14th Annual Economic Self-Sufficiency Achievement Awards and Graduation
Bucks County Opportunity Council September 29, 2010 Spring Mill Manor
Graduation Program Welcome
Patrick Counihan, President
Major Sponsor Remarks
Bruce Iacobucci, Graduation Planning Committee Co-Chair
Dinner Community Service Award
Roger Collins, Executive Director, and Carol Wisser, Supervisor of Self-Sufficiency Services
Reflections on Success
Elaine Keckeissen â€ž06, Graduation Planning Committee Co-Chair and Member of the Board of Directors, and Andre Turner â€ž02
Economic Self-Sufficiency Program Graduates
Natacha, Erlinda, Beth, Saul, Diahann, James, Roxanne, Naomi, Patricia, Kelli, and Tamara
Reach for the Stars Award
Presented to Terry
Community Action Association of Pennsylvania Self-Sufficiency Award
Presented to Lischa
Mark Worthington Achievement Award
Presented to Tammie
Economic Self-Sufficiency Program In the mid 1990s, the Board of Directors initiated a comprehensive study of the long-term, measurable impact of our programs. The study results showed that many of the individuals and families we assisted temporarily improved their circumstances but did not permanently leave poverty. They frequently came back for help as soon as they were eligible. In response to the findings, we developed the Economic SelfSufficiency Program in 1997. Our approach addresses the root causes that keep low-income people in poverty. We help participants acquire the education, skills and resources to permanently leave poverty as opposed to merely cope in it. The program transforms lives and often ends a cycle of poverty that existed for generations. Participants must achieve the following in order to graduate from the Economic Self-Sufficiency Program: Secure employment that pays a family-sustaining wage Access to safe reliable transportation Affordable housing that is safe and comfortable A balanced household budget Health plan for the entire family Freedom from all cash welfare subsidies including cash assistance, food stamps, and subsidized housing The Economic Self-Sufficiency Program is not an entitlement program. A combination of public funding and private contributions from results-minded donors drive its success. We ultimately save $4 in cash welfare subsidies for every $1 invested in a successful graduate. 220 families have graduated from the program and 56 graduates are homeowners. 3
Profile of the 2010 Graduates Total Graduates
22 grads / 56 people / 23 Children 220 graduates since 1997
Average starting earned income:
$10,628 - Four were in welfare programs, four were receiving unemployment and twelve were unemployed
Average income at graduation:
$37,354 - Increase of $26,726
Employment Improved employment: Found new employment: Average time in the program:
10 13 (one two worker household)
20 months Average before this year was 38 months
Professions: 2 Administrative Assistant Assistant Principle â€“ Elementary School Certified Nurse Assistant Chef Customer Service Assistant Corrections Counselor Diesel Mechanic Housekeeper Landscaper
5 Licensed Practical Nurse Maintenance Specialist Pharmacy Technician Registered Medical Assistant 2 Registered Nurse Resident Advisor Therapeutic Professional & Assistant Football Coach Trucker
Award Descriptions Mark Worthington Achievement Award The Mark Worthington Achievement Award, inaugurated in 1998, annually recognizes an individual who embodies the motivation, hard work and achievement necessary for all graduates to overcome the barriers on their journey to economic self-sufficiency. Mark served three administrations - Nixon, Ford and Carter - as the senior policy analyst on the welfare reform staff of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. He also represented the Office of the Secretary on the HEW-HUD housing allowance study group. He previously served on the Bucks County Opportunity Council Board of Directors for more than eleven years. He was a visionary leader in the development and implementation of the Economic Self-Sufficiency Program. He is currently Chairman of the Board of First Federal of Bucks County and President and CEO of Worthington Associates, Inc. of Tullytown, PA.
Community Action Association of Pennsylvania Self-Sufficiency Award The Community Action Association of Pennsylvania Self-Sufficiency Award, inaugurated in 1997, annually recognizes individuals in each county across Pennsylvania who embody the extraordinary determination required to overcome adversity and barriers to selfsufficiency.
Reach for the Stars Award The Reach for the Stars Award, inaugurated in 2005, recognizes individuals who demonstrate extraordinary determination, perseverance, motivation and hard-work while in the Economic SelfSufficiency Program.
Event Planning Committee Bruce Iacobucci, Planning Committee Co-Chair Elaine Keckeissen, Planning Committee Co-Chair Kim Arnold, Sponsorship Subcommittee Chair Peter Berger, Ambassador Subcommittee Maureen Carlton, Esq., Ticket Sales Subcommittee Kelly Welchoff, CPA, Member-at-Large Roger Collins, Executive Director* Joanne Burgess, Outreach Program Specialist* David Ford, Outreach Director* Erica Helzner, Self-Sufficiency Coach* Stacy Kaiser, Supervisor of Self-Sufficiency Services* Erin Lukoss, Director of Self-Sufficiency Services* Tammy Schoonover, Director of Training* Carol Wisser, Supervisor of Self-Sufficiency Services* Nicole Yerkes, Emergency Services Supervisor* * Indicates Bucks County Opportunity Council staff
Volunteer Table Ambassadors Kim Arnold Kathleen Beveridge Robert Badman, Esq. Peter Berger Maureen Carlton, Esq. Robert Delp Michael Erwin, Ph.D. Kathy Finnigan
Frank Gabriele Madeleine Henderson Hank Kmiecek Jim and Diana Resek, CPA Richard Rex Kelly Welchoff, CPA Michael Woods Michael Zoglio
Board of Directors Patrick Counihan, President Madeleine Henderson, Vice President Robert Delp, Secretary Kelly Welchoff, CPA, Treasurer Peter Berger, Past President Laura Andrews Kim Arnold Natasha Brockington Maureen Carlton, Esq. Vivian Crossman, RN Brandi Dringus Frank Gabriele The Honorable Mitchell Goldberg Madeleine Henderson Elaine Keckeissen Richard Rex Michael Woods
Special Thanks Bucks County Children and Youth Social Services Agency Bucks County Commissioners Charles H. Martin, Chairman; James F. Cawley, Esq., Vice Chairman; and Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, LCSW
Bucks County Department of Health and Human Services PA Department of Community and Economic Development Bucks County Workforce Investment Board United Way of Bucks County United States and PA Departments of Agriculture Many individuals, organizations and businesses in Bucks County
Event Sponsors Major Sponsor
Event Supporters Jay and Barbara Belding Scott and Carolyn Belveal Kathleen Welsh Beveridge, Spark Nonprofit Consulting LLC Lynn Bush Stephen and Dorothy Campana William Casey RADM and Mrs. S. K. Chadwick Patrick and Carol Counihan Curtin & Heefner LLP Bob and Sherry Delp Robert and Lore Eichfeld Kathy Finnigan Tom and Lisa Ford Connie and John Furman, The First National Bank & Trust Co. Frank and Becky Gabriele The Honorable Mitchell Goldberg Madeleine Henderson Keith Newman Painting Contractors John E. Lyons David W. and Linda Sue Price Richard and Margaret Rex Frederick E. Schea, First Savings Bank Adam and Donna Schechter Rev. E. Kyle and Tam St. Claire Betty Tatham Robert and Patricia Traverse Nancy J. Turner United Way of Bucks County Univest National Bank and Trust Co. Linda Vataha Andy Warren 10
Graduate Profiles Natacha Natacha is a single mom with two children aged seven and nine. One child has special needs requiring extra attention and care. She lost her job and relied only on child support and Social Security while searching for new employment. When her child support payments became seriously delinquent, she steadily fell behind, particularly with rent and utility bills. Frustrated, desperate, and finally facing homelessness, Natacha reached out to the Opportunity Council. Her fortune began to turn when she found a full-time job shortly before her first meeting with her Self-Sufficiency Coach. They worked together and developed a solvent budget and a goal plan to address some remaining challenges - reliable transportation and affordable childcare. She received a self-sufficiency scholarship to help with her basic needs and she made appropriate co-payments. Natacha is now doing very well; she is thriving at her job and has already received a merit increase. Best of all, she has regained her self-sufficiency without relying on child support. Her income increased by more than $29,000 since she enrolled in the program. Her long-term goals are to earn a promotion and increase her savings.
Erlinda Erlinda worked full-time as a Pharmacy Technician until a labor stoppage prevented her from working. She spent savings, utilized food banks, and reached out to family for help to address her crisis; but she still fell behind and began drifting into poverty.
She reached out to the Opportunity Council for help to overcome the setback. She met with a Self-Sufficiency Coach and together they developed a recovery plan. With her Coach, Erlinda pared her already frugal budget to reduce expenses. Her self-sufficiency scholarship helped with her basic needs. Fortunately, the labor stoppage was resolved and she returned to work. Erlinda earns a family-sustaining wage and is self-sufficient once again thanks to a helping hand up from the Opportunity Council. Her long-term goal is to become a Registered Nurse and she attends Bucks County Community College. She faithfully follows a savings plan to prepare for unexpected future setbacks.
James and Beth James and Beth were working to achieve the â€œAmerican Dream.â€? They have three children, owned a small business, and lived in a comfortable home. They invested all of their time and savings to make the business successful; when the economy got tough, their business decreased dramatically and then failed. With their lives turned-upside-down, they were ineligible for unemployment benefits because they were business owners. They both immediately found other employment but their combined earnings could not stop a heartbreaking spiral into financial ruin. They eventually lost their home to foreclosure. They fell further behind on their bills and again faced homelessness when they reached out to the Opportunity Council. They met with a Self-Sufficiency Coach and together made a plan to regain self-sufficiency. They never missed an appointment and were relentless in the pursuit of their goal to regain self-sufficiency. Their hard work and perseverance slowly but surely paid off. Beth 12
continued to work at the same job and James found one with higher pay. They found an affordable place to live, caught up on their bills and closed the gap in their budget. James and Beth overcame significant obstacles to get back on their feet. They are most proud of the fact that they can again support their children without the need for help from others. James looks forward to earning a promotion at work so he and Beth can build up a savings account to overcome potential future emergencies.
Saul Saul is a single father with two young children. He continues to work for his current employer of seven years. They lived doubledup and when the other family faced eviction Saul proceeded to find new housing for his family. He met with a Self-Sufficiency Coach to plan for his familyâ€&#x;s transition to an affordable home, catch up on his bills, and balance his household budget. He searched for and found an affordable apartment. The Opportunity Council granted him financial assistance to help with move-in costs and he met regularly with his Coach to review his budget and develop improved financial literacy skills. It was a struggle at times, but he steadily caught up on his bills and lowered his expenses to bring his budget into balance. He must maintain a frugal household budget to make-ends-meet, but he is proud that he can provide for his children without reliance on others for financial help. His goal is to set aside a savings each paycheck so his children will be able to attend college.
Diahann Diahann lost her manufacturing job in August of 2009. She began searching for a new job and tried to balance her expenses to her 13
unemployment benefits. She did the best anyone could do to make-ends-meet but fell behind on her bills and soon was unable to pay her property taxes. Diahann was desperate, frustrated and found her hope dismal. She was on the verge of losing her home and could not afford lifesustaining medication she needed for a chronic illness. She turned to the Opportunity Council for help to find a path back to selfsufficiency. Together with her Self-Sufficiency Coach, she built a plan to succeed. A significant financial burden was lifted when her application to the pharmaceutical company was approved for her to receive her life-sustaining medication at no cost. Diahannâ€&#x;s plan and perseverance finally paid off when she secured full-time employment in August. Her salary is lower than before, but she is self-sufficient and skillfully maintains a frugal household budget. She temporarily is working part-time as a House Cleaning Professional to replenish her savings and reduce her debt and is on -track for a raise in October that will increase her income significantly and lift her up even further.
James James had worked for the same company for thirteen years. He enjoyed a well-earned reputation as a hard worker and earned a good salary. His life took an unexpected turn for the worse when he sustained an injury on the job that required extended medical leave. He received a fraction of his salary while on medical leave and his recovery was slow and difficult. He struggled to make-ends-meet, spent his savings to cover the gap in his budget and eventually fell behind 14
on his rent and utility bills. He came to the Opportunity Council for rental assistance to prevent homelessness. He met with a Self-Sufficiency Coach to figure out a way to stop the downward spiral he was experiencing. They worked together to develop a budget and goal plan to overcome the injury and resulting financial turmoil. James received financial assistance to help with basic needs. He never missed an appointment, followed through on his commitments, stuck to his budget, and made co-payments. He eventually recovered from his injury, returned to work fulltime, and re-gained his self-sufficiency. James related to his SelfSufficiency Coach that he never imagined an agency like the Opportunity Council existed. His long-term goal is to save enough money to overcome future emergencies without having to turn to others for help.
Roxanne Roxanne is a single mom with three children. She enjoyed her job as a bus driver but the wage and part-time hours could not adequately support her family. She grew weary of living paycheck-topaycheck and decided she needed to make a change so her children could have a brighter future. A family member referred her to the Opportunity Council in fall 2007. Roxanne met with a Self-Sufficiency Coach and during their planning; she explained that she had always dreamed of one day becoming a nurse. Together they created her dream-fulfilling plan that also would lift her family permanently out of poverty. Roxanne received a self-sufficiency scholarship to help meet basic needs while she pursued her ambitious life-changing goal.
After passing the entrance exam, she enrolled in the Practical Nursing Program at Bucks County Community College. The Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Committee also noted her potential and drive-to-succeed and awarded her a $7,000 scholarship. Roxanne mastered her curriculum, graduated from the nursing program in July 2009, and passed her license exam on the first try. Roxanne loves her new profession of working with people to restore their health. She is thankful that the Opportunity Council helped her get the education that lifted her family out of poverty.
Naomi Naomi is a single mother who worked full-time for a low wage and struggled to support her son. She lived paycheck-to-paycheck and was one crisis away from financial ruin despite hard work and frugal budget management. Knowing education was the key to getting self-sufficient and supporting her family, she began taking the prerequisites for the Practical Nursing Program at the Bucks County Community College. It began well, but the demands of full-time work, parenting for her son and keeping up with her studies began to overwhelm her. A friend recommended she talk with the Opportunity Council about her self-sufficiency goal. Realistically assessing her limited resources, she knew she needed a special opportunity to succeed. She reached out for a helping hand in December 2007. She met with a Self-Sufficiency Coach and together they discussed her vision and the seemingly overwhelming barriers she faced. Naomiâ€&#x;s life-experiences made it difficult for her to trust people. Slowly but steadily she built a vibrant relationship with her Coach. 16
They worked together to forge a successful plan to manage work, school and family. She cut her work schedule to part-time so she could continue to go to school full-time. Her self-sufficiency scholarship helped her with basic needs and she contributed copayments. Naomi overcame several serious setbacks and losses on the way to graduating the nursing program including the death of a cousin and her mother. She was thankful for her Coachâ€&#x;s never wavering support, comfort, and advice during those difficult times. Naomi adopted a motto: â€œwork towards your dream; never lose focus.â€? She graduated from the Practical Nursing Program in July 2009 and passed the certification exam on the first try. She now earns $16,600 more annually than she did when she enrolled in the program. Naomi is proud she is self-sufficient and of her hard work to create a brighter future for her son. She plans to return to school in spring 2011 to earn her Registered Nurse license and is saving to purchase a home for her family.
Patti Patti suddenly had to support two young children on her own. Unable to find employment that adequately supported her family, she moved in with relatives. After reading an article in the newspaper that featured a nurse in the Economic Self-Sufficiency Program, she contacted the Opportunity Council. Although she had no experience as a nurse, she had a life-long desire to become one motivated by her childhood experience when she helped care for a grandparent who suffered from cancer. She knew that a career in nursing would provide her 17
with the income needed to achieve and maintain permanent selfsufficiency. She worked with a Self-Sufficiency Coach to assess her situation and develop her plan. Being action-oriented, she signed up to take the Practical Nursing Program entrance exam, enrolled in prerequisite courses at Bucks County Community College (BCCC) and began working part-time in her first month in the ES program. Patti passed the entrance exam on her first try and enrolled in the Practical Nursing Program at BCCC in spring 2008. Patti completed the Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World curriculum and became one of the first â€œCircle Leadersâ€? in the Circles of Opportunity pilot â€“ an initiative that intentionally creates a network of support and resources for people in poverty. Committed, caring volunteers provided encouragement and motivation while Patti progressed through the nursing program. She maintained excellent grades and graduated with personal recommendations from several teachers. Patti works for the Bucks County Intermediate Unit as a Licensed Practical Nurse in the Special Needs Classroom. Her income increased by more than $22,000 since she enrolled in the program and she no longer needs welfare subsidies. She loves her job and enjoys the challenge and diversity each day brings. She plans to return to school part-time to pursue her Registered Nurse certification.
Kelli Kelli and her son were homeless and relied on welfare, infrequent child support and unemployment benefits to survive. They were temporarily staying with family when Kelli decided that it was time to make a change and create a brighter future for her son. 20
She knew education was the key to obtaining a family-sustaining job so she enrolled in a job-training program to become a medical assistant and phlebotomist. She heard about the Opportunity Council and reached out for a helping hand in 2008. A SelfSufficiency Coach helped her enroll in a transitional housing program that provided temporary rental assistance while she completed job training. She finished the job-training program in October 2009 and found a full-time job a couple of months later. She still needed food stamps to make-ends-meet but it was a step in the right direction. She soon suffered a setback when she lost her job as her employer downsized. Relying on her new skills, she persevered and found a new job with better pay and a great training program with incentives. She has health benefits and already earned a raise. Her income has increased by more than $18,000 since she enrolled in the program. She is thriving and no longer relies on welfare subsidies to provide for her son. Kelli continues to seek advancement opportunities at work and has already begun saving to purchase a home.
Tamara Tamara and Dave steadily fell further behind on their bills despite the fact that Dave worked full-time. They lacked a family-sustaining wage and survived paycheck-to-paycheck by relying on food stamps and help from friends and family. They were not satisfied merely surviving and were determined to make a better life for their family. Dave continued his work while Tamara reached out to human service agencies and job training programs. She quickly grew frustrated by what seemed a total lack 21
of opportunity to permanently leave poverty rather than cope in it and rely on food stamps for sustenance. A friend and former member of the Opportunity Councilâ€&#x;s Board of Directors referred Tamara to us in 2005. She met with a SelfSufficiency Coach to work on her way up and out of poverty. Tamara soon noted the respect and support her Coach provided and so she expressed her high interest to work in the health care sector. Together they built a plan for her to earn a nursing degree. Tamara knew from the beginning it would be a challenge; but her Coach gave her new confidence to pursue her dream of becoming a Registered Nurse. She enrolled at Bucks County Community College, completed the prerequisite courses, and her instructors formally recognized her as the â€œMost Valuable Tutor.â€? She transferred to Abington Memorial Hospital Dixon School of Nursing to complete the clinical requirements of the program. She met regularly with a Coach to review her budget and measure progress on her goals. It was demanding and Tamara endured some major setbacks along the way, but she persevered and graduated with an exceptional grade point average. Tamara and Dave both work full-time now and have increased their household income by $44,784 from their time of enrollment. They recently had a second child and continue to follow their household budget very closely as they save to buy a home. They are self-sufficient and unspeakably proud they no longer rely on cash welfare subsidies to survive.
Terry 2010 Reach for the Stars Award Recipient Terry is an accountable hard-working single mother who could not 22
support her family on the low-wage she earned as a Certified Nursing Assistant. Her dream was to become a Registered Nurse because she knew that would make her permanently self-sufficient. The goal meant even more to her since she was strongly motivated to make a difference in patient‟s lives. She enrolled in school and completed a few prerequisite courses for the registered nurse program but then realized she lacked the financial means to continue. She desperately did not want to relinquish her goals, having her family live self-sufficient meant everything to her. She deeply believed she could succeed if the right opportunity came her way. When she heard about the Opportunity Council in late 2005, she reached out to see if she could find a way to finish what she started. She met with a Self-Sufficiency Coach who admired her work ethic and unusual determination to succeed. Together they worked on a plan that enabled her to restart her journey to self-sufficiency. Terry began prerequisite courses at Bucks County Community College and made the Dean‟s List despite the rigors of single parenthood, a part-time job as a medical assistant and a full course load. Her diligence paid off and she began the Registered Nursing Program at the Abington Memorial Hospital Dixon School of Nursing. Her skill as a nurse caught the attention of the Student Evaluation and Achievement Committee. The Committee recognized her for “exceptional‟ performance while assisting a fellow nurse during a crisis. Terry earned several scholarships including a $4,000 award from the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Committee. 23
Terry graduated in September 2009 and passed the nursing licensure exam on her first try. She is a nurse at the Abington Hospital and works part-time at St. Josephâ€&#x;s Villa. These two jobs will enable her to pay off debt more quickly and save money. Her income has increased by more than $37,600 since she enrolled in the program. Terry is self-sufficient and is proud of the fact that she makes a difference in the lives of her patients and their families. She will receive the 2010 Reach for the Stars recognition for her extraordinary determination, perseverance, motivation, and hard work that led her to achieve her dreams.
Lischa 2010 Community Action Association of Pennsylvania Self-Sufficiency Award Recipient Lischa and her children coped in a chaotic, unsafe home for several years. She considered taking her two children and leaving her spouse many times but believed she lacked the resources to make it on her own. Eventually it became too dangerous to stay so she mustered all her courage and embarked on a daunting journey that she knew she must take. A Womanâ€&#x;s Place helped her move to a safe place with her children and referred her to the Opportunity Council in July 2007. She desperately wanted to avoid a steady downward spiral into poverty. With her Self-Sufficiency Coach she built an action plan that would lead her to permanent self-sufficiency and her vision of a brighter future. The Opportunity Council granted her a selfsufficiency scholarship to help balance her budget while she worked to realize her goals. She consistently contributed copayments and used food banks and other community resources to make-ends-meet. 24
She knew the first step forward was to find a career that would provide family-sustaining income. She had previously worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant and enjoyed her sense of fulfillment from caring for patients. Lischa decided to pursue a career in nursing so she enrolled in prerequisite courses for the Practical Nursing Program at Bucks County Community College. She diligently applied herself, earned good grades, passed the entrance exam and was accepted into the program. It felt good to be making measurable progress towards her goals. Then her spouse contacted her in an attempt to reconcile. Very cautiously she agreed to meet with him a couple of times. He was unstable and the result was a series of events that ended tragically. Lischa and her children suffered a major setback and the circumstances left her in a state of emotional and financial ruin. Slowly they all recovered from the tragedy with help and support from Family Focus, Network of Victim Assistance and the Opportunity Council. They moved back into their home and Lischa continued working towards her nursing certification. Although she was already in foreclosure proceedings, she was determined to hang on because of what her children had already endured. She worked closely with her Coach and a counselor from Consumer Credit Counseling of Delaware Valley to restructure her mortgage and save her home. Caring for her children while meeting the rigorous demands of her nursing studies, Lischa was challenged each step of her journey. But supported by frequent meetings with her self-sufficiency Coach to problem-solve, plan, budget and receive encouragement; she always managed to find the inner strength to persevere. She victoriously and joyously graduated from the Practical Nursing 25
Program in July 2009. With her children, Coach and father, who drove hundreds of miles to attend; proudly watching, she crossed the stage to receive her diploma. She passed the nursing certification exam on the first try and in December started her new career. She earns a good salary, her family enjoys benefits and she loves her job. Because she works special shifts, her income has increased by more than $60,600 since she enrolled in the program. Lischa‟s success is a story of how the human spirit can overcome some of the most unimaginable events. She is proud of the life she has created for her children. “It‟s no secret, it‟s been a tough road, a real struggle,” she says, “but we‟re doing better now. My Coach and the Opportunity Council has been a family support system for me.” Lischa is the 2010 Community Action Association of Pennsylvania Self-Sufficiency Award winner because she embodies the extraordinary determination required to overcome adversity and barriers to self-sufficiency. Lischa plans to give back by working with other victims of domestic violence to show them there is a way out, a way to eventually live a peaceful life and because setting goals and achieving them is now her way of life, she will be returning to school to earn her Registered Nurse certification.
Tammie 2010 Mark Worthington Achievement Award Recipient Tammie was a single parent struggling to provide for four children. She worked full-time for less than sustaining wages and relied on housing and food welfare subsidies each month to make-endsmeet.
Tammie attended her sister Donnaâ€&#x;s 2005 graduation from the Economic Self-sufficiency program and received inspiration from the families she met and talked with that night. At graduation, Donna received the Mark Worthington Achievement Award for outstanding achievement. Donna was a former welfare recipient who worked to earn a nursing degree and achieve permanent selfsufficiency. Tammie often thought about that night and her sisterâ€&#x;s remarkable transformation while in the Economic Self-Sufficiency Program. She wondered if she could have the same success. Tammie desperately wanted a better life for her children so in 2007 she also reached out to the Opportunity Council. Tammie met with a Self-Sufficiency Coach to assess her situation and develop a plan. She decided to follow her sisterâ€&#x;s example and pursue a career in nursing because the salary would enable her to support her family without any need for cash welfare subsidies. She continued to work full-time and care for her children while she took prerequisite courses at Bucks County Community College in preparation for the practical nurse entrance exam. When she was accepted, she knew her real work was just beginning and there was a long way to go; but she gained confidence with every positive step forward. Tammie worked full-time as a Certified Nursing Assistant at night, then went straight to school for eight hours and then home to spend time with her children. Tammie found the curriculum challenging and at times felt pushed to her breaking point but her Coach helped her through the hard times with encouragement, support, and faith in her.
She graduated from the Practical Nursing Program and proudly called her Coach when she passed the nursing license exam on her first try. Tammie is now a nurse and earns enough to support her family. Her income increased by more than $27,400 since she enrolled in the program and she has proudly relinquished her lifetime subsidized housing voucher. Tammie continues to thrive; she stuck to her budget and saved enough to purchase a house earlier this year. She is currently saving for improvements and decorations to make it feel like the home she always dreamed of sharing with her children. She is eager to return to school to pursue her Registered Nursing certification. Tammie knows first-hand the importance of education and is determined that her children get good grades, graduate from high school and go to college. Tammie joins all our graduates this evening that have demonstrated what is possible when we offer someone an opportunity to leave poverty, not just cope in it. In acknowledgement of her tenacity and determination to lead her family to a better life; because of her “never give up” attitude that propelled her to permanent self-sufficiency; we present Tammie with the 2010 Mark Worthington Achievement Award. • The following graduates were unable to attend tonight’s event •
Mohammad Mohammad was unemployed and struggling due to a job loss. Like many people effected by the economic downturn, Mohammad vigorously searched for a new job but was unsuccessful. With his unemployment benefits on the verge of expiring and falling behind on his bills, he reached out to the Opportunity Council for help in June 2010 to prevent his full descent into poverty.
Mohammad met with a Self-Sufficiency Coach to assess and stabilize his situation and most importantly secure a sustaining income. Budget counseling helped him minimize his expenses and he received a self-sufficiency scholarship to prevent homelessness and maintain transportation while he continued his employment search. His hard work and perseverance paid off when he secured a full-time job for a self-sustaining wage. His income increased by $31,200 from the time he entered the program. Mohammad is thankful for a hand-up from the Opportunity Council and proud of the fact he is self-sufficient again.
Katherine Katherine earned enough as a self-employed Home Cleaning Professional to provide for her family until the economic downturn led to a significant decline in business. Despite her glowing performance credentials and testimonials, she saw her customer-base steadily decline by more than 70%. While struggling to survive the down-cycle she kept falling further behind in her bills. Her utility company referred her to the Opportunity Council and Katherine began to work with us to prevent further decline into poverty. Katherine worked with her self-sufficiency Coach, stabilized her situation, and developed a plan to re-establish self-sufficiency. She secured a part-time job and almost immediately her employer noticed her outstanding work ethic by offering her promotion to fulltime. Her income increased by more than 20% since she enrolled in the program. She now earns enough to support her family and takes pride in providing for them without any need for cash welfare subsidies.
Evelyn Evelyn long managed to make ends meet through hard work and applying frugal household budget skills. She suffered a setback when serious illness made it necessary to take an unpaid leave of absence from work. Her savings initially covered the resulting gap in her budget, but her reserve quickly ran out. She recovered from illness but was on the brink of homelessness and slipping further behind on her bills when she turned to the Opportunity Council for help. She met with a Self-Sufficiency Coach to fully assess her situation and develop a plan that would enable her to regain her selfreliance. She returned to work and received a self-sufficiency scholarship to prevent eviction and help her catch up on her utility bills. She contributed co-payments. Evelynâ€&#x;s income now enables her to achieve a balanced household budget and she is rebuilding her savings. Her income increased by more than 45% since she enrolled in the program. She is selfsufficient and thankful the Opportunity Council was there when she needed a helping hand up.
Chris and Tara Christopher and Taraâ€&#x;s struggles began when Christopher lost his job in January 2009 as the economy turned downward. Christopher searched for new employment, but Taraâ€&#x;s income combined with his unemployment benefits could not prevent their steady financial decline. When on the brink of homelessness they turned to the Opportunity Council for help. With their Self-sufficiency Coach, they
developed a plan to halt their further decline and begin to dig out. Christopher‟s perseverance along with guidance from his Coach and the staff at CareerLink paid off. He returned to work in August 2010 and Tara found a second part-time job. Their combined income increased by more than $27,700 while in the program and they have regained their self-sufficiency. They are now working to pay off obligations incurred while Christopher was unemployed.
Karen Karen, a single mother with a young child, lost her position as an elementary school principal in 2008 due to cutbacks in her school district. Unemployment benefits and savings kept her afloat for a short time but she steadily fell further behind when her rigorous job search did not find success. On the brink of financial ruin and desperate she gave up her apartment and relocated to Bucks County to live with friends while she continued to search for a job. Devastated and now finding her confidence ebbing away, Karen realized she and her daughter could no longer “couch surf” with friends – sleep on their couch as she pursued employment. Virtually hopeless and now only a small step away from homelessness she was referred to the Opportunity Council by another human service organization. She met with a Self-Sufficiency Coach to stabilize her situation, build a plan, and receive the motivational support she needed to sustain her journey back to gainful employment. She received a self-sufficiency scholarship to find safe, affordable housing and continued to work with her Coach to improve her interviewing skills. Her hard work and perseverance finally paid off. After two years of turmoil, struggle, and nightmare, she accepted an assistant principal job in August 2010. Her income has increased by more than 31
$49,000 since she enrolled in the program. Karen is paying off her debt so she can restore her credit and find an even better place to live. She is self-sufficient and most proud of the fact that she can provide for her daughter without relying on others for support.
Dale Dale lost his job in April 2009 due to the economy. He relied on unemployment benefits while he searched for a new job but steadily fell behind on his bills until eventually he was on the brink of eviction. He felt he had run out of options so he contacted the Opportunity Council. Dale quickly realized his Opportunity Council Coach could help him build a plan to regain his self-sufficiency. He received a self-sufficiency scholarship to prevent eviction and help with basic needs while he continued his job search. Dale fine-tuned his resume with help from his Coach, participated in employment workshops at the CareerLink and regularly checked in with his Coach to evaluate his plan and budget. He lost count of the interviews, resumes, and applications he completed as he pursued any job opening he could find. His effort and hard work finally paid off when he secured a position as a Therapeutic Staff Support Professional. His income increased by $20,800 while in the program. He is self-sufficient again and coaches football to earn extra money to build his savings account for future emergencies.
Tanya Tanya had ties to Bucks County so she chose to move here for a fresh start. She is a hard worker and got a part-time job immediately. She rented an apartment, which she shared with a room32
mate, but a few months after they moved in together, she asked him to leave because he was not working or contributing to the bills. She struggled to pay the bills on her own and quickly fell behind. She knew she had potential and was determined to be selfsufficient despite the fact that she was now on welfare and earning a low wage. She heard about the Opportunity Council from a friend and reached out for help in early 2010. Tanyaâ€&#x;s Self-Sufficiency Coach helped her develop a plan to get a better job that would halt her downward spiral and stabilize her situation. She continued to work a part-time retail job and provided childcare for a friend to minimize her need for welfare. Although she lacked reliable transportation, she never missed or showed up late for an appointment with her Coach. She participated in job training, fine-tuned her resume, and expanded her job search to include the community where she previously lived. Tanya suffered several major setbacks but overcame them and continued to make progress. Her perseverance and determination paid off when she secured a position as a Certified Nursing Assistant in northern Pennsylvania. With her new job and a lower cost of living, she enjoys stable affordable housing, earns a family-sustaining wage, and has benefits. She is off welfare subsidies and has plans to advance her career in healthcare.
Jason Jason is a skilled diesel mechanic who because of the economy became unemployed and reduced to living in his car. He reached out to the Opportunity Council for a way to work out of his desperate situation. 33
He met with a Self-Sufficiency Coach to develop his goal plan for permanent self-sufficiency. He received a self-sufficiency scholarship to secure temporary housing while he searched for permanent housing and continued his job search. He soon became reemployed and for a few weeks felt his life had turned the corner. Then the owner of the business where he was employed unexpectedly closed without notifying any employees. It was a devastating setback but he was more determined than ever and he felt that this time he already had a plan in place. He continued to meet with his Coach to achieve his goal plan. Jasonâ€&#x;s focused perseverance finally began to pay off. He accepted a diesel mechanic position in August and his Coach working with a realtor, secured him safe, affordable housing. His new home is handicap accessible, which will enable him to take care of his disabled mother after she recovers from surgery and physical therapy later this month. Jason enjoys a good salary again, maintains a balanced budget, and saves for the time when he may encounter another bump in the road. He is thankful for the Opportunity Councilâ€&#x;s helping hand when it looked like there was none.
Community Service Report July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010 - Preliminary Households 3,144
Service Received direct services
Prevented eviction - financial assistance/counseling
Moved out of homelessness
Prevented utility shutoff
Transportation to work
Heating oil crisis assistance
Education - full or partial scholarship
Energy conservation counseling and home repair
Food pantry network visits
Bucks Back income tax returns prepared and filed by IRS trained and certified volunteers at no cost to filer
$2,261,418 Total value of tax refunds, credits and fee savings 220
Economic Self-Sufficiency Program graduates since the program was established in 1997
Economic Self-Sufficiency Program graduates who have purchased a home since 1997
Total volunteer hours contributed by the community
Guest Note: Some guests are wearing colored ribbons to help identify their unique role in the organization or at tonightâ€&#x;s event Ambassadors - Metallic Blue Print on White; Board Member Gold Print on Hunter Green; Event Planning Committee - Gold Print on Raspberry; Opportunity Council Staff - Gold Print on Purple; Sponsor - Royal Blue Print on Yellow; Graduate - Navy Blue Print on Light Blue ; and Speaker - Gold Print on Teal. 35