Stand By Me counseling helps Wilmington woman clear debt, buy home

January 6, 2022

Sometimes a chance conversation can result in positive lifestyle changes. Just ask Malena, a Wilmington resident, whose connection to a Stand By Me counselor helped her achieve her goals. While taking her daughter to a Food Bank of Delaware food drive-through distribution over a year ago, Marlena spoke with Marilyn, one of our Stand By Me coaches. Through a partnership with the State of Delaware, United Way of Delaware and organizations across the state, this program offers free, private, one-on-one financial counseling to educate our neighbors through the process of regaining financial stability.

Malena, who relocated to Delaware from Philadelphia, is employed in what she describes as “a well-paying job,” but she jokes that she had 50 million credit cards. “I’m just kidding, but I was so much in debt, I didn’t know how to manage. I was making payments, but my credit was low,” she explained. “I met with her (Marilyn) in regards to credit counseling.”

The results of those phone meetings were nothing less than amazing. Spoiler alert: Malena’s story has a happy ending.

“She [Marilyn] gave me intensive counseling. She did an analysis and looked at my starting point,” Malena said. “I followed her lead, and I’m debt-free and I bought a house in about a year.”

Because of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, counseling meetings were scheduled by phone every three months. Malena worked at clearing the credit card debt. “I paid off one at a time, the high-interest ones first.” Malena praised her experience. “Marilyn was knowledgeable; her coaching is excellent. She hand-held. She didn’t tell me what to do. She said ‘This is my recommendation.’ “

“My job,” explained Marilyn, the financial coach, “is to get them to budget, to go from deficit to surplus and get their credit score back. She needed to get her credit score fixed; she needed to have a good score to buy her house, so she had to lower all her credit card usage to under 30 percent.”

Marilyn and Malena had frequent phone meetings, but her commitment “saved her a lot of money,” according to Marilyn.

During their meetings, Marilyn advised her to wait until her cards were paid off before looking for a home. “With better credit points, you get better interest rates,” Malena said. “She had excellent pointers and coached me through the process. She went far and beyond. I still check in with her. That’s important to me; it keeps me on track.”

In addition to the positive financial benefits, Malena also praised Marilyn’s service-minded approach: “She is always available, and she treated me with respect and dignity. She listens first, really listens and doesn’t interrupt. Then she creates a plan.”

To learn more about Stand By Me financial coaching at the Food Bank of Delaware, please click here.


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