This blog is the first in a series of posts which will highlight the many programs and services at Episcopal Community Services (ECS). Financial education is just one aspect of the holistic approach that ECS offers to participants. Stay tuned for more blogs which will highlight other programs, from housing to nutrition to employment and more!
Recent reports state that nearly 75 percent of Americans have needed credit card debt advice, yet half of them never sought out any guidance. As a result, millions of people find themselves digging deeper into debt with no plan to get out of it. This can be especially true for those who may not have the time or resources to seek out financial advice when they’re already struggling to make ends meet.
At ECS, attaining financial wellness is viewed as an essential part of overcoming poverty. That’s why Dominic Calvarese, Financial Specialist, has worked closely with hundreds of participants over the past three years in his agency-wide role at ECS. Participants come to Dominic for any number of reasons. Many have poor credit that they’re trying to improve. Others are behind on rent or mortgage payments. Some need help with budgeting. All are facing some form of debt or financial hardship and want to get to a better, more stable place.
For Dominic, it’s a privilege to have people confide in him and share their entire financial situation with him, which for many, can be an uncomfortable thing to do. To make participants feel more at ease, Dominic approaches financial coaching without any judgment. “I’m here to listen, share the burden, and talk through whatever problems they’re facing. There’s no shame in taking a step back and examining our financial situation - it’s something that we all should do regardless of how much money we have,” he says.
In addition to coaching and advising participants one-on-one, Dominic also leads financial workshops which are free to all. Some participants seek out Dominic’s services on their own, while others are referred to him by other ECS staff members who believe that they would benefit from speaking with him. From there, Dominic works with each participant to identify actionable tasks that they can work towards, such as setting specific goals or creating budgeting plans. Other times, he helps identify resources both within and outside of the agency that he thinks would be useful to a participant.
Although Dominic’s area of expertise is financial coaching, he is guided by the mission of the entire agency. ECS works to combat and challenge poverty, and in order to do this, the agency uses a coaching model known as “the bridge to prosperity”. It begins with meeting participants where they are in life and getting an understanding of their entire situation: from their mental and physical health, to their housing situation, to their job or employment prospects, to their financial situation. Behind each of these “pillars” are dedicated ECS staff members who work directly with participants to address their needs.
For Dominic, this is the most rewarding part of his job: following the ECS model of building a bridge for each participant, accompanying them on the journey, and offering essential support and guidance along the way.
Learn more about ECS’ programs and services here.