Families First in Ellsworth, Maine, is a shining example of the incredible things a small group of caring people can accomplish. Over the course of six years, Families First raised enough money and recruited enough volunteers to purchase an antique farmhouse and convert it into six private apartments for homeless families. In addition to the security of a safe, comfortable place to stay, residents receive one-on-one counseling to develop a “Life Plan” to overcome their challenges and achieve financial independence. Over the next 12-24 months, the residents complete certification or trade programs, pursue college degrees, and acquire the skills to qualify for good-paying jobs.
“We are a haven for single mom, single dads, and intact families who have been dealt difficult hands in life,” Families First Executive Director Shaina Fraser explains. “Some of our clients are widows, others grew up in homeless families, and some just need help getting out of bad relationships or recovering from decisions they regret. At Families First, we believe everyone deserves the time, security, and support to help themselves, and that’s what we provide for our residents and through our community outreach programs.”
In addition to donations from hundreds of people, Families First receives support from several local businesses, including Machias Savings Bank. When Shaina approached VP, Community Experience Manager Melissa Denbow for help with a financial literacy program for her clients, Melissa raised the bar. “At Machias Savings Bank, our mission is to improve the financial health of our communities,” Melissa said. “By partnering with FFCC and give IT. get IT., we are empowering the residents with financial health knowledge, and digital access to continue their education goals to reach financial freedom. Our collaboration is helping overcome barriers to reaching life goals and that is something we are proud to be a part of.”
give IT. get IT. provided ten refurbished laptop computers for ten Families First residents to take a two-day financial literacy course led by Cathy Leeman, the Assistant Branch Manager of Machias Savings Bank in Bar Harbor. “The class was very engaged and teaching them was a great experience,” Cathy explained. “ We covered a lot of ground regarding credit. This included how to repair credit, build credit, dispute inaccurate information on a credit report, how to receive a free credit report, using credit wisely and what to expect when you apply for a loan.
We also covered budgeting. Budgeting included encouraging them to write down their budget, refer back to it often and hold themselves accountable for sticking to it. We discussed short and long term financial goals and how to make a plan to accomplish those goals and discussed the difference between financial needs and wants. We covered how to catch up on bills if you fall behind and what to prioritize if that happens. We also went over different ways to save, such as savings accounts, CD’s and IRA’s which are valuable tools to help these students build long-term financial security and independence.”
After completing the two-day course, the students got to keep their laptops to manage their finances and pursue their other education or training goals. Desiree was one of the financial literacy students and we appreciate her sharing a selfie of her with computer as she was sitting down to do her schoolwork.
As Shaina summarizes: “At Families First, we’re dedicated to helping our residents to independently focus their life plans in the convenience of their own apartments while raising their children. The financial literacy program from MSBand free laptops from give IT. get IT. gave our clients a real boost and the motivation to start thinking about their financial futures.”
Over the past two years alone, Machias Savings Bank has provided over $15,000 in donations to give IT. get IT., which we’ve used to provide free computers to Worthington Scholarship winners, aspiring business owners, and dozens of other people working hard to achieve their dreams. “Like Families First, we at give IT. get IT. believe in second chances and providing people with the tools they need to make the most of them,” Operations Director Chris Martin said. “When people can’t afford our participation fees, individual donors and corporate sponsors like Machias Savings Bank enable us to provide free devices to people trying to turn their lives around. We hope these ten financial literacy students use these computers to create bright futures for themselves and their children, and we’re excited to work with Families First again soon.”
In addition to this great story, we were delighted to appear in Machias Savings Bank’s latest “Yes to Community” video to let their customers know how they’re helping us help thousands of people like Desiree to get out of cyclical poverty by achieving digital equity.
If you’d like to help us help more people acquire low or no-cost computers, training and support, please CLICK HERE to donate to our scholarship fund. If you’d like to discuss how your company can partner with give IT. get IT. to create a digital equity program in your community, please contact Jim Darroch, at firstname.lastname@example.org.