Stand By Me coaching guides family back to financial stability

January 4, 2022

When Curtis, a Wilmington-area father of three, enrolled in the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School in Newark he learned much more than he ever anticipated. In addition to earning his ServSafe® credentials, mastering professional food preparation skills, and then starting a new career as a chef in a senior residential facility, he connected with a personal financial coach through the Stand By Me program.

Our 14-week Culinary School training offers free education in life skills to students; one of those programs is Stand by Me, a partnership with the State of Delaware, United Way of Delaware and various organizations throughout the state, including the Food Bank. That’s how Curtis connected with his coach, Marilyn (pictured right), almost two years ago as the COVID-19 pandemic started to hit close to home.

Today Curtis describes the program in superlatives: “It’s been life-changing; I like to call it a miracle.”

He recognizes that his financial situation, at the start, was quite precarious. “My wife was a substitute teacher, and I had left my job. We didn’t have a budget or anything in place. We were definitely in debt, in the hole about $3-4,000 on a monthly basis.”

Marilyn, his Stand By Me coach, recalls meeting Curtis through a workshop she routinely presents to our culinary students on budgeting and saving.  “He was the only one to ask questions. He wanted to know more, and I told him he needed to meet with me, one-one-one. I used to be a housing counselor, so the first thing we did was to work on the mortgage,” she said.

“Every month we talk, and we work on the budget. The deficit kept going down, and he is now into a surplus instead of a deficit.”

Curtis is quite proud of that surplus – savings of about $100 month. “It wasn’t easy, but we learned we could cut corners on a lot of things,” he said, noting that the family’s cell phone bill went from $400 a month to $170 a month for the same service. They’ve also changed other service providers to lower monthly expenses. “She helped us to see a lot of areas we could pay less on. I learned there is a difference between saving and paying less,” he said.

Now both Curtis and his wife have full-time jobs, and as he moves forward on the journey to maintain financial stability he reflects on how far they have come. “It was a two-way street. She [Marilyn] gave us the tools, but we had to do the work. She was very willing and excited and resourceful. She directed us to different areas to help with our mortgage. I only have positive things to say about Stand By Me.”

To learn more about Stand By Me and to set up your own free coaching session, click here!

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