trustees admit to having the "warm fuzzies" after the early repayment of one of the Trust's first community loans.

In July 2014, WEL Energy Trust loaned the Te Rongopai Community Trust $110,000 over five years to help complete the Good News Community Centre in Nawton. Te Rongopai had been turned down by banks after raising $450,000 through personal pledges towards the $1 million project. The rest came from grants or donations of time and materials from local businesses.

WEL Energy Trust grants manager David Cowley said he was thrilled to see the community centre up and running, knowing the Trust had played a small part in making it happen. In addition to the loan, WEL Energy Trust granted $35,000 to the project in 2011/12.

"It's a really nice feeling to see such a good, community-driven project come to life. I deal with a lot of community groups and Te Rongopai is achieving an awful lot," Cowley said.

WEL Energy Trust chair Mark Ingle said Te Ronopai trustees and staff should be congratulated.

"As well as having the vision and drive to make something happen, they've now paid back our loan nearly three and half years early. That frees up money for other community groups to access which is really important."

WEL Energy Trust implemented a community loans scheme in mid-2013 and approved its first loan in August that year. Since then a further three loans have been made, totalling $1.13 million. The existing loans support housing for people with disabilities, a youth centre and emergency housing.

The community loans scheme was established by WEL Energy Trustees to enable viable community projects to succeed faster.

The loans can also be used to help organisations purchase critical assets and income-generating businesses with strong social benefit.

Ingle said while strict criteria were in place, the most important thing was that the loan could be paid back and that the project would have significant benefit to people in the WEL Trust area.

"The loans are a hand-up for groups that are likely to struggle with conditions set by traditional lending institutions like banks. They're not interest-free but we're able and willing to lend money under conditions that can make a huge difference to community groups."

Wel Energy Trust would look at lending up to $500,000 over a maximum 10-year term.

Loans could be made at any time and staff were always available to talk to groups about potential applications.

Te Rongopai Community Trust manager Susanne Rowse said without the WEL Energy Trust loan, the Good News Community Centre would likely have been delayed for another two years "at least".

At least 150 people a week were now using the centre which was continuing to add new services on top of the existing youth group, after-school club, community meals programme and more.

"We've now got a job club running, we have a homework centre, there's Maori language classes and basketball going on," she said. "It's become a really beneficial space for the community to use."

Ingle said the early pay back of the community loan was certainly "feel-good moment" for Trustees and staff vindicated their decision to establish the loans scheme.

"It's about making a real difference and I think the community loans scheme absolutely does that."

- Hamilton News

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