Tag Archives: financial and homeownership education

Strategic connections can start with a smile and handshake

The Financial and Homeownership Education Team are posing for a photo with Senator Darwin Booher.

The Financial and Homeownership Education Team meet with Senator Darwin Booher. Photo courtesy of Bill Hendrian.

Bill Hendrian, Financial and Homeownership Education (FHE) team educator in District 5, shared with me some great advice about building strategic connections with people – from local employers to state legislators. Something as simple as a smile and a handshake can open a door that leads to another.

Some thoughts Bill had and experiences he shared:

  • Attend local events, even if they’re not in your program area. Also, seek out events where local and state leaders will attend. Bill attended a local agricultural breakfast. There, he met Darwin Booher with a handshake, a smile and his elevator speech.
  • Remember to say, “Thank you.” Sen. Booher helped appropriate funds during the foreclosure crisis of 2008 that funded Michigan State University (MSU) Extension FHE positions and programs. The FHE work team visited the senator in 2015 to personally thank him for all of his efforts. Team members also shared the success that they were having helping Michigan’s struggling homeowners. That success was made possible because of the funding to train and assemble a staff ready and able to meet the needs brought about by the crisis. Sen. Booher has recently touted our efforts with local community leaders as well as the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
  • Share your impact stories with county commissioners. They can also connect you with others. MSU Extension provided education and guidance in regard to the Michigan Step Forward program, helping local citizens who were hardest hit by the recession. The commissioners realized that the program was responsible for recouping thousands of real property tax dollars into the county coffers. Now, their county offices refer struggling homeowners to our offices to help them stay in their homes.
  • Each time you hold a program or speak with an audience, remember that each person sitting there has connections of his or her own. It turns out that one of the folks who attended an FHE course was a human resource professional at a large manufacturer. When the company needed financial education for its employees, the manager suggested using MSU Extension programs. Because of that connection, we were able to provide on-site Money Management classes.

“I have learned that it is important to make ourselves available to our local communities as often as possible,” Bill said. “I have learned that even a smile and a handshake can go a long way, that one door leads to another and that it is important to be patient, and stick to our goals as educators – to provide relevant, timely programming and to treat everyone with respect. You never know when you will have the opportunity to give your elevator speech.”

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Education policymakers on MSU Extension resources: The FHE team goes to the Capitol

On Friday, May 20, representatives from 15 state legislative offices attended a coffee and donuts informational session at the state Capitol. The session was held by the Financial and Homeownership Education (FHE) team to educate the group about the post-foreclosure toolkits that Michigan State University (MSU) Extension provides. Toolkits were also distributed to all offices to advertise the effective and impactful resources that MSU Extension produces for families and individuals starting over after home foreclosure.

In a brainstorming and planning meeting between a few members of the FHE team and Eric Walcott, MSU Extension public policy specialist, the team discussed reaching out to legislators to market the “Starting Over After Foreclosure” toolkit. Eric, having previous experience working in the Legislature, suggested hosting an event to draw attention to the new resource. He shared that often state departments hold educational sessions to provide legislators and their staff members with timely resources and information.

The FHE team wanted to not only share the MSU Extension resource with the legislators and their staff members, but also educate them that they could use it to support constituents who call their offices with questions about personal financial recovery. Team members received the approval of Mike Kovacic, director of stakeholder relations for the college of agriculture and natural resources; Dave Ivan, their institute director; and MSU. They also secured the support of Sen. Darwin Booher, who co-sponsored the event. Then the planning began. Jean Lakin, Sarah Carter, Erica Tobe, Eric Walcott, Bill Hendrian, Scott Matteson and Mike Kovacic contributed to the planning of the event.

The event consisted of a short, half-hour presentation to legislators and their staff members, followed by a brief question-and-answer period. Each legislative office, whether or not an office representative attended the event, received a packet. The packet included MSU Extension FHE team information (including infographics of the results of their programs, a team roster and current program offerings), district foreclosure data (for offices that RSVP’d to the event), a free “Starting Over After Foreclosure” toolkit and marketing kicker cards to promote the resource in their communities. Bill Hendrian, Scott Matteson, Eric Walcott, LaShawn Brown, Beth Martinéz, Brenda Long, Erica Tobe, Mike Kovacic and Jinnifer Ortquist attended to host and answer questions.

The “Starting Over After Foreclosure” toolkit is a research-based, resource guide for residents who have experienced foreclosure, housing instability or both. It was designed to provide an educational support after traditional foreclosure counseling services end as a way to rebuild financial standing. Eight stand-alone units address core financial concepts (budgeting, credit and debt management, exploring housing options and more). One unit addresses emotional recovery after foreclosure and stress-management skill building. Visit http://msue.anr.msu.edu/program/mimoneyhealth/startingover to access the resource. The material will be available soon in Spanish, and a series of noncredit online courses will be available to participants statewide.

“Staff members that I spoke with were very receptive of the material, interested in the information, and appreciated that it was free for the general public to use.” Erica said. “I think promoting this toolkit to legislators in the manner that we did was a good way to be accountable for the funds that we have received to support our work in this programming area, and provide them with useful information that they can use with the residents in their districts. In addition, it was a great way to market MSU Extension, and the work of our FHE team. We had several staff members attend the event, and they were able to connect with their respective legislative offices, and create connections for future programming opportunities! The legislative staff members that we spoke with were very excited to see the information presented and seemed to appreciate the short, succinct manner that we presented the material. I think most participants left the presentation understanding how they can use the information in the future and appreciated the applicability of the resource.”

If you have any questions about this event or the materials, please feel free to contact Erica Tobe, MSU Extension specialist, at tobee@msu.edu or Eric Walcott, MSU Extension public policy specialist, at walcott3@msu.edu.

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Financial and homeownership team thanks state Sen. Booher

One of the things that we have been talking about over the past few months is the importance of developing our strategic communications to work on relationship-building. Strong relationships with clientele, stakeholders and communities can help ensure that our audiences know what we’re doing for them and help us make a difference in our communities. Sometimes, the most important strategy is just to say thank you, as evidenced by a recent meeting between the Michigan State University Extension Financial and Homeownership Education work team and state Sen. Darwin Booher.

senator booher fhe

In 2012, Booher was instrumental in passing legislation that provided resources to struggling homeowners. One part of the bill included funding to help MSU Extension provide a larger net of resources to individuals and families across the state. This funding has given more than 11,500 Michigan residents and their families access to education or counseling from the Financial and Homeownership Education work team.Senator Infographic

When the team met with Booher earlier this month, they presented him with an infographic that showed just how many Michigan residents had worked with our staff with the help of the funds he had helped procure. See the full-sized infographic.

This infographic went a long way toward educating Booher about his impact on MSU Extension. It showed that with his legislative work, we were able to help prevent foreclosures and provide information to new homeowners across the state. By sharing our stories with those who have helped us, we can help them feel more confident in helping us again in the future, so that they aren’t only hearing from us when we need something from them.

So consider sharing some of your success stories next time you’re given the chance, because the work you’re all doing is making serious impacts on your communities! Great job, team!

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MSU Extension encourages Michigan to be “Money Smart”

This week, April 18-25, is Money Smart Week 2015. While the week may be more than halfway over, that does not mean you have to miss this excellent opportunity to get your finances in order with your colleagues in the Financial and Homeownership Education Work Team. In partnership with Money Smart Week Michigan, Michigan State University Extension staff members are hosting events going on across the state through Saturday, many of which you may complete online from the comfort of your own home. Visit Money Smart Week to see the events available.

Additionally, if you have a Michigan State University student in your family, you might want to let them know about the possibility of a $1,000 prize if they participate in “GeoCache for College Cash,” a hunt for personal finance treasures. While each of the colleges that participate in this program handle the contest differently, the event organizers at MSU decided to keep the contest to one location instead of all across the sprawling campus in East Lansing. The MSU event will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight, April 23, in Room 300 of the Human Ecology building on campus.

If you aren’t available this week, but still want to help support your colleagues, you can find them at MIMoneyHealth.org, and on Facebook and Twitter.

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Tom Izzo wants you to be on the winning team

The Michigan State University Extension Financial and Homeownership Education Work Group has just launched a radio campaign to promote its programming across the state. The 30-second commercial produced by Dave Ellis from Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications features Coach Tom Izzo from the Michigan State University basketball team.

You can view the ad here:

The ad will run from January to March 2015 on statewide radio stations, including during March Madness, to promote MIMoneyHealth.org. The Financial and Homeownership Education Work Group has updated its information and resources about money management, homeownership and foreclosure on their website. Their new postforeclosure curriculum, Starting Over After Foreclosure Toolkit, will launch on this site in early January.

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Money management classes taught in the deaf community

One of our values at Michigan State University Extension is the commitment to reaching out to diverse clientele and finding ways to adapt our content to their needs. This November, Wanda Roberts, Extension educator in Oakland County with the Financial and Homeownership Education Team, taught a Money Management Workshop Series at Faith Assembly Deaf Church in Pontiac.

The program reached 21 people who are deaf, three who are deaf and blind, and three who are hard of hearing. The program engaged eight sign language interpreters each week to work with the group. Topics presented during the series included making money decisions, creating and managing a spending plan, managing credit and debt, as well as saving and investing.

The participant feedback was very positive. Two participant responses follow:

  • I enjoyed learning. I’m prepared for the future. I can now protect myself and my family. The three classes were worth it! Many deaf and hard of hearing wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn these details.
  • I’m very impressed since I actually understood all of it. I’m not even anxious a bit. I like the way the instructor was patient with all questions and was open about our concerns.

Our commitment to Michigan individuals and families extends to many diverse audiences, and it’s exciting to see how the partnerships we make can help facilitate that.

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Financial & Homeownership Education work group has all the answers at Money Smart Week event

Money Smart Week, April 5 to 12, is a national public awareness campaign coordinated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to help individuals and families better manage their personal finances. More than 400 free Money Smart Week events took place throughout Michigan on topics ranging from kids and money to managing student loan debt, household budgeting and retirement.

Our Michigan State University Extension Financial and Homeownership Education (FHE) work group participated in 12 Money Smart Week events throughout the eight days. One of the largest events was the Fox 2 News “Ask the Expert” program held the morning of April 7. This program consisted of both a live call-in program in the Fox 2 News studios and a live webchat on the MyFoxDetroit.com website. TV viewers either called in to the studio or went on the Web to ask questions on debt, credit, budgeting, homeownership and mortgages, retirement and investing, and fraud and scams.

The FHE team members who participated in the studio taking calls were LaShawn Brown, Terry Clark-Jones, Mike Krauch, Angela Miles, Wanda Roberts, Pam Sarlitto and Rob Weber. This group answered more than 250 calls and also talked with Fox 2 News financial reporter Murray Feldman on-air on a variety of money issues.

Answering questions in the online webchat were FHE team members Jim Buxton, Bill Hendrian, Khurram Imam, Brenda Long, Julie Moberg, Jinnifer Ortquist, Beth Waitrovich and Vivian Washington. This team provided replies to more than 100 questions that came into the chat room.

Money Smart Week provided a great opportunity for the FHE work group to enhance their mission of providing financial education throughout Michigan. And I think the Ask the Expert call-in/live-chat model they’ve developed with Fox 2 News is something that might be appropriate for other program areas and work groups to consider in the future. We’ll hear more about that on the May 5 MSUE Update Webinar.

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MSU Extension Macomb County staff members’ contributions acknowledged in State of the County address

In a recent Spotlight article of Nov. 7, I let you know about Michigan State University Extension’s role in aiding homeowners eligible for property tax assistance through the Step Forward Michigan Program. In that article, I quoted Ted Wahby, the treasurer of Macomb County, who praised the “productive partnership” between MSU Extension and the Macomb County Treasurer’s Office. He went on to say that the team effort resulted in more than $1.1 million dollars in back taxes paid and more than 175 families no longer at risk of losing their homes.

At the end of November, the Treasurer’s Office updated us that currently 204 Macomb County residents have been assisted with $1,203,512.42 in repaid delinquent property taxes.

On Dec. 4, Macomb County executive Mark Hackel delivered his third State of the County address to an invitation-only crowd of 1,200 county employees, residents, partners and policy makers at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts in Clinton Township. During the address, Mr. Hackel recognized the impact that the partnership between MSU Extension and the County Treasurer’s Office had in Macomb County’s transformation by keeping residents in their homes with the Step Forward Michigan Program.

We were one of the few departments individually acknowledged! I was proud of Jean (Lakin) and her team!” said Debbie Safian, Macomb County administration support staff member and one of the invited guests.

Additionally, Steve Gold, director of the Macomb County Department of Health and Community Services, acknowledged the role that MSU Extension housing counselors played in this effort.

“MSU Extension staff provides direct educational services to literally tens of thousands of Macomb County residents annually. We think of education as paying off ‘in the long run,’ but the Step Forward Michigan Program is different: the benefits to our residents (not losing their homes) and the benefits to the county (not losing a million dollars in property taxes) have been immediate and dramatic. MSUE and the Treasurer’s Office can be justly proud of how much good has grown from their partnership,” he said.

Greening Michigan Extension, Financial and Homeownership Education (FHE) educator Jean Lakin leads the team of Sarah Carter, Natalie Ciampichini, Helena Fleming, Rob Weber and AmeriCorps member Alicia McMiller.

Jean remarked in an email to the team, “Needless to say all of the hard work that each and every one of you do each day for the Macomb County residents facing foreclosure IS recognized and appreciated. Not only by the residents that you work so tirelessly for but also by those on campus and in the county who support us and understand that we are making a difference here in Macomb County. It is an honor to work with each one of you every day and we all THANK YOU for your dedication to the Step Forward Michigan project.”

I agree with Jean and having our staff and their program singled out in the State of the County address by the Macomb County executive is pretty special. Thanks for everyone’s contributions to this great partnership!

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Extension staff members help residents through property tax assistance

In a July 26, 2012, Spotlight, I told you about the Step Forward Michigan Program. The U.S. Department of the Treasury established the Hardest Hit Fund in 2010 to aid families in states hit hardest by the economic and housing market downturn. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) oversees distribution of the fund in Michigan where it’s known as the Step Forward Michigan Program.

In January 2013 through the Step Forward Michigan Program, the MSHDA added property tax assistance to their Loan Rescue Program. Homeowners that have endured a qualifying involuntary hardship that has caused them to fall behind may be eligible. Without this assistance, these homeowners, which in many cases have paid off their home mortgage, would have lost their homes due to tax foreclosure.

Our Michigan State University Extension counseling and support staff provide ongoing help to homeowners in getting questions answered, helping with the application process and correcting applications so that Macomb County residents have the best chance for assistance. Greening Michigan Extension, Financial and Homeownership Education (FHE) educator Jean Lakin leads the team of Natalie Ciampichini, Helena Fleming, AmeriCorps member Alicia McMiller and Rob Weber.

Extension educator and District 11 coordinator Marie Ruemenapp said, “Macomb Executive’s Office staff and the treasurer are just ecstatic with what MSUE (Jean and her staff) have been able to do.”

“The very productive partnership between MSU Extension and the Macomb County Treasurer’s Office is really what has driven the success of this program in Macomb,” said Ted Wahby, the Macomb County treasurer. “As we reach out to delinquent taxpayers, we know we can count on Jean Lakin and her team of housing counselors at MSUE to guide people through the application process. Our team effort has resulted in more than $1.1 million dollars in back taxes paid, and more than 175 families no longer at risk of losing their home.”

Read more in this Macomb Daily article: http://www.macombdaily.com/government-and-politics/20131003/treasurers-program-collects-900000-saves-hundreds-of-homes

Macomb is not the only county taking advantage of the Step Forward Michigan program and of the help given by MSU Extension staff.

Denine Kamprath, deputy Monroe County treasurer said, “We feel that this program is a wonderful opportunity to help people that have hardship situations be able to get ‘caught up’ on the back taxes that they owe, and to keep them out of the foreclosure situation. Hopefully, by getting this assistance, they will be able to stay on track and avoid falling back into this pattern for the future. . . . Thanks for all your continuous help with our residents.”

In Monroe County, according to Deputy Treasurer Kamprath, with support from MSU Extension staff members Terry Clark-Jones and Pam Sarlitto, 18 residents have been assisted and a total amount of $113,533.94 in back taxes has been collected as of October 2013.

MSU Extension is an MSHDA-certified housing counseling agency. We have been assisting Michigan residents in applying for the tax foreclosure Step Forward Michigan funds since Jan. 15.

Other Financial and Homeownership Education work group members across the state involved in helping Michigan residents through the Step Forward Michigan program besides those mentioned above include Jim Buxton, Scott Day, Sharon Jeffery, Mike Krauch, Brenda Long, Julie Moberg, AmeriCorps member Vicki Newcomb, Christine Venema, Beth Waitrovich and Vivian Washington.

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