All it Takes is a Big Heart

Syvertson

When Baby Mason was born, he was in urgent need of medical care for respiratory issues and was later diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome. His stay in the neonatal intensive care unit was preceded by his placement in the state foster care system at birth. Ill and alone, the tiny baby needed someone to love and care for him. When Amy and Mark Syvertson learned of little Mason’s plight, they welcomed the chance to care for him as his foster parents. For the Syvertsons, fostering is a way of life.

Continue reading

Shedding Stress by Shedding Student Loan Debt

3760_52ssg_combined2-2
LSS Financial Counselor Katie Eastman, back, works with Julie Killian on student loan repayment.

Only months away from a wedding to her husband-to-be, Julie Killian should have been spending time talking to wedding planners and making sure every last detail of her special day was in order. Instead, she was spending time on the phone with debt collectors, trying to remedy a problem with her loan.

Ten years earlier, Julie was working her way through school. To relieve some financial pressure, she co-signed a loan with her then husband. Always diligent about making sure every duck was in a row, especially the kind with bills to be paid, she made good on each monthly installment — even after she and her husband got divorced and the loan stayed in his name.

Without a hitch, years of payments went by until Julie got a notice from her bank stating that the loan had been forgiven. The language in the notice led her to believe she could stop making payments. Julie assumed everything was fine until she got a phone call from her ex-husband saying that payments weren’t being made and his credit score was severely impacted. Continue reading

Finding the Key to Financial Success

Every morning, Ann counts the blessings she’s received as a wife, mother and a director at a long-term care facility in Brainerd. The job she loves does not pay much, but it always covered her family’s needs. Then, when unexpected death shook Ann’s family, she was suddenly unable to pay her bills on time, most notably on a $10,000 student loan she took out more than 20 years ago.

Always the responsible borrower, she immediately called her student loan servicer to discuss alternative repayment plans.  But, instead of helpful advice she received some unsettling news. On top of the payments she still had to make, her current interest balance was $24,000 – nearly twice as much as the original loan.

“I was in complete disbelief,” Ann said. “I was diligently making payments and thought I was making progress, only to find out I was going backwards instead of forward. It was devastating.”

Thinking of her family first, Ann was determined to find a way to redirect her pathway to financial stability. First, she had to understand what caused the backlog of loan payments and how she could reduce the pileup of bills, and her stress.  The search for answers led her to Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS of MN), where she found expert help from certified financial counselors.

“The minute we started talking, I felt like I wasn’t walking through the weeds alone anymore,” Ann said. “Finally, someone more knowledgeable was going to guide me through what happened and help figure out my options so that I could make the best decisions for my family and me.”

Together, Ann and her counselor, Katie, pored over her payment history, finding that with monthly payments of nearly two hundred dollars, her principal balance was reduced only slightly. In fact, her balance was getting bigger, not smaller. Ann’s shock grew after learning that in order to pay off her loan completely in less than ten years, she would have to double her current monthly payments.

“It felt like a situation that would get worse before it got better,” Ann said. “But Katie showed me some things to do that would put me in the right direction and make sure I kept moving upward.”

The key to Ann’s success, Katie said, is rearranging her budget to make room for her new repayment plan.  They discussed changes to her spending habits, including reducing non-necessities like eating at restaurants or hitting the coffee shop. They also talked about small ways to make her income grow, like saving whatever she can afford, even five dollars a month, and setting it aside in a separate saving account.

“All of these are small changes, but there is no doubt they will make a big difference in Ann’s ability to reach her goal of paying off her loan in under 10 years,” said Katie Eastman, Financial Counselor with LSS of MN. “She left our appointment equipped with more knowledge and the tools she needs to succeed.”

Today, Ann is staying the course to meet her goal, and is once again thankful for where she is in life. “Had I not come in for an appointment at LSS, who knows how much more the balance on my loan would have increased without being aware. I am so grateful for the help I received in managing my finances. I’m not so worried for my family’s future anymore.”

If you, or someone you know, is facing student loan debt, it is a good idea to meet with a student loan counselor to create an action plan like Ann did. LSS financial counselors can help with consolidation, determining the best repayment option, if you’re eligible for loan forgiveness and avoiding default. For more information, call 888-577-2227 to schedule a free phone, Skype, or in-person student loan repayment counseling session.

Jeff Finds His Best Life

Jeff.png

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota is a leader in person-centered planning, helping people with disabilities gain clarity around what is possible for their futures. “This self-discovery process gives people control over things they desire and find satisfying,” said Betsy Gadbois, program director for LSS. “It’s important to listen because the people we support know best about what they want in their lives.”

Continue reading

Volunteer honored for her commitment to children and families in Minneapolis

sandy-munson

Sandy Munson has been volunteering as an Ambassador for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS of MN) for six years, but her connection to the organization as a volunteer extends back to 1970. In her role as Ambassador, Sandy learned about organizational impact and found innovative ways to connect her congregation, Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Maple Grove, to LSS’ work in community.

Now, Sandy is the 2016 recipient of the Heritage Quilt Award. This award, a handmade quilt purchased by members of the  Executive Leadership team, recognizes the outstanding efforts of LSS of MN volunteers who share their time and unique talents to deepen mission impact and build stronger community.

Continue reading

A Source of Encouragement and Hope

Chante.png

Chanté Liddell is a polished Spoken Word artist and proud working mother at a nonprofit where she helps others find good-paying jobs to support their families.Having lived through housing instability as a child and lots of family heartache, she is a great source of encouragement and hope.

“People who have fallen on hard times really connect with me because I was there,” she said.

As a young child, Chanté remembers a happy family life that slowly started to unravel. “It was just a matter of time before my father drank himself to death,” Chanté shared.

In third grade, Chanté also had a secret she was too embarrassed to tell her friends: she was living in a shelter. “I didn’t want to be judged. I just wanted to be a kid living a normal life.”

Continue reading