Group provides keys to success

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For a working person often struggling to get a head, at times the simplest tasks can seem very difficult, like purchasing a vehicle or working toward improving a credit score.

Family Services of Western Pennsylvania understanding the plight of individuals who cannot obtain a traditional auto loan because of credit issues, offers a transportation loan program that provides help to purchase or repair a vehicle. The Ways to Work Program is for people with dependent children and the Keys to Success Program serves those without dependent children.

Starting
STARTING A GREAT PROCESS—Tia Baker, Transportation Loan Program participant, left, works with Family Services of Western Pennsylvania officials Brian Polinsky and Gwen Porter to start the two- to three-week process of getting a reliable car.

A participant in the loan program for about a year, Tia Baker, says the process is very simple. “The hardest part of the program for me was looking for a car.” After filling out an application, meeting the criteria and participating in the financial literacy component she now drives a car she is happy with, a 2001 Hyundai. “My next step is to purchase a home. This program has helped me regain my accountability while rebuilding my credit,” said Baker.

Available for residents of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Mercer, Washington and Westmoreland counties, there is a four-point criterion for participation in the Transportation Loan Program. Other than meeting the income guidelines, applicants are required to have a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license, to be able and willing to repay the loan in a specified period of time and to currently be employed for three months for at least 20 hours per week.

Focused on assisting individuals to improve their credit score, Gwen Porter, loan coordinator for the program points out that Family Services over all objective through the loan program is to help participating individuals and families become self-sufficient. She explained that Family Services equips its consumers by offering a financial literacy class to help them increase their chances for financial success while seeking the loan.

The financial literacy session is a three-hour class that teaches how to build positive banking relationships, how to utilize banks effectively by avoiding costly bank fees, how to develop a budget and identify problems with one’s existing budget, how to make better choices about and track expenditures, how to create a user-friendly system for paying bills and how to connect to resources that can improve the participants financial future.

Upon completion of the classes and demonstrating the ability to make modest monthly payments and the approval by the loan committee, participants are eligible to receive up to $6,000 to purchase a pre-owned car or up to $1,000 for car re­pairs.The pro­­gram provides participants with an approved local and national bank list, as well as approved auto dealerships to choose from. “In my case this program was very helpful in the process by enabling me to obtain an interest rate of eight percent oppose to 18,” said Baker.

Porter said that last year the program assisted over 90 people that can share the same story as Baker. “Over 75 percent of the recipients are women.”

Known for restoring hope and supporting dreams, Family Services provides more than 38 different services to families and individuals in the region. Brian Polinsky, a program liaison for the group pointed out that its services are guided by its mission to foster the capacities and skills in families and individuals to direct their own lives, promote recovery and resiliency, and create a productive, caring community.

In operation for over 50 years, Porter and Polinsky identified that Family Services of Western Pennsylvania provides high quality services and support to children, adults and families. According to the group’s records they have touched the lives of more than 8,000 people in a year’s time. Its programs, support and services are provided in the areas of counseling, foster care, and prevention. Specialized support and services include rehabilitation and training, employee assistance programs, disaster and crisis services and supportive living services.

In order to continuously build stronger and healthier communities, Family Services has developed partnerships with health care facilities, businesses, school districts, governmental bodies, local and national agencies as a way to adequately provide services to its constitutes.

“In order to fulfill our client’s diverse needs we are always looking for additional partners and encourage agencies of all types to work with us,” Polinsky said.

A part of Family Services for nearly a decade and spearheading the agency’s efforts in the service area, Porter said the agency has been successful in providing a hand up to its clients, “and we are looking to service more.”

“The Transportation Loan Program has been very beneficial to me,” said Baker. “Before having a car, I had to catch four buses to get to work. With the changes PAT (Port Authority Transit) is planning to make, I am grateful to have a dependable car to get back and forth to work. This program has enabled me to improve my families lifestyle by making better use of my time, having assess to better stores and cutting my stress level.” She added that most importantly it is helping her build her credit and making other financial obligations more affordable.

(For more information on the Transportation Loan Program or services provided by Family Services of Western Pennsylvania, call 1-866-965-5929 or view the website at http://www.fswp.org.)

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