Financial planning class helping shelter residents get their affairs in order

By: Emily Fleisher

Every night, over 140 people stay in the emergency homeless shelters at The Salvation Army of Greenville, South Carolina. When these individuals arrive at The Salvation Army, they are likely to feel lost and unsure in their new situations. However, thanks to a dedicated group of women, they may soon find a sense of community.

Since being established in 2014, The Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary of Greenville has worked to create a home-like environment for the men, women and children living in the emergency homeless shelters. The women’s auxiliary works with the shelter residents to provide stability and comfort through holiday meals, homemade blankets for the children and educational classes.

One women’s auxiliary member, Laura Cook, volunteers regularly to teach a monthly financial planning class for the women in the shelter. During the class, Cook invites the residents to take notes about the course material and to eat snacks provided by the women’s auxiliary. She also encourages discussions about budgeting, saving and understanding money. Asking questions and sharing experiences can only make financial planning classes more meaningful, she says to the women at the start of the lesson.

Though the class focuses mainly on financial facts and advice, Cook also includes an empathetic and compassionate angle in her teaching. She takes time to reassure residents who may have previously made poor financial decisions or investments. Everyone makes bad decisions with money, and it’s normal to feel ashamed after that, she says. Start creating a better relationship with money by forgiving yourself and taking advice from others.

“Learn to listen and do better the next time,” Cook told the women at the April 2019 meeting. “But don’t beat yourself up over past mistakes.”

Near the end of the class, the residents begin trading stories with Cook about their very first experiences with money. She says these experiences are likely to shape your entire relationship with money, and by re-examining them, you can help understand your current situation better. Her friendly, calming presence allows the residents to feel comfortable, and soon, the stories quickly have the room laughing about stolen (but returned) quarters and high expectations of the buying power of a single dollar.

Because of these monthly classes, the women in the shelter are able to take advantage of a free educational resource and find community with each other and with the volunteers. The Salvation Army of Greenville is thankful to the women’s auxiliary for planning the classes and to Cook for her willingness to give her time and talent.

Emily Fleisher is the marketing and special events coordinator for the Greenville, South Carolina, Area Command.