Bonnie CLAC founder earns national recognition

Robert Chambers, founder of the Lebanon-based Bonnie CLAC, Cars, Loans and Counseling, has been awarded the 2007 Manhattan Institute Award for Social Entrepreneurship in recognition of his efforts toward making car ownership affordable for New Hampshire’s lower-income residents.

Chambers is one of five recipients of this year’s award and the only New Hampshire resident to have received the award since its inception in 2001.

The award is given by the Manhattan Institute to social entrepreneurs dedicated to finding innovative solutions for a variety of social problems plaguing the country.

“I’m really excited about the award,” said Chambers. “We’ve worked hard to put together a model that has helped and enormous amount of people and public recognition like this really helps us continue to move forward.”

In honor of the recognition, Chambers will be presented with a check for $25,000 at an awards banquet scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 23, in New York City.

Although Chambers said he does not yet have specific plans for the award money, he does anticipate the funds will be used to move forward the agency’s business plan for national expansion.

“We plan on adding six more people here in New Hampshire and opening offices in Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont. And after two years we hope to begin expanding into other parts of the country,” he said.

In 2001, while working as a salesman for a local auto dealer, Chambers became frustrated by high interest rates and other hurdles faced by potential car buyers. His desire to serve as an advocate for lower-income car buyers led him to form Bonnie CLAC with hopes of making car-buying simpler and more affordable.

Since its inception six years ago, Bonnie CLAC has facilitated more than $13 million in loans for its clients and helped nearly 900 people purchase cars.

A nonprofit organization, Bonnie CLAC helps people purchase reliable automobiles by offering low-interest loans secured through Bonnie CLAC’s partial loan guarantee.

Bonnie CLAC also aids clients in rebuilding credit and provides transportation while clients wait for their loans to be approved.

Headquartered in Lebanon, Bonnie CLAC also has offices in Keene, Manchester, Concord, Portsmouth and Exeter. – TRACIE STONE

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