Guest post by Steve Gardner, president and executive director of Clarifi.
The day she left an abusive relationship in 2016, Fortune had saved just enough money for a deposit on an apartment for her and her two kids. She left with no high school degree, no work experience, and zero savings. At 27, she didn’t know anything about credit, and her score ranked poor.
What she did know: Fortune was going to buy a home for her family.
“Being in a domestic violence situation, and having children – it just gave me determination,” she said.
First, she needed to cut back on expenses and improve her credit. She went to Clarifi, the largest nonprofit in the Delaware Valley, offering free, one-on-one financial and housing counseling to people in economically marginalized and underserved communities.
A Clarifi counselor helped her build credit and access safe banking products. She learned how to budget. Over the next few years, she saved money, improved her credit score, and set new milestones until she was ready to buy a home.
Fortune is one of over 200 Philadelphians who benefit from the money that Penn Community Bank has invested in Clarifi. Over the past year, more than half of those clients improved their financial health, from creating and following a spending plan to boosting their credit by at least 35 points.
As the executive director of Clarifi, I see every day how important grants like Penn Community Bank’s are. They not only allow us to serve thousands of low- to moderate-income residents every year, they are a direct investment in our clients, many of whom are women of color.
“Corporate entities can and should step up to address systemic challenges in the communities where they do business,” said Bernard Tynes, the Chief Marketing & Impact Officer of Penn Community Bank.
“Whether through strategic partnerships, volunteering efforts, or financial commitments, there is no limit to the impact that organizations and their employees can make to build stronger, more vibrant communities.”
Clarifi teaches people how to provide for their own basic needs by giving personalized tools and resources to each one of our 6,000+ annual clients. Our one-on-one counseling helps clients to become financially resilient; counselors walk side by side with clients, through building emergency savings plans and engaging in pre-purchase counseling all the way to the first-time homebuyer’s closing table.
Just like Fortune.
By the time she purchased her first home last December, Fortune had developed a savings mindset, putting enough money aside for mishaps, repairs, and other unexpected expenses.
Sure enough, the pipes in her home burst within months of her moving in, spewing sewage water in the living room. She needed new plumbing and a new toilet, and to redo the walls.
“Having that small little extra nest that I had, I was able to get the plumbing done,” Fortune said. “I don’t know that I would have thought about those things if I hadn’t gone to Clarifi. I’d never had these discussions.
“I don’t even know if I would have been able to purchase, to be quite honest,” she added.
After the plumbing repairs, Fortune would need to wait and save up for cosmetic repairs – until she got a call from Clarifi saying she qualified for a $5,000 Financial Resilience grant, a separate line of funding provided to Clarifi from Penn Community Bank.
“I was able to make sure that the house was beautiful again,” Fortune said.
Now, Fortune has an asset that she can keep and grow to pass along to her kids someday: generational wealth. That’s why homeownership should be accessible to everyone.
“Access to affordable housing is fundamental to the strength of any neighborhood,” Tynes said.
“As a community-first financial institution, we know we have a role to play in breaking down barriers to homeownership. We also know that partnerships with key nonprofits – like Clarifi – can expand that effort.”
Read more about the partnership at Penn Community Bank.