It takes wood and concrete to build a home, but Sandra Tobon says it takes wisdom and money to thrive there.
Tobon is Consolidated Credit’s director of Housing Counseling and Community Outreach. Her team has partnered with the world-renowned charity Habitat for Humanity for a unique initiative: While Habitat for Humanity works with low-income families to build them new homes, Consolidated Credit teaches those future owners all the financial lessons they’ll need to run that home.
“In two decades of counseling thousands of individuals, we’ve learned that saving for a home and living in a home are equally complex and difficult,” Tobon says. “Yet most financial educators focus only on that first part. We want to stick around and help with that second part.”
The Habitat for Humanity pilot program had a class of 25 families who studied with Consolidated Credit housing counselors for 10 months, learning everything from keeping a household budget to saving for an emergency fund. The results were impressive – according to those families themselves…
“I didn’t know what to expect, but it was a good experience,” said Deavan Campbell, a member of the inaugural class. “You learn from these people, get to know them, and really love them. I’m loving it!”
Also loving it: Habitat for Humanity and Consolidated Credit.
“We’re old friends,” Tobon says with a laugh. “We’ve been supporting each other for years. This new project is just the latest – and perhaps the most novel and thorough.”
Donald Smith says such partnerships are crucial to the success of any nonprofit trying to help the communities they serve. As director of family services for Habitat for Humanity of Broward, Smith says, “Community collaborations are important because we’re all serving the same families. If we’re able to bring our resources together, we’re able to impact more lives.”
The key resource here? Financial literacy.
“Financial literacy is important because it sets you up for a life of options and opportunities,” Smith says. “When you have that financial literacy, it opens the doors to what options are available to you and your family.”
Consolidated Credit offers financial literacy to everyone, not just Habitat for Humanity, Tobon says.
“Whether it’s our housing counselors or our credit counselors, we offer free help without judgment,” Tobon says. “There’s a reason we’re one of the oldest and largest nonprofit credit counseling agencies. We’ve had three decades of experience in our jobs and in forging partnerships in our community. We live here, and we want our neighbors to thrive.”