A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Sometimes, a bright future can feel so close, and yet so far away. After 25 years as a technical ser-vices associate for the Cleveland Public Library, YoLanda Lawler’s retire-ment is finally within sight. However, four months ago, as she listened to finance ex-pert Walter S. Morris discuss money man-agement with the library’s employees, there was only one thing on her mind: her nag-ging student loan debt.

“I definitely don’t want to carry that over into retirement,” says Lawler, 45, whose bachelor’s degree in sociology/criminol-ogy from Cleveland State University, and master’s degree in education from an on-line school, left the military reservist with a lengthy financial commitment.

“I was just sitting there, wondering if there’s any way to pay that off in the next five years.”

Thanks to Morris and Community Fi-nancial Centers, a mobile network of spe-cially trained finance coaches who steer Clevelanders toward achievable economic goals, the answer is absolutely.

Credit rehabilitation tips, a budget-train-ing program, personal planning, financial health assessments – CFC’s free services of-fer life-changing guidance. The private ses-sions even cater to clients’ comfort as team members visit with mobile equipment in tow, conveniently turning any home or cof-fee shop into a makeshift office.
“That’s what I like: that one-on-one treat-ment,” says Lawler.

Actually, she’s filled with enthusiasm about CFC. She’s had four meetings with Morris –Financial Services Manager and a 15-year veteran of the banking industry – since her introduction to the company, and each one has offered insight and relief.

For instance, there was the first visit, where Morris told Lawler to leave her pa-perwork at home, instead educating her on the company’s services. “That made me less nervous,” she says.

Then, there was the session where she wrote down her income versus her debt, allowing Morris to investigate the amount of wiggle room between her salary and her bills. “That’s when I started to see that, if I made strategic cuts, I could pay off my stu-dent loans,” says Lawler.

That light-bulb moment is the reason why a number of partners – including Cleveland Neighborhood Progress; the city of Cleveland; Cuyahoga Community College; Enterprise Community Partners; Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland; and the United Way of Greater Cleveland – collaborated to launch CFC, committed to helping locals succeed.

“Through discipline, sacrifice and bud-geting, I know I can do it,” says Lawler, whose bright future will now feature a more leisurely retirement, free of the stress of stu-dent loans. “Community Financial Centers gave me hope.”


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