April 24, 2018, Providence, RI — Stephanie Jones-Pringle had just returned from a week’s vacation and the line waiting to welcome her back was practically down the hall.
“We’ll get it straightened out,” she shouts out to one of her well-wishers who is trying to get a pass to travel to another state for the weekend. “Your mom wants to see you.”
Jones-Pringle, Financial Coach at Amos House, starts to reach toward her computer to turn it on for the first time that day when another client steps in. “I’m so proud of you,” she says as she looks through the graduation pictures on his phone. “You worked hard for this, you should be as proud as I am.”
As her clients stop in, she offers words of encouragement and advice, and has a superhuman recollection of each person’s situation. “Dennis, how is that class coming? You’ll do well, just keep at it.” “Markus, don’t worry, I’ve got you scheduled for tomorrow at noon.” “Maria, did you send in that $50. Awesome, that’s terrific.”
It’s obvious that Stephanie Jones-Pringle provides more than financial coaching to her clients. It’s her care and concern that help her deliver the life-changing financial literacy lessons she teaches through the LISC Financial Opportunity Center at Amos House.
“This is a dream job for me,” says Jones-Pringle, “and the love of the people keeps me going.”
After a degree in Human Services, Jones-Pringle spent her early years working in the field in New York City, but family demands meant a transition to the world of mutual funds. Spending more than ten years working on Wall Street means she is well prepared for anything her clients might come up with.
“The program is making a dramatic impact on people,” she says. “Developing your financial literacy is a critical component for anyone to be successful. When you’re in the middle of one of life’s little bumps, it’s even more important.”
LISC has adopted a multi-pronged approach to improve the financial wellbeing of low-income families nationwide and has created the Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) model, in place in Rhode Island through partnerships with Amos House, Genesis Center and the Providence Housing Authority. The FOC model is based on the Center for Working Families model originally developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Nationally the program is implemented through a network of 80 Financial Opportunity Centers in 30 cities across the country, where clients get steady, living-wage employment, learn ways to boost their credit rating and increase both net income and net worth. Centers do this by offering three main services which are bundled together: one-on-one financial counseling, employment assistance, and help accessing public benefits that supplement income from work.
The strategy is powerful. According to a study by the Economic Mobility Corporation, FOC participants have greater success in meeting their financial goals than do people in programs offering employment assistance alone.
The FOC model includes education and individual financial coaching focused on solving specific problems, planning for financial stability, and connecting individuals to financial service providers, financial vehicles for saving and building credit, as well as delivering free tax preparation services if clients need it. Income support counselors help families navigate public benefit systems’ complex eligibility and enrollment processes in order to access benefits to supplement income.
After six years of delivering the program at Amos House, Stephanie Jones-Pringle sees first-hand how it works for her clients.
“I have been blessed to have this job and I hear from the people who have been through the program all the time,” says Jones-Pringle. “I got a call from a woman who was a client three years ago to tell me she was approved for a mortgage. Three years ago that would not have been anywhere near the realm of possibility.”
She says that’s just one of many success stories she savors but she’s always focused on the needs at hand. As she sits at a desk surrounded by case files, she can point out that each has a specific and critical need that calls for attention.
“There are huge success stories and a couple of bumpy rides,” says Jones-Pringle. “But the need is dramatic, and ongoing.
“Every night when I go home, I replay my day. Did I work as hard as I can; did I treat everyone the same,” asks Jones-Pringle. “It’s the love of the people that helps me keep at it – and the hope for more success stories that keep me going.”