We consider ourselves very fortunate here at Brooks House to have so many friends in the community who selflessly lend of their time and resources to make this a better place. One of these invaluable volunteers is Barbara Tate, who comes to Brooks House several times a week to serve as a mentor and financial counselor to the ladies of the house.
Barbara first heard of Brooks House in fall of last year, when she felt called to stop by her church, clothes to donate in tow, and ask if they needed volunteers for anything. They didn’t have a need at the time, but they told her they might know of somewhere that could use the clothes. They put her in contact with Liz Reese and Melanie Johnson and the rest is history. “I went to meet with them the next day and it felt like I should have been here all along,” Barbara says of her initial visit to Brooks House. She started volunteering in September 2015, helping out with odds and ends as they came up, but soon realized through talking with the ladies that many of them could benefit from a mentoring relationship during their time at the house. “As I talked with them I realized many of them were carrying ‘junk’ around that made it difficult to move forward,” she reflects. “I wanted to just talk to them, encourage them, assure them of their identity in God and that they are not what’s happened to them.”
She soon discovered a trend regarding financial decisions and situations that many of the residents have experienced. “Your financial state is a good indication of where you are emotionally,” Barbara explains, which is why she then decided to create a program that focuses on financial literacy and debt reduction. “What we do is we pull a credit report, talk about where they are in their current finances, sit down and come up with a budget, and the rest of their income is put into an in-house savings account,” she explains of the process. “Once they accumulate income, I become their advocate with their creditors to negotiate and get debt settled.” She tries to meet with residents in the program at least once per week, depending on their schedules.
Barbara mentions that those who are “all in”- those who are open to suggestions and committed to change, have higher success rates. “It’s amazing what happens when your finances are all shored up, it’s a weight being lifted off of you,” she says of the emotional impact the program has on residents. “You feel like a new person.” In the past 3 months, two women have left Brooks House debt-free, with two more soon to join them. “We’re giving them the tools to look at things from a different perspective, and with that comes the confidence that they are capable of accomplishing these goals,” Barbara says of the program.
On the impact this program has had on her life, Barbara says she feels she is called to help women “walk into their destiny.” “It is so gratifying to see these ladies make this 180 degree turn, and see the confidence they had inside them all along.” Her goal is not only to help women become financially literate, but also to instill in them their sense of identity. “I felt called to making sure they know that they are valued, that they have worth, and that God sees the possibility in them,” she explains, mentioning how she sees a lot of herself in some of the women here. She keeps up with women from the program after their transition out of Brooks House, and is proud to report on their continued successes. Several have kept up the savings habits learned from the program, and avoided falling back into debt. We know the women here at Brooks House appreciate Barbara’s friendship and counsel, and we certainly appreciate all the time and energy she has devoted to helping our residents. Thank you Barbara!