CEDAM Blog

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2016 Community Economic Development Award Winners

CEDAM board and staff are pleased to recognize the people and organizations this year that have acted as key contributors to the community economic development field. Congratulations to all of our award winners!

Community Economic Development Leader of the Year

Each year CEDAM recognizes a Community Economic Development Leader of the Year: a member who has engaged in creative new programming, been involved in an exciting new development, or has generally proved to be a leader in the field. CEDAM wishes to recognize this year’s recipient, the Lansing Office of Financial Empowerment.

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After opening in 2013 through a
grant from the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund, a project of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Lansing Office of Financial Empowerment is the first of its kind in Michigan. Through a
number of local partnerships, financial coaching, and one-on-one services, they are available help to improve financial stability for members of the community. Between 2013 and 2015, Lansing’s Financial Empowerment Center served nearly 2,700 clients with more than 7,500 free financial counseling sessions, helping clients to reduce their debt by $4.79 million and increase their savings by $328,000. Beyond this success, they are leading by example for other centers opening across Michigan and paving the way for more innovation through local strategic partnerships that serve to empower its residents.

Community Economic Development Advocate of the Year

The Community Economic Development Advocate of the Year award goes to an organization or individual who has done the most to advance community economic development in Michigan. This year, CEDAM is recognizing Nancy Finegood. Nancy has spent her professional career working to form connections, secure resources, and provide an understanding of the value that healthy and historic neighborhoods bring to Michigan residents and the economy.

Nancy FinegoodNancy understands the full impact of historic preservation, rehabilitation, Main Streets, and other components to sustain healthy neighborhoods and works tirelessly to advocate and secure resources for them. She has served as the Executive Director for the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and is  partnered with a number of other organizations, including the Michigan Vacant Property Campaign, CEDAM’s Policy Committee, and the MiNeighborhood Program. She is constantly advocating for resources that protect Michigan neighborhoods, including direct outreach to educate legislators and showcase the full effect of nonprofit and volunteer work.

Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps Host Site of the Year

The Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps Host Site of the Year award is presented annually to recognize a MFPC host site dedicated to making a difference in the community in which they serve and exemplifies the spirit of national service. This year’s winner is the Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF), located in Grand Rapids. . Despite their large size in serving six counties in Western Michigan and their variety of community programs, they always take time to provide support and guidance to their AmeriCorps members

ICCFICCF has hosted Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps’ members since the programs inception in 2009. As the first point of contact for people at-risk of losing their homes to foreclosure, members serving at ICCF serve a vital role in determining case urgency, answering client questions, readying paperwork, and overseeing all referrals from the Step Forward Michigan portal. In addition, ICCF is participating in the financial empowerment pilot project by utilizing the AmeriCorps program to build the capacity of their VITA free tax assistance program. ICCF is committed to responding to community needs in effective ways and engaging the skills and benefits of their AmeriCorps members in shaping their processes.

Join us next year at the Building Michigan Communities Conference for a variety of great conference sessions related to community economic development, and see who shone in 2016!

Food Forward MI: Food Sovereignty and Governance

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Over the last few decades as food inputs and sourcing is of increasing interest to consumers and “buy local” campaigns grow more main stream, the idea of food sovereignty and governance frequently comes up. Who controls our food, food decision making and rights? Nationally, a rare bi-partisan compromise has helped move forward the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, for example, making it more palatable for K-12 planning and implementation of healthy meals in 2015. Similarly and not surprisingly, within Michigan the history of food policy also winds its way according to government administration, as well as funding and local champions. Much progress has been made, however, and Michigan stands out nationally as a trailblazer in the local food movement, including policy. Currently, philanthropic, academic, public and private partnerships are working together on food access challenges ranging the gamut from institutional procurement to farmland rights and migrant labor law, to name a few.

At the end of 2015, HB5180 was introduced by the American Heart Association with the intention of complimenting the MI Good Food Fund (a philanthropic partnership) and goal of facilitating local food access by offering food retail supports. This type of a collaborative effort goes well back, but gained governmental acknowledgement and support in 2005 under the Granholm administration through development of the MI Food Policy Council. The Council was developed to recommend policy and programming that would build a local, healthy food supply chain. Out of this effort, the MI Good Food Charter was developed envisioning 20% of Michigan intuition’s foods sourced from at least 20% of MI production, feeding 80% of the population with healthy, local foods by 2020. The Council was abolished at the end of 2014 and Governor Snyder consolidated activities to form the Interdepartmental Collaboration Committee Subcommittee on food policy, however the work of the Charter continues to gain momentum and still drives policy work.

Today at the local level those looking to engage in regional policy advocacy and change are encouraged to join the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems facilitated Local Food Council Network – a peer to peer learning network that helps convene those functioning municipal level food councils to recommend practices and policies affecting their food system. These recommendations and action steps might include work around: business supports or livestock ordinances, for example, as well as how to effectively advocate and educate law makers. To better understand what is happening on the ground level and get involved now, connect with the statewide Food Justice and Sovereignty Work Group. For more information on Michigan food policy, please read the full article here.

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mary-zumbrunnenAbout the author: Mary ZumBrunnen is the Director of Talent & New Market Initiatives at Prima Civitas, a statewide economic development non-profit catalyzing Michigan. She holds a BS in agriculture and natural resource communications from Michigan State University (MSU) and an MS in community, agriculture, recreation and resource studies, also from MSU. Currently she is pursuing a master of business administration. A small business owner and backyard farmer, Mary energetically works to facilitate sustainable development through citizen engagement. Connect with Mary on Twitter @Mary_ZumBrunnen and learn about other development projects onwww.primacivitas.org today.

CEDAM member Amber Paxton assumes national leadership role as co-chair of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Coalition

Written by: Megan Kursik, Coordinator of the Michigan Communities for Financial Empowerment

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Amber addressing the Mayor of Miami during the coalition meeting last week.

Cities from across the U.S. convened in Miami last week for the bi-annual Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Coalition Forum. The CFE Coalition is a group of city governments committed to supporting the financial capability of their residents through innovative programs and local policy. Forums bring coalition members together to share new ideas and learn from each other’s experiences.

Amber Paxton’s selection as co-chair is indicative of the strength and success of the City of Lansing’s Office of Financial Empowerment, which was created in 2013 as part of Mayor Bernero’s commitment to ensuring all Lansing residents have the opportunity to take advantage of economic development happening in the city. As Director of the Office of Financial Empowerment, Amber oversees programs that help Lansing residents to access free financial counseling, affordable banking and savings tools and consumer protections.

I caught up with Amber to congratulate her on her new leadership role and talk with her about Lansing’s financial empowerment work.

MK: Congratulations on your first CFE Coalition Forum as co-chair! Can you tell us about what the coalition does?

AP: The CFE Coalition is member-led and all about connecting with other cities engaged in municipal financial empowerment. We get to share our successes, but also get help addressing challenges that pop up when we implement programs in our cities. Because this is a fairly new role for cities to play, the coalition helps connect peers from across the U.S. We also want to spread the financial empowerment message and grow the movement, so we look to invite new members every year.

MK: And why was the City of Lansing invited to the coalition?

AP: Lansing was invited to join the coalition in 2014, after successfully launching a Financial Empowerment Center and establishing our Office of Financial Empowerment in 2013. I think Lansing is an important city to be represented because we are a lot smaller than the other member cities. Lansing proves that the municipal financial empowerment approach is effective even in cities with smaller populations and smaller budgets than original coalition members, like New York and San Francisco.

MK: Has Lansing’s financial empowerment work grown since you launched your Financial Empowerment Center?

AP: Most definitely! After launching the Financial Empowerment Center we decided to take a look across the life course and target programs to our children and young adults. The Financial Empowerment Center serves adults in our community with free financial counseling. We wanted to find a way to start earlier with conversations around saving and good financial habits. In January 2015 we launched Lansing SAVE, which enrolls all kindergarten students in the Lansing School District in seeded college savings accounts. The accounts are provided by Michigan State University Federal Credit Union, who also comes into the classrooms to teach financial education. Now we are planning a program to target young adults in the city’s Summer Youth Employment program. We’re going to help them open bank accounts, sign up for direct deposit and plan how to use their first paychecks.

MK: And why should cities be involved in this work?

AP: At the City of Lansing, we strongly believe that financial empowerment should be considered a public service. It’s not enough that we just provide emergency services and other supports to stem families’ financial crises. While these programs are extremely important, we also owe it to our residents to help them do better in the future. Financial counseling and other financial empowerment programs help families target the root causes of their financial instability. After working with us to deal with debt, increase their credit, access affordable financial services and start to save for emergencies, Lansing families can take control of their financial lives.

MK: Thanks so much for chatting with me!

AP: Anytime!

The Michigan Communities for Financial Empowerment is a program of CEDAM. To learn more about the work described in this blog post, check out mcfe.cedam.info or contact Megan Kursik at kursik@cedam.info.

6 Things To Do in Lansing

Written by Lisa Assenmacher, Communication & Training Specialist

Whether a frequent or first-time visitor, there are a lot of things to do during a trip to Lansing. With the upcoming Building Michigan Communities Conference in mind, CEDAM staff put together this list of six things to do in Lansing.

1. Take a Walk on Washington Ave

Photo credit: Jeff B., flickr

Photo credit: Jeff B., flickr

With its old cobblestone road, shops, restaurants and historic architecture, Washington Avenue is Lansing’s downtown district and right outside the conference doors. Iconic buildings include the Knapp Building and the Boji Tower and feature Art Deco-inspired architecture. Busy with walkers and nearby employees taking lunch breaks, it’s an area full of daytime energy.

Colorful, charming and accessible, Washington Avenue is a great place to take a quick walk, get some fresh air and grab some local snacks when you have some free time.

2. Visit the Capitol Building

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(Photo credit: Carolyn Carrigan, flickr)

Speaking of the Capitol building, no trip to Lansing would be complete without a visit to the Michigan State Capitol Building. Approximately one block from the conference center, you can’t miss at least seeing iconic building.

Completed in 1879, construction took six years and it contains more than nine acres of hand-painted surfaces. Designed by Elijah E. Myers, the Victorian-inspired building is award-winning and a local favorite. While a novelty to take in views from the outside, is also breathtaking on the inside with the exquisite rotunda and beautiful decor.

Open from 9am-4pm daily, you can take a guided tour or freely roam around.

3. Walk Along the Lansing River Trail

River Trail in Lansing (Photo credit: Marc, flickr)

(Photo credit: Marc, flickr)

If you walk outside the Lansing Center, you can immediately step onto the Lansing River Trail. Following the river, you can travel all the way to MSU or up through Old Town, taking in pretty views of natural landscape and neighborhoods.

It’s provides a readily available opportunity to get a breath of fresh air with any available free time, even if just a few minutes.

4. Visit Old Town

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(Photo credit: Brandon Bartoszek, flickr)

Complete with unique and locally owned shops, galleries, restaurants and beautiful historic buildings, Old Town is about a half a mile away from the Lansing Center right off of the River Trail. The Old Town experience is unmatched in Lansing with a general energy in the community, and is a fun way to spend some free time.

The Old Town Commercial Association (OTCA) is a Great American Main Street and a CEDAM member. In addition to the general support provided to the business district, the OTCA hosts a variety of events and placemaking activities throughout the year, including music festivals, networking breakfasts, gallery walks, fun runs, theater and more. Stop in their offices on Turner Street and say hello if you are in the neighborhood.

5. Visit Allen Street Market

Allen Street Farmers Market (Photo credit: Prima Civitas Foundation, flickr)

(Photo credit: Prima Civitas Foundation, flickr)

The Allen Neighborhood Center (ANC), also a CEDAM member, is located in the Eastside Neighborhood in Lansing along Kalamazoo Avenue. Among all of the great programs the ANC has to support its neighborhood, the Allen Market Place is an innovative food hub that is worth checking out. The Market Place hosts the Exchange, their online wholesale market for local foods, a licensed incubator kitchen, rental space for events or meetings and a year round farmers market. The farmers market brings a variety of local farmers, artisans, restaurants and vendors to provide delicious and quality goods for sale, and is open on Wednesdays from 3-6:30pm. Learn more here.

6. Take in Local Craft Beverages

(Photo credit, littlekiss, flickr)

(Photo credit, littlekiss, flickr)

Like many places in Michigan, Lansing is embracing the local distillery and beer movement with many nearby local venues in the Stadium District. The Lansing Brewing Company is down the street from the Lugnuts Stadium on the corner of Cedar and Shiawassee Streets. This brewery was the first in Lansing, opening in 1897. Prohibition led to its closing in 1914, but its 2015 revival has been widely popular and is a local favorite. A full food menu is available along with a variety of craft beer styles.

If spirits are more your preference, check out the American Fifths Distillery on Larch Street. Serving locally produced gin, whiskey and vodka, an extensive menu of craft cocktails are available. Their light menu consists of light snacks and finger foods.

If you are stopping by the Allen Market Place (see number 5), stop inside Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale. Part of the Allen Market Place, they serve locally brewed artisan beer in their tap room on Wednesdays from 4-7pm and Fridays from 5-7pm.

Enjoy your trip to Lansing, whether for BMCC or for other reasons. Let us know how you spend your time and what you think of our list of places to visit. Also, stop by the CEDAM office anytime. We’d love to show you around.

What is it Like to Live in Poverty?

Written by Lisa Assenmacher, Communications & Training Specialist

“We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.”

Be Great 004This famous statement by Nelson Mandela rings true for people working to create vibrant communities and provide supportive services for people. Serving our communities, we all have a basic understanding of economic disparity and the associations that come along with it. However, if we all have different life experiences and come from different backgrounds, can we truly empathize if we don’t share similar stories?

Further, can we really provide the highest level of service if we aren’t sure of the different needs and opportunities in our communities?

Poverty Simulation

Be Great 039CEDAM facilitates poverty simulations to help staff better understand what it’s like to live in poverty. This interactive training puts everyday challenges into perspective by providing participants with a new persona for their time in poverty. During the simulation, participants go to work, take care of their children, visit the grocery store, bank and community agencies and try to end the simulation in a better situation than they began.

In most cases, participants at some point feel frustrated, are broke and can’t quite do what it takes to make ends meet or get everything accomplished in time.

Benefits

Be Great 010The poverty simulation allows participants to consider another person’s circumstances and compare it to what they think we already know about life in poverty. It also reminds attendees about all the resources that can be utilized to help the people served by their organizations.

With this resonance, we as service providers can do a better job serving our community. Our interactions with each other shape our experiences. Using perspective along with every possible piece of information that we have makes one less barrier toward a better future for somebody who is just trying to make it.

Participate

CEDAM is hosting a poverty simulation at the Building Michigan Communities Conference on Monday afternoon. All conference participants can join and work with people from different organizations.

We will also travel to your community to host a poverty simulation. Learn more at cedam.info/resources/poverty-simulation.

3 Reasons to Attend the Small Town & Rural Development Conference

Written by Jessica AcMoody, Senior Policy Specialist at CEDAM

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Every year in April, the Michigan Rural Council hosts the Small Town and Rural Development Conference. The conference attracts everyone from city managers to Chamber Directors to local economic development professionals who are interested and passionate about small towns in Michigan and the great potential of our rural areas.

Here are three reasons to attend the 2016 conference:

  1. Our lunch keynote speaker, Paul Costello, the Executive Director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development will talk about how America’s rural roots influence the larger process of where we are going as a state.

  2. The City of Mt. Pleasant worked with developers to facilitate redevelopment of properties without mandating full conformance with current standards, resulting in transformed downtown residential areas that are safer, more aesthetically pleasing and with significantly raised taxable values. Learn how they did that.

  3. Learn about an innovative Talent Retention Program in Michigan’s Thumb area in which a group of community foundations are incentivizing their college-educated youth to return home after obtaining a college degree.

2015RuralConferenceAnd, of course, you won’t want to miss the Tuesday night dinner which will include food made with Michigan ingredients and a beer pairing from North Peak Brewery.

The conference provides an opportunity to showcase topics critical to rural development in a way that facilitates discussion of new ideas and moves ideas to action. You will be inspired to see the innovative ways that rural areas across the state are finding ways to drive economies, increase wealth of rural areas and improve the lives of rural residents. We hope to see you there! Register here.

Follow updates on twitter throughout the conference using #Miruralconf

Voices of AmeriCorps: Danielle Harvey

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Danielle Harvey serves with Community Housing Network in Troy

My name is Danielle Harvey, and I am an AmeriCorps member serving at Community Housing Network in Troy as a Foreclosure Prevention Intake Specialist. I receive calls from clients who need help with delinquent property taxes and/or mortgage payments. I point eligible clients to the Step Forward Michigan Program, and help them keep their homes. I enjoy every single minute of being an AmeriCorps member, I wish I could have been involved in AmeriCorps even sooner than my start date 3 months ago!

The Step Forward Michigan Program assists homeowners with their delinquent property taxes and/or mortgage payments. Before starting my service term, I had no idea that a program like Step Forward even existed. The Step Forward Michigan Program is one of those programs that should be around for everyone to give monetary relief for those in need of help. It saddens me not to able to send clients to Step Forward Michigan and give them relief of stress about losing their home.

So far being an AmeriCorps member has taught me to be stronger and to keep striving for greatness. I assumed that only low income people would need assistance from Step Forward but I have spoken with people from a wide variety of income brackets. A lot of these clients have run into hard times: one small change in their income or misstep in their plan causes their whole world to unfold. For example, a divorce or a spouse who has been diagnosed with cancer can be an unforeseen financial stress, or for seniors their income becoming social security can be an issue. As an intake specialist I answer the phone and do intake with clients, assess the situation and try to help. I realize these are people just like me who are looking for an ear, looking for someone to listen to their story, looking for someone to care. By providing that customer service, I am able to assist people through their crisis and make an impact in their lives.

Being an AmeriCorps member has also taught me the importance of planning and following through when it comes to buying a house. I was not aware of the enormous process that goes into buying a home prior to AmeriCorps. There are so many moving parts and people involved. It is important to know and understand all players of the game, like the servicer, investor, insurer and others. You need to know what you are getting yourself into and know that owning a home may not always be what is best for everyone.

Danielle Harvey is an AmeriCorps member at Community Housing Network in Troy.

This post is part of a blog series highlighting the viewpoints of Michigan AmeriCorps Foreclosure Prevention Corps members serving at different foreclosure host sites around Michigan. View information about the program or see more stories in this series.

Strategies For Revitalization: City of Westland

Written by Lisa Assenmacher, Communications & Training Specialist

When faced with population decline and disinvestment, many communities struggle to find the key dynamics that will help them revitalize. Safe and affordable housing is really only one, albeit important, piece of the process.

Nonprofits and municipalities across Michigan realize that in order to solve the issues within their communities and support the needs of their residents, a bigger, more comprehensive strategy must be executed. Made up through partnerships, complex funding sources and foresight, it can be a struggle to successfully drive a vision into fruition.

Thinking Outside of the Box

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Photo credit Hometown Life news

In January, the National Community Development Association awarded the City of Westland the Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award for the Jefferson Barns Community Vitality Center project in the Norwayne community. The challenges faced in this community are not dissimilar to others in Michigan, nor is the fact that they repurposed a vacant building.

However, Joanne Campbell, Community Development Director, and Mayor William R. Wild of the City of Westland maximized the benefits of their loan from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Using insight, experimentation, partnerships and knowledge gained from memberships with organizations like MCDA, the team envisioned a space that could enable multiple functions to exist under one roof.

Housing Supported By Community

Volunteers help bring books into the new library. Photo from Jefferson Barns facebook page

Volunteers help bring books into the new library. Photo from Jefferson Barns facebook page

The City of Westland began efforts to stabilize the neighborhoods through rehab, community garden development and infrastructure repair several years ago. However, people need more than just a place to live; they also need places to thrive where there are opportunities for people to connect for entertainment, exercise, education, job skill development and more.

Jefferson Barns accomplishes all of this. Wayne Metro Community Action Agency and the Housing & Community Development Department have offices in the building. People can access financial literacy classes, a library and community space for both public and private use. A Learning Lab offers classes in code and homework assistance. After-school activities are available for kids, and an athletic complex with two baseball diamonds, a basketball court, a play structure for handicap children and a pavilion will be constructed this year.

Most importantly, this space has filled a gap that residents needed to feel a connection to a place where they are living and provided tools that can help empower them to build a good life. Moreover, people are deciding to stay put rather than leave the neighborhood – a huge success.

Working Together For a Better Future

Identifying the individual strengths, assets, challenges and needs of each community and using that information to devise a strategy to bring the community together is the ultimate path toward revitalization. This approach provides a landscape to foster successful and empowered residents who feel a sense of place and connection to their home rather than simply seeing it as a temporary place to live.

The City of Westland has hit the ground running and is witnessing the benefits unfold.

Additional reading about the project:

Jefferson Barns Community Vitality Center facebook page
Detroit News article
Press Release
Hometown Life article

 

 

 

FREE Quality Income Tax Returns

Written by Ross Yednock, Program Director of the Michigan Economic Impact Coalition

taxes-646511_640We are smack dab in the middle of the 2016 tax filing season. Whether or not you will receive a refund, you could end up losing some of your hard-earned money by paying an unqualified and unregulated person to file your tax return.

Unfortunately, in the multi-billion dollar tax preparation industry, all things are not equal.

While some tax professionals register with IRS and are credentialed – enrolled agents, certified public accountants and attorneys are required to meet professional standards – sixty percent of paid tax preparers are unregulated and have no training or educational requirements.

This lack of regulation combined with the tax forms’ intimidation factor means hard-working Michigan taxpayers are spending hundreds of dollars to have simple tax returns prepared.

stamp-143799_640According to the National Society of Accountants, the average American family pays anywhere from $159 – $447 on tax preparation. Many pay far more as I have learned in my annual MEIC Client interviewsThe reality is that there is also no price disclosure requirement like you have when you get a loan or have your car served, leaving many taxpayers with sticker shock after the preparer has finished their return.

Most big-box companies charge by the form and tack on additional fees or hard-sell services such as offering same day “refunds” or issuing the refund on a debit card. The same day refunds are particular troublesome, as they actually refund anticipation loans (RAL) which are predatory loans using the projected refund as collateral. RALs often cost more than 200% interest rate just for the chance to receive money a few days sooner than the week or so it typically takes the IRS to issue a refund (nine out of ten refunds are issued by the IRS within 21 days with many coming in just a few days). And, if the refund doesn’t cover the loan (again, it’s a loan, not the actual refund), you must come up with the difference or risk even more fees from the preparer.

There is good news, though. Most people can keep more of their hard-earned money and file for their taxes for free!

MichFreeTaxSiteIf your household brings in under $62,000 you can file your federal taxes online for free. Those earning less than $54,000 and you can get in-person help through a voluntary income tax assistance (VITA) or a tax counseling for the elderly (TCE) preparer.

TaxTime1Even better than having your taxes done for free, every tax preparer at a VITA or TCE site is certified by the IRS and trained to do federal, state and local taxes. This keeps file return rejection rejection rates as low as 2-10 percent, which is much lower than those from paid bigger box companies (the U.S. Government Accountability Office found were riddled with errors in a 2014 report on its undercover investigation) and doesn’t cost you hundreds of dollars, either.

Last year 105,000 Michigan residents utilized these free tax services. If you’re among the 70 percent of Americans who will receive a refund this year, consider giving a free tax preparer a try. It won’t cost you anything and, chances are, it’ll be as good (if not better) than the paid service and will enable you to keep your money where it belongs – in your pocket.

For more information, go to Michiganfreetaxhelp.org or dial 211.

Voices of AmeriCorps: Mandy Barlow

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Mandy Barlow serves in the City of Grand Haven

Since I began my AmeriCorps term in October of 2015, I have come to learn a lot about the community in which I reside, volunteer, raise my family and plan on growing old. Being the mother of two teenage sons, I am incredibly aware of the need for financial literacy of our youth. However, it was not until my first meeting with a group of young ladies within the juvenile detention center that I came to realize that basic money management skills were not taught in every home.

During our first session of the Money Smart curriculum we began with basic personal finance. Speaking one-on-one with these young ladies made me realize that they had no idea how much they had to make to live the lifestyle they dreamt of, how to open and run a bank account or even how to cash a payroll check. These young ladies are within 2 years of legally becoming adults, so this was incredibly eye opening for me. Throughout the 8 week course, I was able to see major changes in the way these girls looked at their future employment opportunities, money management skills and overall comfortability with finances. They were all released from confinement with a better understanding of what they future paths may be and how to gain the things in life in which they dream of.

Although I have only been an AmeriCorps member for a few months, this short period of time has truly opened my eyes to what an impact a single person can have on their community. While I am already attending college, I have researched and decided to continue my education, further so, in an effort to gather the means to assist more of our youth in growing up to be successful members of our community. I feel that these life changes that I am making would not be possible without AmeriCorps offering me this incredible opportunity.

Mandy Barlow is an AmeriCorps member at City of Grand Haven Housing Neighborhood Services in Grand Haven.

This post is part of a blog series highlighting the viewpoints of Michigan AmeriCorps Foreclosure Prevention Corps members serving at different foreclosure host sites around Michigan. View information about the program or see more stories in this series.