Stand By Me counseling offers Navy veteran peace, self-sufficiency

June 7, 2023

Bonita is very, very happy! She achieved her dream of home ownership, thanks to some solid guidance from Marilyn, the Food Bank of Delaware’s Stand By Me coach. Now a New Castle resident, Bonita loves everything about the home she was able to purchase: its location, its history, its charm, the backyard, the neighborhood.

A 53-year-old U.S. Navy veteran, Bonita learned about the  free financial counseling program, Stand By Me,  from her counselor at the Hope Center.  Through a partnership with the state of Delaware, United Way of Delaware and nonprofits across the state – including the Food Bank of Delaware – Marilyn is trained to offer free, private, one-on-one counseling – and coaching – on the process of regaining financial stability. She met with Bonita monthly, starting last December, on Zoom, and in late April Bonita went to settlement then moved into her home.

At the time Bonita found out about the program, she was displaced. “I didn’t have a place to live, but the Hope Center gave me good people. This woman [Marilyn} is amazing. She helped me get myself back together. I was in transition,” she said.

Marilyn describes Bonita as a client who was focused on her goal. “She started saving as soon as I started working with me,” Marilyn said.

“I didn’t have much debt, and my goal was to save $3,000 to get a house. She helped me with budgeting,” Bonita added.

Except for her service dog, Bonita is on her own. “I’ve got nobody in my life. It’s just me,” she said. She works at a Wilmington-area Acme, and praises her employer support, providing flexible scheduling in order to keep medical appointments.

As she was building her savings account, Bonita work with a Veterans Affairs loan officer and real estate agent to find the right house. “Marilyn helped keep me on track,” she said. “She’s beautiful people. You need to reach out. They were there with open arms. It’s help to get you back on your feet. Now I’m self-sufficient. I don’t get welfare or food stamps. I’m self-sufficient. I have stability.”

Bonita describes herself as a social person, but loves her quiet neighborhood. “When I walked into this house, I knew it was the one. It was built in 1948 and have one owner; a Navy veteran built it. It’s structurally beautiful and comfortable. I will honor it. This house was meant for me. It has opportunity, and I feel peace here.”

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