When a leaking pipe led to a $500 water bill, Nicole didn’t have the money to pay for it. But if she couldn't keep up with her utility bills, she would lose her housing assistance.
That’s when Positive Women for Change (PW4C) stepped in to help Nicole, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy. PW4C provides one-on-one financial literacy and life coaching to help low-income women.
In Nicole’s case, PW4C helped her set up a financial plan and supplemented her payment with a small stipend so that Nicole could keep her housing. The new nonprofit wants to grow and help more women like Nicole, and is hosting an event on Saturday to show attendees what PW4C is all about.
The event will be held at Lussier Community Education Center, 55 S. Gammon Road, on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
It’s titled “Saving to Plan, While Planning to Save,” and will offer financial tips and strategies alongside fun, food and games. Free child care is available.
Kia Stearn is the founder of the organization, which provides judgment-free support to women with limited incomes. Women receive budget coaching and small stipends to help them reach “modest, but critical goals,” Stearn said. In Nicole’s case, $500 was all that was needed for housing security.
The stipends are contingent on the women fulfilling their own financial goals. Nicole set aside $30 every pay period for three months to contribute to the utility bill. Once she did that, PW4C paid the remainder of her bill directly to the utility company.
Peer coaches at PW4C help connect women to resources in the community, teaching them about services like transportation systems and housing programs, and helps women build healthy relationships.
Stearn established the nonprofit last November and has served two clients so far, with plans to serve two more by the end of the year. The first two were able to significantly reduce their debt-to-equity ratio, Stearn said.
She wants to start serving more women and said that depending on funding, “we’d love to serve from two women a year, to 10, 20, to 100.”
Stearn started PW4C because she struggled through the experience of trying to make it as a single mom. With a limited income and three kids, she would have been homeless without community resources.
“I learned everything by trial and error, and I made some mistakes,” she said.
Now, she’s using that experience to help women navigate their way out of tight financial situations. As a member of United Way’s Community Impact Advisor's Council, she’s learned about a wealth of resources that she didn’t know existed, she said.
She hopes PW4C will build a strong community of women supporting each other. Her family lived out of state, and she felt isolated at times.
“If we have a network of people that we can reach out to talk about these things, then we might be able to overcome those challenges together,” she said.
Even though the organization is just starting out, Stearn has already witnessed women overcoming obstacles.
“(It’s rewarding) to see a mother and a child move towards the pathways out of poverty by taking small steps towards positive changes,” she said. “(It’s letting) them know that they’re not the only one and that it’s okay.”