Imagine a young woman.

Let’s call her, “Sue”. Red-haired, green-eyed, maybe freckled. At 11 she loses her only family member, an older sibling, to a drug overdose. At 13 she runs away from her foster home. By the time she is 16, she struggles with addiction and lives on the streets. By her 17th birthday, Sue enrolls in a court-ordered program for at-risk youth. Sue has taught herself to survive physiologically, yes, but at what cost?

People Providing Hope rearranges the wayward priorities of at-risk* youth by imparting the value of delayed gratification; promoting a healthy lifestyle; instilling gratitude for what material possession one has; and by nurturing abilities that transform people like Sue into self-actualized and positively engaged citizens.

By January 1st, 2017 this pilot aims to serve 60 at-risk youth aged 16-24, from three non-profits – including the Clackamas Service Center, Youth Progress and The Portland Kitchen – via cooperative credit union participation, financial literacy education, life-skills mentorship and instrumental support.

Sue has developed an unhealthy relationship with societal means, yes. Her priorities are misaligned, sure. But at this stage in her life, Sue does not need judgment – she needs respect. Sue doesn’t need someone else’s opinion – she needs a chance. She needs meaningful, positive relationships and the basic resources for a return to growth.

The fight begins.

With help from the Northwest Credit Union Foundation, the non-profit financial education organization, Financial Beginnings, and insight from carefully recruited volunteers, People Providing Hope focuses on the following key components: Banking, Budgeting, Saving, Social skills and Volunteer work within the program.

Alongside the customizable coursework, (consisting of worksheets by topic, hands-on activities, one-on-one mentorship and peer mediation) participants will collectively develop a user-friendly program guide. This guide streamlines delivery, perhaps to a single thumb-drive, easily allowing national integration regardless of location or heterogeneity. Of course, the effectiveness of this package relies heavily on the abilities and knowledge of its contributors.

Still, tracking the impact of People Providing Hope requires a thorough measurement protocol, which might consist of in-depth, before-and-after evaluations from credit unions and other organizations via interviews and individual case studies.

The Credit Union Difference.

Once the pilot has run at the community level, People Providing Hope will be ready for credit unions to take part. As credit unions, it’s within our bones to improve our communities, and People Providing Hope is an attachment to CU philosophy that goes beyond where many financial institutions already are.

Initially, the idea is to build partnerships among five credit unions. An informal and simple presentation provided to CEOs will offer something handy and educational to share with their board/s for approval. Lastly, active engagement of credit union membership bases is essential in bolstering their will to encourage the program’s potential. 

Similar to “second-chance” products, involved youth will need a savings account and a “special” checking account with a “special” debit card per safety precautions and adjusted business models. As the prospect of learning life management may not have much appeal, the opportunity for at-risk youth to open accounts and gain real financial experience may attract more participation from the community.

Bang for a Buck.

Ambitious goals motivate the People Providing Hope campaign. A guesstimate based on Financial Beginnings’ 2015 Annual Report, will show that with time, customized materials and curricula, measurement tools, savings incentives and to assure the program's success, cost expectation per participant should total about $10.

Grant applications are in progress for submission to credit union support organizations – including the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (NFCDCU), Credit Union National Association (CUNA), and the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA). Additionally, funding commitments from key federal agencies such as TRIOFIPSE and the Department of Labor may also be sought.


Now imagine Sue at 19.

After involvement in People Providing Hope, she has created a financial plan and developed a budget. She has taken proactive steps to reduce debt she may have. Mentorship has provided the framework for a career path. She has a savings account at her local credit union and a realistic plan for her future. Her self-esteem, decision-making skills, and social competence have grown. She’s shown improvement in time-management, reception of criticism and teamwork among peers.

Sue has hope. Her future promises a world where instead of having dreams interrupted by police sirens, screams or gunshots, she dreams peacefully, perhaps of becoming a doctor, a world traveler, a mother, a …?

Michael Murdoch

*Identified as at-risk based upon their economic status, backgrounds and as those who have been identified by leaders within these organizations and recruited to participate.