Last month, TPC awarded a $20,000 grant to Budget Buddies. Executive Director Anita Saville explained her organization’s mission and work.

Volunteer coach with buddy and both of their families

Q: What’s unique about the Budget Buddies approach?
A: We offer classroom instruction on financial literacy, as well as customized real-world application of information taught in the workshops. Each “buddy” (program participant) is matched with a volunteer coach. Coaches and buddies take our workshops together, over six months. After each workshop session, coaches work one-on-one with their buddies to apply what they’ve learned to their specific situation.

Q: Why did you incorporate coaches into your program?
A: Kathy (co-founder) and I did a year of research before starting Budget Buddies. We talked to a lot of case managers. They convinced us that for a financial literacy program to have lasting effects, it needed to be customized to each participant’s situation. A homeless teenager has very different financial literacy needs than a low-income middle-aged mother who has lost her home through divorce or sudden unemployment. That’s where the coaches come in.

Buddy presenting her vision board

Q: What’s most gratifying to you about the coach-buddy relationships you’ve witnessed over the years?
A: Women who normally wouldn’t come in contact with one another in their daily lives get to know one another. Coaches learn about the financial struggles of low-income women, like how someone can wind up in a shelter. At the same time, these two very different women learn that they have a lot in common, such as taking care of an aging parent, or being a mother. The coaches come away with a deep understanding of what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. And the buddies have great role models for moving ahead in their lives.

Q: How did you learn about TPC?
A: I’m guessing that a Board member first heard about you guys. Until a year ago we didn’t have a staff, so we were using Board members and volunteers to do our grant writing. From the start, we felt that there was such a good fit between the missions of our organizations, that we just knew we would eventually work together. The first time we applied we did not get a grant, but this year we were successful.

Buddy working with volunteer coach

Q: What’s at the top of your Wish List?
A: We need coaches and workshop presenters. Coaches volunteer about an hour a week; one week they will attend a workshop with their buddies, and the next week the two will meet one-on-one. We give our coaches a lot of support, because most of our volunteers have never done anything like this before. You do not need a financial background to be a coach. We’re also looking both for presenters with financial backgrounds (to teach topics like credit, budgeting, banking, and fraud) as well as presenters to teach non-technical topics such as eating healthy on a limited budget.

Q: What do you find most gratifying about this work?
A: Something magical happens between a buddy and her coach over the course of the program. Relationships form, trust builds, and these two women become totally committed to one another. It is both stunning and gratifying to me how much people want to help.

Interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities at Budget Buddies? Click here or call 978-703-0820.

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