A successful financial literacy program for low income young women in Southern Oregon will reach more rural counties, thanks to a $3,500 contribution from the Avista Foundation. ‘Financially Fit Women’ has educated and empowered over 200 women through credit counseling, debt management planning, financial education and more. The program is offered by Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Southern Oregon (CCCSSO).
“We help these young women rebuild the wreckage of their lives,” said licensed credit counselor Lynn Mihalyo. “We often start by running a credit report to identify what is owed and then talk about financial options. We give them some hope that they’re able to pull out of their situation.”
Financially Fit Women is a free financial education program for low-income women age 30 and under. It connects these young women to free sessions with professional, licensed credit counselors who help them create a plan to manage their debt and get control of their finances. The program recognizes the correlation between financial health and physical well-being. Poor financial health can have a devastating ripple effect impacting the young woman, her family and workplace. Financially Fit Women provides credit and budget counseling, debt management planning, credit report reviews, financial education classes, bankruptcy counseling, housing counseling and student loan counseling. The CCCSSO program reaches women in eight primarily rural counties in Southern Oregon.
“The empowerment provided by this program is a true barrier-breaker, especially for rural women,” explained Bill Ihle, executive director and CEO. “We focus on young women to catch them early. We know they rarely learn financial literacy in school and we want to help build their self-confidence to empower them not just in their personal lives but also professionally.”
Mihalyo and Ihle describe a variety of issues many of these women are facing such as unemployment or low wages, food and/or housing insecurity, addiction, incarceration, divorce or abandonment, domestic violence and rural isolation. Many have children or are trying to get their children back, which is a strong motivator to move toward financial health.
“The additional funding from the Avista Foundation means we can expand into more counties to reach more young women,” Ihle said, noting that CCCSSO is now using video credit counseling to serve isolated communities. “I can’t stress enough the challenges faced by women in more rural areas. This program is a way out of the cycle.”
In 2019, Avista awarded more than $3.2 million in philanthropic giving across our five-state service territory. Grant applications for Health and Human Services proposals will be accepted Jan. 1 – Feb. 1, 2020.