Program helps provide financial assistance

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

Most people could use a little help when it comes to managing money and that’s part of the reason why the Northern Shenandoah Valley Financial Education Program is around. The program encompasses the Northern Shenandoah Valley and classes are held at different times and locations throughout the year.

“The six-lesson class series is called “Managing Your Money” and is open to adults of any age and older teens,” said Karen Poff, who is a senior extension agent with Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Recently, classes began at Lord Fairfax Community College. There are six classes, which are 90 minutes each. The first class is on personal finances. The second one is understanding credit. That is followed by classes on developing a spending and savings plan and traditional and non-traditional banking.

The fifth class is on insurance and recordkeeping. Participants receive a certificate of completion after five classes. Those classes may qualify for credit toward the financial education requirements of organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and other nonprofit groups. The sixth class, which is about getting out of debt, is optional. Cost for the classes is $10, but the fee can be waived with a voucher from a community organization.

The whole series is done to help area residents take control of their personal finances. Each session will include a list of steps to help participants apply what they learn to their own situation.

Participants can also mix and match classes in different locations to complete the series.

“The format of this series allows participants the opportunity to take the classes at their own pace, to easily make up missed sessions, and to meet the requirements some organizations have for financial education,” Poff said.

Poff said that the classes are open to adults of any age and older teens. To sign up for classes, participants should e-mail Poff at kpoff@vt.edu and they will be placed on an email list to receive the quarterly class schedule.

Recently the program trained volunteers in Warren County.

“We train volunteers, called Master Financial Education Volunteers, to provide financial education to local residents in a variety of ways: classes, individual/family mentoring, presentations for community groups, programs in schools,” Poff said. “We held a volunteer training in Shenandoah County last winter for 12 volunteers who are now teaching classes, mentoring and working on other projects. Our second volunteer training series, which was held in Front Royal, ended June 30. So, those volunteers are now available to provide financial education.”

They will be taking more volunteers for the program starting in mid-September in Warren, Shenandoah and Page Countie, and anyone interested can contact Poff at kpoff@vt.edu or (540) 635-4549.

Training topics include: values and goal setting, communication with learning partners, financial record keeping, identity theft and more. The volunteers help in all aspects of the program. Volunteers who prefer not to receive in-depth training can get involved in other ways such as helping with data entry, preparing exhibits and promotional materials and assisting with special events.

Contact Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com