A few days ago, I stopped by our office in the South Bend Heritage Foundation building in 803 Lincoln Way West. I had never personally been there. Lately, we haven’t utilized the office enough, so I decided to stop by. I was confused about how the key fob worked so I rang the front office door. The members of SBHF showed me around the building, and it was nice to see that the office was the way it was. Everyone was really glad to see that we have expanded our operations even more and grew as a company since the last time we really got to talk with them.
I had a chance to really sit and talk with Ms. Aida Walls who is the Financial Literacy Program Manager there. She is extremely knowledgeable in the subject, and mentors individuals, helping them get back on their feet. She and I had a really nice conversation about the importance of financial literacy, and discussed what the best way JIFFI can utilize our FEP program.
She was very helpful in giving out pointers, and we scheduled a follow-up meeting later in the month to see how much it progressed. I am really glad that we were able to re-connect with the South Bend Heritage Foundation. I hope that the partnership between the two can grow stronger over the coming year. One of the biggest thing I see us doing is partnering for financial literacy. Ms. Walls provides counseling and coaching services that are year-long commitments. Our FEP courses aren’t designed to be that long. She talked about how we can work together. By using FEP as an introduction to personal finance, she hopes that more people would come to her to find long-term solutions. I thought this was a great idea.
We recently had a huge rush of clients. I was able to meet with many potential clients. They come from so many different walks of life, and each had a unique story. We also had some repeat clients come back, and it was refreshing to see that our loans made an impact to them, and that they would rather come to us than to a predatory lenders.
My first client meeting was a little rusty, as I hadn’t met with a client since December. I had the Employee Handbook out, helping me go through the whole process. Every meeting after that went by just that much smoother. Each client had such a unique story. I wanted to give them all a loan, but I knew that was not sustainable. Doing this a few times made me really think from a perspective of JIFFI. We have to remember that our mission to serve has to be sustainable.
Some of the phone calls were rough, telling people that they were rejected for a loan. I wish there was something for them, but I understood why we had to turn them down. I was just glad that I was also able to give calls telling some clients that they were approved. I know that our loan made a difference, and that it would go towards a good cause. Those loan dispersement meetings were great. It made me feel great about what I do. It’s all these interactions with clients that motivate me to do more.
I had the opportunity to sit down with many faculty members and community members about JIFFI. Many of them had helped JIFFI one way or another, and many were involved with helping Peter start the organization. Many were both happy and proud to see how far the organization has progressed since its start.
Another of the groups I met with was an accelerator called Invanti. They focus on connecting entrepreneurs with startups that focus on financial inclusion. We met and discussed how Invanti and JIFFI can work together to help each other. We would be connecting with other startups and entrepreneurs to see how we can make the greatest impact in South Bend.
I think it would be really great for us as an organization to connect more with other startups in the nearby area. This network of businesses can refer each other to clients. This has so much potential to better serve South Bend, and I hope that we are able to make a greater impact in the area by helping each other out.
My name is John, and I took over as the summer intern after Selena. It’s been almost four weeks since I started working as the summer intern for JIFFI. Many things happened in the past month, and I figured I would change the style of these blogs and focus on the small things.
Last week, I was able to speak to a group of high school Summer Scholars at Notre Dame taking Professor Connie Mick’s Poverty Studies track. They are spending two weeks at Notre Dame studying a subject, and Professor Mick kindly invited me to talk to the class about JIFFI. I got in contact with Vivian who forwarded me the last year’s presentation. I made some adjustments to the presentation and updated some slides, and presented it to the class.
I talked about the payday industry as a whole, its impact in South Bend, what JIFFI is, and what JIFFI does. The students participated in an online interactive website that gave them a better understanding of some of the issues many of our clients often run into. They also participated in a loan judgement activity. After, we discussed the impact of payday lending, and I was able to answer their questions. I hope that my talk inspired them to pursue their passion, and that they learned something new about microfinance and the importance of community-based non-predatory lenders.