Special to The Dialog
Marie had a job at a poultry plant in Sussex County but needed short-term assistance paying her bills when she went out on a medical leave, so she turned to Catholic Charities. As case worker Danielle Deputy worked with Marie (not her real name), her needs and desires went further than temporary assistance.
Marie wanted to change her life, starting with her job.
Fortunately for Marie, Catholic Charities had just added a financial coaching service to its Basic Needs program in New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties of Delaware; previously the program offered only emergency one-time assistance to people who get behind on their rent, mortgages, or other bills. The goal of the financial coaching, according to Basic Needs program director Crystal Conley, is to provide tools that people on the edge of financial disaster can use, such as seeing where they spend their money and setting up a family budget, and to help as much as possible if the person wants to seek a better job.
The expanded service allowed Deputy to work with Marie on several occasions to polish her resume and to groom her job-interview skills. But what Marie needed most to find a job in marketing was confidence. “It was pretty much just encouraging her,” Deputy said. Their work paid off. Marie now is a sales agent for a supplemental medical insurance company.
Success stories such as Marie’s led Catholic Charities to expand the case management aspect of the Basic Needs program starting in April, when Deputy will work full time on case management. The basic program, assisting people in overcoming financial crises, will continue at the same level, with no additional cost, through a realignment of duties among the staff.
The Annual Catholic Appeal helps support the Basic Needs and other programs of Catholic Charities, as well as more than 30 other ministries offered by the Diocese of Wilmington. The goal for this year’s appeal, with the theme “Do You Love Me? Feed My Sheep” (taken from John 21:15-19), is $4,347,000.
Commitment Weekend, when Catholics in the pew will be asked to pledge to the 2013 campaign, will be April 13-14.
Conley, who began as Basic Needs director slightly more than a year ago, said requests for assistance have grown sharply in recent years. In the past case workers met with people seeking assistance to help pay rent or mortgage, food, and energy costs; if it was determined to provide assistance, Catholic Charities would make a payment to the vendor on behalf of the client. Usually only one meeting was necessary.
“It helps people who for whatever reason find themselves in need of utility or rent assistance,” she said. For those who live from paycheck to paycheck, “if somebody’s car broke down, they have to fix it but then can’t make the rent payment.”
Last year the Basic Needs program began requiring two meetings, one to go over the emergency funding request and the other to delve into the financial coaching aspect. Not everyone wanted the expanded service, Deputy said, so some would come in for their Basic Needs appointment, make a second appointment to meet program guidelines, but skip the follow-up session. That led to the tweaking of the program so that Deputy will coach full-time in Dover and Kent counties for those who want and need the service, which both Deputy and Conley believe will be popular.
An example of how the financial coaching works was seen in a woman who had trouble making ends meet even though it looked like she made enough to cover her expenses, including food, Conley said. As they went over the list another time, the woman realized she did not include cigarettes among her expenses, Conley said. She smoked about a pack a day, which at a price of about $5 a pack totals about $150 a month – blowing her budget.
“We were able to offer her some options,” Conley said, such as stop smoking; cut expenses elsewhere, or get a better job or a supplemental job. The choice is up to the client.
The same applies to helping someone find a better job. “They have to want to empower themselves. I can’t do it for them; my job is to guide them,” Deputy said.
She looks forward to more success stories but realizes not every client will succeed as well as Marie did.
“You can’t save everybody,” Deputy said, “but that one person I can make a difference with makes it all worthwhile.”