Medford, Orgeon – When Bill Ihle started out as CEO and Executive Director of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Southern Oregon, there wasn’t much for him to manage.
The agency – which is a recent recipient of Avista Foundation funding toward its Financially Fit Women’s program – was floundering, and Ihle went looking for a local partner.
He connected with United Way, an organization he was very familiar with, and learned that there was a huge need for financial education for low-income populations.
“We started programs on financial literacy for anyone 30 and younger, but now it’s mostly women we serve,” Ihle said.
Women often suffer significant financial setbacks if they divorce, Ihle said. Some have never had a checking account or a budget, and they’ve been in relationships where the husband managed all the money.
“Our clients, I’d say more than 80 percent come from extreme low-income households,” Ihle said, “but the programs are open to anyone.”
About 50 percent of those who set up an appointment don’t come in.
“People will talk about their cancer and how their kids are in jail, but they will not talk about money problems,” Ihle said. “They may feel a deep sense of personal shame.”
But there is no shaming at Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Southern Oregon. Ihle said it’s very important to the agency that everyone is treated with dignity and compassion.
“We don’t judge you. We ask how we can help you,” Ihle said.
Of the clients who complete the program, 37 percent pay down their debts, 32 percent improve their credit and 13 percent report being able to purchase a car.
“That means they can get to a medical appointment, and take the kids to school,” Ihle said. “In the very rural communities having a car also means you can get to a job. It means everything.”
At Avista, we recognize our unique position gives us the chance to contribute in an impactful way and make a real difference in people's lives. Since 2002, the Avista Foundation has made grants totaling over $13 million to organizations that support vulnerable and limited income populations, education, and economic and cultural vitality. For more information on grant applications and geographical areas covered, please visit avistafoundation.com.