Baye and Howard From Bridges Out Of Poverty

Monroe Circle Community Center (MC3) and First Federal Savings Bank Join forces to bring financial literacy to the Near West side of South Bend, Indiana. This initiative includes a course for adults, teens (the Teen program kicked off at the Edison Garden’s site), and k-4th grade aged children who are in our afterschool program. The curriculum is from the Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace curriculum. Each adult and teen participant receives a free savings account with money deposited upon completion of the program. The program’s kick off class was a success and now we can breathe a sigh of relief with 2 weeks already under our belts. We are offering 1 course per quarter and we are already receiving some interest to be placed on the next quarter course’s waiting list. Woo! Hoo!

This journey began over a year ago. Pam Beemer (a volunteer coordinator of MC3’s Life Basics program) and I began dreaming about resuscitating and enhancing our fledgling, yet necessary, financial literacy program. But we knew that we were missing some critical components to pull this program off. We needed volunteers of which some needed to possess special gifts, passion, and knowledge about the subject matter, we needed clients or students who have a desire to learn about managing their personal finances, and oh yea, we needed money.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town at a local bank, a discussion was taking place about the Community

Students are from MC3 GED, Vocational Job Placement Initiative, & Center For The Homeless STARS program.

Reinvestment Acts (CRA) mandates being placed on banks to have a significant impact in Urban communities. Although First Federal Savings Bank has a culture of providing service to the community through their volunteers, they had just learned that some of those activities no longer helped them meet the criteria set by the CRA. For example, one mandate specifically states that their reinvestment initiative need to target a low-income population on the “Near West Side” of South Bend, Indiana. This would have been a difficult feat being that First Federal Savings Banks consist of 6 branches located in 5 counties primarily in rural areas. However, a First federal employee who happens to be a Granger Community Church (GCC) volunteer, Maribeth Ronz-VanVlasselaer, and who coordinates mobilizing volunteers for Center For The Homeless and organizes their Fund Raising events, told First Federal that there could be an opportunity through MC3 for First Federal to meet its criteria while at the same time allowing the community center achieve its objective.

In August of 2010, we were able to provide a tour of the MC3 facility and meet for the first time with a team from First Federal including their President and owner, Richard Belcher. After hearing about MC3’s history and vision for the community, they went back to their branch manger’s meeting to tell the MC3 story. The mangers all showed interest in this collaboration and after a presentation to the First Federal board of directors, the decision was made that the corporation, as a whole, will participate in the ongoing development of the financial literacy program, provide a significant number of volunteers from all 6 branches to facilitate the program (so far 26 of their employees have already signed up to volunteer), and fully fund the financial literacy program.

For the last seven months, we have worked very closely with First Federal to make sure that this program is

First Federal Savings Bank Employees volunteer helping the kids in the MC3 Afterschool Financial Peace class

top notched and will generate positive outcomes. It has truly been amazing working with them. Therefore I want to use this opportunity to thank everyone, First Federal employees and MC3 and GCC volunteers, who has helped make this dream a reality. And I thank Bonnie Moore, another volunteer from GCC who stepped in to become the course’s head facilitator for the adult classes. She has extensive knowledge of the Financial Peace curriculum and has truly add significant value to this project. But I am convince that this project would not have been possible without Pam Beemer’s diligent work as the project manager for this initiative. She developed the strategy and was able to keep us all on task, which was a miracle within itself.

In the development of this financial literacy program it was apparent to us that we needed to add context to the overall curriculum that the Financial Peace curriculum did not provide, especially as it relates to our target population. So we got in touch with St Joseph County Bridges Out Of Poverty’s director Bonnie Bazata asking if they could help with the training of our volunteers as well as do a presentation in each of our course’s introduction class. Bridges graciously accepted our invitation to collaborate with us in this initiative and the value they bring to the table is unmeasurable.

Although Monroe Circle Community Center is a faith-based, not-for-profit, organization and First Federal Savings Bank is a for profit business, we have found that we have a common vision which we shared. We want to see each person in the Monroe Circle community take their “next step” toward a full and meaningful life. We want to see that each person become the best “them” they can be while being empowered to make a

The children in the MC3 Afterschool program is listening to a story from the Financial Peace Story Book.

difference in their own community. We both want to see the injustices and systems removed that keep our friends trapped in a generation of poverty, without adequate education and skill development. We may use different terminology but its’ the same mission. To provide space where the Kingdom of God “as it is in Heaven” is realized in our communities, “Thy will be done on earth…” Amen.

Oh, by the way… In case you are wondering if we can use more volunteers for this program? The answer is emphatically… YES! Just click on the ” Volunteer” tab.

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