Tuesday, February 22, 2011

An Interview with Dan Kornelis and Danny Haire: Cofounders of the IDA Program with a Heart; and IDA Clients Share why Financial Literacy is Important to Them

In November of 2010, I along with AmeriCorps*VISTA Alexandra Rhoton, interviewed cofounders of the New Century IDA Dan Kornelis and Danny Haire. Dan Kornelis is the Director of the Forsyth County Department of Housing, and Danny Haire is the former New Century IDA working group chair, and current Executive Director of YVEDDI. Over ten years ago Dan and Danny came together to form one of the strongest IDA programs in the country, and the program that produces the most graduates nationwide, per capita.

Whenever I conduct an interview I create a list of questions beforehand, and make the questions in depth just in case the person I am speaking to doesn't roll with the interview. In the case of this interview, I asked them one question, "How did the two of you get together to create the IDA program?" and they went into an hour long story that covered every single talking point I had prepared, along with stories that were all theirs. 

When the two of them sit down together their chemistry is evident in the way they communicate; with an anecdote from one, and a nod of the head from the other, you can see their long history of social action with every word uttered, and the amount of respect they hold for not only each other but for this wonderful program and their clients. Dan and Danny emphasize how every single thing they do is for the client. They shed their blood, sweat, and tears assuring that the New Century IDA is an organization that always puts the needs of the client first.

Danny explains how IDA programs are a new form of social welfare. Rather than leave those with need dependent on welfare, IDA programs teach financial literacy, and educates and supports individuals in their quest for asset building and successful homeownership. Here is the 4 minute "teaser trailer" for the full interview I put together with video editor Chris Zaluki.

Until next time, Andriana Bicanin, AmeriCorps*VISTA

Friday, February 18, 2011

North Carolina Saves + AmeriCorps VISTA

North Carolina Saves is a statewide social marketing initiative designed to help individuals and families save and build wealth. It was created by a statewide coalition of nonprofit, corporate and government groups.

In 2010 the IDA & Asset Building Collaborative of North Carolina embarked on a new, three-year AmeriCorps VISTA project. VISTA, which stands for Volunteer In Service To America, is a national anti-poverty program. Here in North Carolina, we have a team of ten VISTAs working around the state to promote North Carolina Saves. 

This year our VISTAs are working on three strategic goals:

Creating new partnerships between financial institutions and agencies that provide financial education and wealth building programs. This will ensure that Savers are paired with safe and appropriate savings products.

Getting the word out about NC Saves and recruiting Savers. We are developing materials and recruiting spokespeople to promote a culture of savings and responsibility in North Carolina

Recruiting Wealth Coaches who will serve as a mentor and guide for NC Savers. These individuals will empower North Carolinians to take control of their financial future.

For example, Debbie Hardy is an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Choanoke Area Development Association. A former chair of the Halifax County School Board, she has used her strong connection to the community to recruit 32 NC Savers, coordinate 3 Wealth Coaches, and work with local financial institutions to promote NC Saves.

For more information, and to become an NC Saver, visit http://www.northcarolinasaves.org/ or email ncsaves@ncidacollaborative.org

By: Zarak Khan
AmeriCorps VISTA*Leader
IDA and Asset Building Collaborative of North Carolina

Monday, February 7, 2011

Part II of In Their Shoes- the Journey from Renter to Homeowner: Gary and Terri

I love speaking to Gary and Terri. Their strength of mind and spirit, and determination to build a home for their children never ceases to inspire.  They both work full time,  are raising four children, are actively involved in their children’s activities, and are saving and working towards a secure home for themselves and their family.  So here is Part II of “In Their Shoes- the Journey from Renter to Homeowner: Gary and Terri” –Andriana Bicanin

If you read their first interview, you will recall that they entered the program after learning about the New Century IDA through friends who have successfully graduated and bought a home.  Terri wants a home that their kids can visit when they grow up, a home that will hold their dearest memories. They were disappointed in themselves that they had not been able to provide the family with a non-rented house, but this made their resolve stronger.  Last time we spoke they said they looked forward to classes on savings, credit, and buying a home, but weren’t going to look too far ahead; they wanted to take everything in as it comes. They were excited to learn information they can pass on to their children.

An entire household is affected by major life changes, and the pursuit of investing in a long term goal. Saving for a house effects their life on different levels, and causes them to have to change the way they do things. Their children have taken to this journey in their own ways. With their oldest son, he was given money for Christmas, and he still has some of that money left over. They are proud at how quickly he picked up on the information they have brought home, and how he has assimilated himself into the savings and home buying process.  His reasoning for saving his Christmas money was because, “You don’t know when a rainy day will come and I will need this.” Their son defined the major reason as to why savings are so important. Their 13 year old son “Gets a dollar here and there”, and the older son has been trying to instill the same savings ethics, and drill in that he shouldn’t spend the money at the store. He is young, so he is still learning and trying to fully understand the effects and benefits of saving. Their daughters number one concern is getting her own room, and because of this she understands that there are lifestyle changes she must adapt to. She is willing to give up getting a new doll, c.d., or computer game.  Terri explains, “She understands that she has to give something.”  As for their 5 year old, he is still too  young to fully understand why they do not and cannot spend money the way they used to.

Despite saving more, and cutting back on their spending, nothing changed for Christmas, and they did not find having to budget around saving for their home stressful. They had a budget to follow for the kids Christmas present, and they were able to stay within their budget range.  Terri explains, “For Christmas the kids got what they needed, not what they wanted.  The time will come when they can get want, but for the time being it is all about the necessities.” And the kids understand that right now their main goal is to save and get into a new house. 

Gary and Terri used to treat the family to weekly nights out for dinner. They spent money on a burger every now and then for the kids, and bought their lunches while out. Her habits have changed very much since entering the program, meeting with her success coach, and attending the classes with Mr. Reid.  Now, instead of spending on a soda, she goes to the grocery store and buys a 12 pack, she packs everyone’s lunches, and they don’t spend money eating out.  Before, they would stop at a fast food place and spend “Two or three dollars here, then the next day (go somewhere else), a few cents from the snack machine.  It all adds up.” After meeting with their success coach, and learning budgeting from Harvey Reid, they now diligently keep track of where their money is spent, and have drastically cut their spending habits and are saving a lot of money because of it. Across the board people are almost always agree with which class they enjoyed the most, and Gary and Terri agree with the rest. Their favorite class was with the absolutely dynamic Mr. Harvey Reid. Harvey Reid went from homeless single father, to a successful financial consultant.  He speaks at financial literacy classes and teaches the clients how to budget.

Before the class with Mr. Reid, Terri said she thought that she had been budgeting correctly, but it was in no way the way he talked about.  Mr. Reid teaches people the value of counting every single penny you spend; if you spend money on a soda in a vending machine, it has to be counted, if you use a food stamp card, you have to count it.  He supplied the class with budgeting binders and books, so they can save every receipt, and write where each and every single penny goes. This shows clients the importance of knowing where they spend their money, and keeps them accountable.  Terri explained to me how hard it was to count every thing they spend money on, as they were not used to such strict budgeting.

Along with regularly attending classes, they meet with their success coach.  Their success coach tells them what to do, how to do it, and is very helpful.  If they should ever run into a hurdle she helps them move on from it. The meetings with their success coach has further instilled the value of taking their lunch to work, budgeting the kids and their allowance, and cutting back on indulgences; because of this they are able to save more than the $75 required.

I love how laid back and open to the program Gary and Terri are. When I asked them what they were looking forward to, they responded much the same as our first interview, and said they “Just want to go with the flow of the classes, it’s great information.” They are eager to learn whatever the New Century IDA program will give them. They are there to soak up the information, and to become successful first time home owners.

I asked if they had come across any difficulties, and they have not. Their friends who have gone through the program are very encouraging, and telling them to keep going with this and not to stop. They have such an amazing support group, and most importantly they have each other. Terri said that there are times when she wants to go spend money, but then Gary will be like, “You know you have to budget!”  They encourage each other and write down what they spend.  As with their first interview, they reiterate their constant support of each other, and how they will be successful by leaning on each other and staying on task.

When I asked if they had anything they wanted to end the interview with, Gary proudly told me of a $25 gift certificate to Food Lion that they won at one of the classes.  He correctly answered  “What is the first thing you need to do when you budget?” Their enthusiasm, and sponging up the information is evident with everything they say. They are truly acting in a way that will make it so they reach their dream. They are going to fulfill this for their kids and selves. They also want people to know that no matter what, a person will get something out of attending classes and they will learn something; that is a good incentive to have.

They are getting more excited as the months go by, knowing that they have a goal to graduate in September

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Guest Blog Article: Nonprofit Work, Budget, and Pay

At the bottom of this introduction you can find the blog of a former AmeriCorps teammember of mine. We served with the Washington Reading Corps/Community Youth Services of western Washington. Our mission was to support the literacy programs at low income elementary schools throughout western Washington. Although this was a very rewarding experience, it came with its challenges. The greatest challenge of AmeriCorps, especially VISTA, is the amount we are paid.

His blog post talks about his work with AmeriCorps, how he learned to budget and manage with his pay (he was a State/National member, so he was able to have second job), and his post college and AmeriCorps transition.

This is a great read for those interested in nonprofit work, and for those who have struggled with budgeting, and the universal feeling of feeling as though you should be getting paid more.

His current career is in the nonprofit sector. And although pay is not very high he makes the comment that many of us in this field agree with, "Your work, above all, should mean something to you; money is an aside. But I can't shake the nagging feeling that I'm missing something, like an extra zero."

So please click on the below link ("My Penumbra...") for the interesting read  -Andriana Bicanin

My Penumbra: Perpetual pecuniary insecurities of a nonprofit id...: "An article on Salon.com today was written by a former employee of a subprime mortgage lender and read like a mea culpa of sorts. The writer..."