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Life Lessons

We Care, local banks conclude third session of Financial Skills Academy

Published: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 9:55 a.m. CST
Debbie Ingold, from left, and Michael Breisch, both of Mazon State Bank, pose with Financial Skills Academy participant, Barbara Messel, and Stephanie Kinzler of Standard Bank. Messel was the winner of the full-month’s rent that was provided by bank donations for the Financial Skills Academy as an incentive for class participation.

On Wednesday, May 1, eight participants completed the third session of the Financial Skills Academy offered by We Care of Grundy County, Inc.

The goal of the Financial Skills Academy is to teach financial literacy to We Care clients interested in learning how to improve their financial status. Once a month since October 2012, a sponsoring bank taught a unit of the FDIC’s Money Smart curriculum to a group that started with 11 families.

Units covered such topics as budgeting, proper use of credit, and home ownership.

During the last class, one participant shared that as a result of the class discussion about budgeting, she created a personal budget and realized that her one-pack-per-day smoking habit was something she could no longer afford. She decided after 55 years of smoking to quit the habit cold turkey and she has been smoke free for one month.

“This type of outcome is priceless,” said Denise Gaska of We Care. “We may never know the full impact that the class had on this one participant’s life. Obviously, she will be able to better manage her fixed income now that this large expense eliminated.

“But the more important result is that she can reasonably expect to live a longer, healthier life.”

Clients who completed 6 out of 7 classes received a certificate of completion and were entered in a drawing to receive up to $700 of one month’s rent. Other incentives, which included gift cards for $75 in groceries and $75 in gas, were given to the remainder of the class participants. (The total amount of the gift cards was determined by the number of participants who completed 6 out of 7 classes.)

Bank volunteers not only taught the class, but also helped to provide child care for class attendees who needed that assistance.

“We tried to remove all possible barriers to regular attendance for the clients,” said Gaska. “Thanks to the bank sponsorships, we were able to provide dinner to the attendees.”

The final meal was a Mexican fiesta, provided with help from Habenero Grill in Morris.

Banks that participated in this session of the Financial Skills Academy include Centrue Bank, First Midwest Bank, Grundy Bank, Mazon State Bank and Standard Bank. In January, Paul Zabel, a local CPA, shared information about filing income taxes and tax incentives for low-income families.

“We Care is pleased to have the opportunity to not only provide for our clients’ basic needs such as food, but through this class be able to provide for their basic needs of information that can help rectify their household financial concerns,” Gaska added. “We could not have provided this class without our bank partners and we are extremely grateful for their expertise and cooperation.”

The next semester of the Financial Skills Academy will start in the fall of 2013 and will end in May 2014. We Care is now taking names of those who would like to participate in this program.

They must be willing to commit to one class in the evening, once a month, for seven months. Dinner and child care will be provided.

If you would like to participate in the next semester of the Financial Skills Academy, or you would like to be a sponsor, please contact We Care at (815) 942-6389.

We Care is a local nonprofit agency that provides emergency assistance to Grundy County residents in the form of food, rent, utility and prescription assistance.

We Care is a United Way partner agency and is funded primarily by private donations.

We Care is located at 520 W. Illinois Ave., in CanalPort Community Center, Morris.

For more information visit the web site at

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