Chris Cook is the AmeriCorps VISTA at Salem-Keizer Community Development Corporation (SKCDC). Hailing from Charleston, South Carolina, she made the big move this summer after landing her position as an Oregon Micro-entrepreneur Network (OMEN) Asset Building Corps Member at Salem Keizer CDC and deciding that the Willamette Valley seemed like an ideal location. We sat down with Chris to learn more about her work at SKCDC and partnership with Innovative Changes.
Salem-Keizer CDC’s mission is to help low and moderate income families attain financial self sufficiency through the provision of safe, stable, quality affordable housing, financial asset building opportunities and community & resident services. At SKCDC, Chris coordinates financial education programs, is working to build an asset management plan for Salem-Keizer properties, and researches and develops processes for fundraising and volunteer engagement.
With three months on the job under her belt, Chris says that so far, she has “enjoyed meeting other people in non profit world, seeing the prevalence of VISTAs in the community and what they do after their year of service, and seeing how people have started partnerships and are working together to make positive things happen.”
Innovative Changes got the chance to connect with Chris and SKCDC in September when Sarah and Carmina hit the road to Salem to facilitate a Training of the Trainers (ToT) session in our Financial Household Resiliency Curriculum. At this training Salem-Keizer employees and volunteers from local financial institutions gathered to delve into class content and learn IC$ methods and techniques for facilitating the four-part, eight hour series that covers basic financial management skills.
In October, volunteers from Bank of the Cascades and Maps Credit Union taught Salem-Keizer’s first round of FHR classes to SKCDC residents and Individual Development Account (IDA) participants. There were seven people in total and Chris reflects that “the volunteers were wonderful- they rocked it! They explained everything to students who loved how accommodating facilitators were, and the information that they gained from the classes.”
Chris reflects that the classes served as an outlet for those who had never talked about their finances before. “One gentleman was very involved in the class. He was able to interact with people and talk about finances, which was something he had never done. He seemed touched that there were people with similar experiences- in past had to fake that he knew what was doing. People also came to the class not knowing anything about credit and now they have credit building goals!”
SKCDC plans to teach the classes again this month to more IDA participants, Salem-Keizer residents and Salem Housing Authority clients as well. In addition to implementing these financial education workshops, Chris has her hands ful for the rest of her VISTA year. SKCDC is partnering with several community organizations and the nearby Chemeketa Community College to deliver free tax filing workshops.
IC$ is excited to see our curriculum being used in other parts of Oregon. Financial Education and Loan Program Manager Carmina Lass says “It has long been one of our goals to offer our curriculum to a wider audience across Oregon. Our partnership with SKCDC is a great opportunity to continue to expand our reach and refine the delivery of our financial education programs”