America's new economic reality has Lowcountry families facing challenges as never before, and our local United Way is supporting an agency with a long track record of helping families meet their challenges and reach their financial goals.
Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Savannah Area has been at work in the Savannah area since 1965, providing professional, confidential counseling on debt management, housing and consumer credit education.
Now, United Way of the Lowcountry is supporting a Beaufort CCCS office in the Regions Bank building at 69 Robert Smalls Parkway (SC 170), Suite 2B. Appointments are available from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every Wednesday and Friday by calling 843-379-2227.
In 2011, CCCS served 299 Beaufort and Jasper residents. John Wills, CCCS executive director, said some of these households continue with the program for four to five years.
"Because of United Way's involvement in our organization, we were able to provide more than $109,000 in mortgage assistance to Beaufort and Jasper county homeowners in 2011, saving many homes from foreclosure," Wills said.
Two real-life stories are examples of what CCCS is doing in our community:
"We have a Marine client whose wife accumulated $35,000 in credit card debt while he was at war. He started the Debt Management Plan 9 months ago and already has paid off $6,000 in debt. CCCS saves him $200 a month on payments; he will be debt free in 3 1/2 years; he will save $19,500 in interest over the plan; and he got to keep his security clearance (i.e. his job)."
"And we have a local teacher who went through a separation and salary cuts to get into $51,000 in credit card debt. We are saving him $400 per month and he will be debt-free by the time he retires in 4 years. That is 27 years faster than if he were paying the monthly minimum (saving $80,000 in interest)."
Wills points to his agency's positive outcomes, which are expressed as percentages from customer surveys before and after counseling.
For instance, the number of 2011 clients who "feecontrol of their financial situation" went up 185 percent 3 to 6 months after counseling and 200 percent a year after counseling.
The number of clients who are "not stressed about their financial situation" went up 220 percent 3 to 6 months after counseling and 274 percent a year later.
Consumer Credit Counseling helps clients manage their money, budget and save, and improve their credit rating. Clients learn how to buy a home, budget for mortgage payments and keep their home if they get behind; counselors can also describe the pros and cons of a reverse mortgage.
CCCS workshops outline topics such as budgeting, credit, recovering after a bankruptcy and being a first-time homebuyer.
Whether you need immediate help to pay off debt and avoid bankruptcy; guidance in designing a spending and savings plan; or buying a first home, CCCS offers a variety of programs and services that put you in control of your financial future.
Many CCCS services are free; some require small fees. The Savannah office has been open since 1965 and Beaufort more than five years. CCCS is accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Services for Families and Children Inc. and certified by HUD to provide comprehensive housing counseling services. CCCS is just one of the 39 United Way of the Lowcountry agencies working hard every day to make our community a better place.
Marge Barber is a retired journalist, community volunteer and former Director of Communications for United Way of the Lowcountry.