Cathoilc News Service
Molly O’Donnell, program manager of Financial Wellness Services at Catholic Charities. Behind her is a photo of her four boys. Single parenthood for her, she says, was a crash course in financial responsibility.
 
Cathoilc News Service
Molly O’Donnell, program manager of Financial Wellness Services at Catholic Charities. Behind her is a photo of her four boys. Single parenthood for her, she says, was a crash course in financial responsibility.
 

For Molly O’Donnell, being a single mother of four sons prepared her well for her current occupation. As program manager of Catholic Charities’ Financial Wellness Services, she seeks to empower people to achieve and maintain a healthy financial perspective and lifestyle.

And the need is growing.

With increasing rents throughout the city, calls for emergency rent assistance continue to climb. The program provides emergency assistance, but also equips those in need with financial literacy tools and coaching.

“A lot of the people who come in or are referred to us haven’t figured out how to save,” said O’Donnell. “We try to teach them how money affects our lives, how to reduce debt and how to have a positive attitude about any financial situation.”

The program also manages two financial emergency programs for both Providence Health and Services employees and for Molly’s Fund, a group that serves those struggling with the disease Lupus.

O’Donnell says that assistance is great, but the main goal of the Financial Wellness Services is to give people the confidence and independence to cope with any financial episode of their lives.

Budgeting, sources of income, reducing debt, bilingual assistance in Spanish, even a matching savings program (Individual Development Account, IDA) are available.

O’Donnell provides the financial wellness coaching along with a team of volunteers — and they are always looking for more. Their client base comes from referrals from places like Easter Seals, St. Vincent de Paul, senior centers, parishes, and other Catholic Charities’ programs like Refugee Resettlement.

April Ehrlich was a young AmeriCorps Vista volunteer serving in Portland. When she became interested in purchasing a home, she knew she needed help.

“I was working for a program that developed IDAs for small businesses, but I was curious about Catholic Charities’ IDAs for home ownership,” said Ehrlich.

Now a journalist in Ontario, Oregon, she says the financial wellness coaching was what she truly benefitted from.

“I learned how to organize my finances to plan a month ahead of time,” said Ehrlich. “What surprised me most was the fact that I should get an emergency savings first, and then pay off my credit cards. I learned a lot.”

She also got in touch with her desire to purchase a home. Growing up a in a single parent household all her life, she never stayed in the same home for more than two years. The classes helped her adjust her financial goals to match her need for a sense of permanence.

Deacon Brett Edmonson at Holy Trinity Parish in Beaverton has referred parishioners to the program — usually those who have had a hard time paying bills.

“It really turned into a bit of a conversion experience for one person,” said Edmonson. “As well as helping her to get her financials in order, she truly learned the purpose of money and reflected on how she was using it. When we’re saddled with debt, buying more can become a real trap.”

Edmonson says he’ll continue to refer parishioners to the program. It’s even caused him to reflect upon his own life.
“There is a freedom to living within our means and having the capacity to give back to others,” he said.

The next Financial Wellness Basics classes are scheduled for Saturday, April 25 and Saturday, May 30. Call Molly O’Donnell at 503-688-2665 for more information.