Catholic Charities Financial Empowerment Workshop
When: Monday, May 8, 2023 9am-12pm and 1pm to 4pm
Where:Catholic Charities Norwich Office, 331 Main St
All are welcome!
Meeting to share stories about paying bills and avoiding identity frauds and scams is usually not a happy time. However, recently at Catholic Charities Norwich Office, participants vied with one another to share their monetary success stories. They were among the women and men who have already completed the Financial Empowerment Program in the Diocese of Norwich since January. The goal is to equip participants with the financial know-how to secure stable and more confident futures.
Free to participants of low to moderate income, the Financial Empowerment Program, was designed by Catholic Charities USA in partnership with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to cultivate financial wellness to people served by Catholic Charities. More sessions are planned in areas served by Catholic Charities.
This writer attended the last of three, 3-hour morning monthly sessions for Spanish-speaking adults. A final afternoon session took place for English-speakers.
Keyla Santos, Program Director and Caseworker, explained that facilitator training sessions for caseworkers, staff, and volunteers follow the program provided by Catholic Charities USA.
“Our purpose,” Ms. Santos noted, “is to help people who come to us to become self-sufficient and independent. The three sessions provide the basic skills to improve financial wellness in daily living: saving, budgeting, tackling debt.”
The first session teaches Basic Budgeting Skills: Keeping a record of all expenses for one month and beyond, creating a family budget and following the budget. The second session focuses on Basic Budgeting Objectives: Opening and maintaining a checking account, developing a savings plan and opening and maintaining a savings account, identifying strategies to curb impulse spending. The third session encourages the daily use of Basic Consumer Skills: Developing a meal plan with a menu and shopping list, ways to save at the grocery store, identifying the difference between wants versus needs and developing strategies to curb impulse spending.
Jack Babbitt was the facilitator for this session. He was Director of Information Technology at UConn Storrs. He is a past member of Catholic Charities Board of Directors and has served for several years as the ever-persistent Grant Writer. Last year, he attended a meeting of Catholic Charities USA and returned with the Catholic Charities Financial Empowerment Program.
Mr. Babbitt explained, “I would like to see this Financial Program offered throughout the Diocese of Norwich, including teenagers and senior citizens who are often the victims of money scams. The Program was recently completed in Groton’s Branford Manor.
Four participants in the Norwich sessions enthusiastically agreed to share their experiences for this article.
Adaligiza Estevez explained, “This is a powerful program and I thank Catholic Charities for it. I wish I had this experience years ago so I could have told my daughter how to control her finances. I hope this
program can be expanded to help all of us form a better life. I would love to see a Support Group formed to help us continue on this positive way of life.”
Alba Starr related that she was on a fixed income and felt she had no control over her finances, even after working. “I learned to track my expenses, get rid of credit cards and paid off the interest on them. For the past two months, I am putting money into savings instead of taking it out. I am happy I came.”
Annie Bautista exclaimed, “I loved the program. I learned to track expenses and to control my spending. I had boxes and boxes of items that I had collected and no longer needed. Now I have control of my finances.”
“This program changed my life”, added Maria Echevaria, “and not just about money”. She added, “The presentations enabled me to see how I could take charge of my finances and out of the darkness of being powerless.”
Mr. Babbitt concluded the session following applause from participants saying, “Money does not buy happiness, but it does influence our perception of happiness and our potential for success. When we are in control of our finances that make up a large part of our lives, our lives and those around us are enriched with our mental, physical and spiritual well-being.”
The next Financial Empowerment Workshop will be May 8, 2023, at the Catholic Charities Norwich Office, 331 Main St. The first workshop group is from 9 a.m.-Noon. The second workshop group will be held from 1 p.m-4 p.m.
Individuals and families of low to moderate income are invited to enroll in the Catholic Charities Financial Empowerment Program by calling 860-889-8346 or emailing Catholic Charities Program Director Keyla Santos at email@example.com
By Jacqueline M. Keller, Catholic Charities Board Member