Budget Counselors at Hillcrest Hope
Families have the experience they do at Hillcrest Hope because of those who come alongside them on this journey. One of these influential and crucial volunteers is the budget counselor. These volunteers receive training from the case manager and then meet one-on-one with a family each week to provide accountability, encouragement and guidance.
Budgeting with each family is not about teaching sophisticated financial strategies, says Dustin Prockish, a Hillcrest Hope Liberty budget counselor. He learned right away that anyone who runs a household has something to offer these families: support and an example of responsibility.
Budget counselors help families learn a healthy awareness of their available money, upcoming expenses and debts. They work together to develop and prioritize financial goals. Budget counselors challenge the Hillcrest Hope families to distinguish needs from wants. The budget counselor walks the family through how to pay down and resolve debts, giving the family a newfound freedom.
The effects are resounding, for both the family and the volunteer. “When we see someone light up with knowledge and confidence in themselves that was previously hidden, it changes us,” says Barry McCullough. Barry and his wife Anita co-budget counsel families in Avondale.
Barry fondly remembers a single mom from Hillcrest Hope who he and Anita counseled. “From one week to the next, she just felt like she didn’t have any traction, even though she had paid off debt and cleaned up some things that had haunted her for years,” he says.
But the efforts paid off. “We met for one of our last sessions and it clicked. Her paycheck had come in and she had money left from paying off her last debt,” Barry adds. “She was crying because she had never had that much money before and previously thought it would be impossible.”
For Barry and Anita, this mom’s graduation was heart-warming. “I knew I had helped her understand how to improve her life by managing her budget and being accountable for her decisions,” he says.
Each year we survey our graduates and ask what had the most lasting impact on them from their time at Hillcrest Hope. We receive a resounding answer: budgeting. The graduates speak of learning and respecting the value of the dollar, developing the discipline to save, as well as overcoming the hold debt had on their lives and experiencing real financial independence.
By including the families in the decision-making process, they learn more than just budgeting. They gain a sense of ownership in their lives and build their self-esteem. “I have been able to witness a child watch their parent proudly because of the healthy, responsible decisions that parent has chosen to make,” Dustin says.
Our goal is that each and every family experiencing this program will develop financial independence; living and working in a community they can give back to. It is only with volunteers like budget counselors that Hillcrest Hope can help restore so many families from homelessness.