Joanne B. at East River Development Alliance (ERDA) FCU, Long Island City, New York

Joanne B. came to ERDA, a community development agency, in October 2011 because she was behind on her rent and having trouble managing all of her bills. Ms. B. became ill in 2005 and fell behind on all of her bills. “I couldn’t get my rent under control. My illness took priority over my rent,” she said. By the time she started working with ERDA, she was in eviction procedures for rental arrears, and collections agencies were harassing her. Ms. B felt overwhelmed and helpless.

As soon as Ms. B. started working with a financial counselor at ERDA, she began to feel that her situation was manageable. “We sat down and we made a plan, like a menu for me to follow,” she said. Six months later, Ms. B had paid all her back rent and was out of the court process. Asked how she did it, Ms. B she followed what her financial counselor taught her, “I tightened my belt. [My financial counselor] taught me how to go here and there to cut down certain things. I was able to catch up in 6 months. Last time I went to court they said, ‘Ms. B you are paid up. We’re satisfied.’ I had so many eviction notices.”

Ms. B’s financial counselor referred her to the ERDA Federal Credit Union. She opened a savings account at the FCU in February 2012 and has been savings 20% of her income each month. “It’s a good start for me. It’s a good stepping stone because before I had no money,” Ms. B said, “My age is not stopping me. The Credit Union is giving me a chance to still grow instead of saying I’m too old, I’m too sick. At the Credit Union, they are very personable with you. They sit down and they help you. They don’t just take your money. They show you that they can help you make your money grow. It’s a caring institute, and it will help you develop what you are looking for and what you need.”

Ms. B has already saved $1500 in her account and continues to save and help promote the ERDA FCU. She has opened an account for her 13-year-old grandson and has been teaching him the importance of saving. She has also been telling all her friends in the community about the FCU. “I’m fighting for my financial life, and I’m fighting for a healthy life, and I think I can do both together,” she said.

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