ELYRIA - The holidays, a season ripe with cheer, fancy dinners and -- unconquerable debt.
Maybe this year people can avoid the debt, if Mindy Wright and her Lorain County Urban League colleagues have any say in the matter.
Wright, LCUL`s director of housing and operations, is piggybacking onto a broader program organized by the National Urban League to offer at-risk consumers a chance to nip their financial problems in the bud.
Money Matters for Women Date: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 8 Place: DeLuca`s Place in the Park, 6075 North Ridge Road, Lorain Topics: Personal financing, budgeting, predatory lending, debt consolidation
Money Matters at Income Tax Time
Date: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 2 Place: Elyria Public Library, 1194 West River Road, Elyria Topics: Financial literacy, earned-income tax credits and more
Money Matters for Teens Date: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 8 Place: St. Joseph`s Community Center, West 20th Street and Reid Avenue, Lorain Topics: Saving and managing money, avoiding predatory loans, being a wise consumer
- Lorain County Urban League
LCUL will host three seminars in the coming months, all falling under the title "Money Matters" and focusing on a coterie of like-minded folks who too often find themselves struggling to make ends meet.
"We want to show people how to save and spend wisely," Wright said. "We can show them if you just wait, or if you need help getting presents for your children for Christmas, there are places that can help you."
The organization has paired up with State Farm Insurance to offer the Money Matters seminars, which are free to anyone who`s interested in learning more about earned-income tax credits, predatory lending, saving money and a host of other financial issues.
The first program, on Dec. 8 at DeLuca`s Place in the Park, will focus mainly on female consumers, while the second program, on Feb. 2 at Elyria Public Library`s West River Road branch, will focus on income tax returns.
The first two programs will be especially useful to single mothers, Wright said.
"There are so many ads and media outlets trying to get people to use their tax refunds in advance," Wright said. "To tie that into the earned-income tax credit, the majority of people who get that are single mothers. We don`t want them to go to these tax refund places to spend their money before they even get it."
The final program, on March 8 at St. Joseph`s Community Center in Lorain, will be aimed at teenagers, and will teach them how to save and manage money, how to save for college, and which credit cards and lenders to avoid.
Wright said the three programs float around the holidays to encourage people to avoid debt to buy holiday gifts or spend without regard to the consequences.
"We can show them that if you just wait, or you need help getting your children Christmas presents, there are places that can help you - the Salvation Army, the Red Cross. We want to get to these people, especially women, before they lose $1,000 in fees before Christmas," Wright said.
Teenagers are also targeted by lenders, Wright said.
"As soon as they turn 18, teens are bombarded with credit card applications," Wright said. "If they go off to college, the (credit card) companies are the first people targeting these kids."
Ultimately, the Money Matters seminars are aimed at educating people on their finances, and showing them how to save and avoid financial pitfalls.
"We`ll have different organizations talking about being a wise consumer," Wright said. "It`s geared toward specific groups - the underserved, who maybe get their (financial) education from the wrong people, or when it`s too late and they`re already in debt or ready to lose their homes."
But with a nationwide foreclosure crisis that has taken root in Northeast Ohio, Wright said even well-off and savvy consumers are finding it hard to balance their budget.
"These days, we`re trying to target all socioeconomics," Wright said. "The effect is not just on the poor, but the middle income and wealthy."
LCUL is also the first agency in Lorain County to become a HUD-certified housing agency, which means it will be able to provide counseling and assistance to homeowners looking to have high-interest loans refinanced.
Contact Shawn Foucher at 653-6255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.