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Supporting black businesses in Monroe County – News –



As nationwide support for black-owned businesses grows, Pocono entrepreneurs are seeing an increase of support and sales — something they say is needed to bring about change in the community.

On a busy Tuesday night, Kurt Cummings and his wife, Deatra, fulfilled several take-out orders at his restaurant, Wingz and a Prayer (109 Plaza Drive, Pocono Summit, 570-216-3700,

A diverse crowd of customers walked in and out, practicing social distancing, and picking up chicken wings, along with sides such as mac and cheese, french fries and sweet potato fries.

Not unlike most eateries, he lost business due to the pandemic but managed to stay afloat, despite having opened just six weeks before the shelter-in-place order was issued.

As the former chief of Pocono Country Place, he says many people questioned his decision to retire his badge.

“When I opened this restaurant it was all about my faith,” Cummings said. “A lot people said you’re not going to survive — no other restaurant has survived this area (in the past). Black-owned restaurants (here) rarely survive. This location has been (a site) of three or four failures of restaurants to the point where the landlord came to me and says, ’This is amazing what you have done here. I haven’t seen that.’’

Look around and you’ll notice prayer-based art, along with a cherished photo of Deatra and their son, on the wall of the establishment.

Cummings was inspired to share the photos and art with his patrons in hopes of getting to know his customers.

“I felt how amazing would it be to have a place that is positive,” he said. “That would spark a conversation with affirmations on the wall, so when you sit down we can say to each other, ‘Hey, tell me a little bit about your family, your faith, your beliefs,’ whatever it is.”

He turns to his faith, citing the Parable of the Lost Sheep, when it comes to discussing racial matters and the death of George Floyd, which ignited a worldwide movement of protesting and outcry over racial injustice.

“I truly believe, and it is in the Bible, that God said he would leave the 99 every time to find that one,” he said. “A lot of times we hear Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter. And I think right now it’s not so much about, and I’m not saying that all lives don’t matter, but if you have 99 and 1 is missing, you have to go seek that one out. If you say all fruits matter, but grapes are not invited, you can’t say all fruits matter if grapes are not invited.

“What we can do to support black businesses, or any business, is to recognize we all are a community, and I do think we need to get to know each other because familiarity breeds contempt.”

Keith Wilson, owner of Uptown Shine (2955 Route 611, Tannersville, 570-216-4114,, has had his location closed since March.

He will reopen when Monroe County enters into the green phase.

Wilson started the business in 2008 and has been able to expand his base by word of mouth and his partnerships with local car dealerships.

Summer is one of his busiest times of year.

“I think our mentality changes, the weather gets us in a better spirit of doing things and wanting things to grow,” Wilson said. “As the season changes, with the grass and the trees — it’s an awakening.”

Equipped with special tools to remove dirt and grime, both inside and out, along with vacuums and cleaners to get rid of stains on carpets and leather, Wilson is very passionate about his business and takes pride in the thoroughness of the work involved.

He’s also big on teaching younger people how to take care of their cars.

“People are driving now much younger and (some) are getting newer cars instead of handed-down cars,” he said. “So more or less you have to educate them when they come in and teach and show them what is needed for their car to stay the way it is.”

Even during the economy slump, he has no plans to change fees (car washes start at $25 and detailing at $100).

“From the time I opened my doors I’ve kept my prices the same, even though the cost of living went up,” he said. “It’s a deal in itself. Basically you’re getting a $50 to $60 deal. It’s an express detail, just from a car wash.”

He offers some advice for fellow business owners.

“Do quality work and treat your customers well, repeat business is the best business,” he said. “That’s what you have to keep in mind when the customer comes in the door, whether it be for the first time or the last time.”

Donna Heath-Gonzalez, owner of Big Apple Beauty Supply (5224 Milford Road, East Stroudsburg, 570-588-7200,, opened on May 29.

During the closure, she relied heavily on internet sales for women looking to purchase hair products, hair extensions, wigs, braids, makeup, and other beauty supplies.

On the eve of celebrating her 12th year in business, she asks residents to support mom and pop companies.

“Try to buy local instead of buying online (at big chains),” Heath-Gonzalez said. “Unless the business itself allows curbside or has an online shop.”

In 2018, Heath-Gonzalez was awarded the Monroe County Business Woman of the year award for her dedication to the community.

“I’ve sponsored back-to-school giveaways with about 300 backpacks full of supplies and prom dress events and scholarships to high school seniors,” she said. “Every year, I give away free prom dresses. I was going to do it this year, but everything shut down. I also (hosted) a Christmas dinner at Milford Manor nursing home.”

Health-Gonzalez runs a non-profit called the GlaMaud-Ford Foundation, and due to expansion, opened a second location at The Marketplace in Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Avenue, Scranton.

“I truly believe in educating and teaching kids. I grew up in Jamaica and we didn’t have much so I know what it is like for kids not to have,” she said. “I always said when I start my business I’m going to give back to my community, that’s just my passion.”

Monroe County NAACP President Christa Caceres says the chapter has plans to help black entrepreneurs build their businesses.

“We’re planning a year-long series called ‘Black Wall Street’ where we look back at the successes of our past and where we could meet every need from a business standpoint,” she said. “Not to be exclusive, but why can’t we — or why shouldn’t’ we — take care of our own destiny. The rat race isn’t for everybody and I want to bring us back to the possibilities of becoming your own boss.”

The program will provide individuals with tools such as credit repair and learning how to apply for a small business loan.

They will also compile a print and online version of black entrepreneurs in the area.

“I think we need to stop assigning mental labels to things and support any and all businesses, because at the end of the day they are providing a service and we should be mindful that we tend to segregate without realizing that we’re even doing it,” Caceres said. “Even as individuals we need to take stock of our own biases and work through those. I think only then we will start seeing some progress. Even with respect to visiting a black or Latino business — something maybe you’re not used to. You have to come out of your comfort zone and be willing to engage on every level.”

For info on the Monore County NAACP, go

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?



When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances



Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit



Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.



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