Kristina is a single mom to two teenage boys. She eventually found herself in a tough situation, where she had acquired a lot of debt over the years. She thought she would never be able to pay it all off.

Kristina had always had an interest in homeownership, but like many others thought that she would never be able to realize such a dream on a single household income. She began to feel hopeful, though, when one of her single-mom friends told her about the success she’d had with Interfaith Housing Alliance’s (IHA) Purchase Repair Homeownership program - and that it all started with an IHA workshop called the Credit Cafe. That was all Kristina needed to hear.

Kristina now believes, “Everyone should attend the Credit Café so that they can learn how to manage their credit. Financial freedom is an amazing feeling, knowing you can get better rates, save money, and get out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. So, everyone should go to the Credit Café to learn ways to pay off debt and increase those credit scores.”

Kristina knew her first step to homeownership was to pay off her debt, so she made the leap. In April 2018, she attended IHA’s Credit Café where she participated in a group workshop to learn general tips and tricks for improving and building her credit score. Afterwards, she met one-on-one with a credit advisor who guided her on how to apply the tips and tricks she learned in the workshop to increase her personal credit score and decrease her debt quickly.

Kristina’s journey to financial freedom did not come easy. It required even more sacrifice before she could begin reaping the benefits. She began picking up extra hours at her job, persevering through long work hours and saving up money to pay down her debts. She started introducing the Credit Café’s tips and tricks into her everyday spending habits and became a member of IHA’s first-ever monthly Single Moms group.

Just nine months later, Kristina returned to the Credit Café where her advisor delivered some great news: She was able to pay off $2,402 in outstanding debt and raise her credit score from 578 to 637. This amazing accomplishment in such a short period of time is a true inspiration to others out there with similar stories and experiences.

“I haven't purchased a home quite yet and I had to seek pre-approval through another lender. But this wouldn't have been made possible if it wasn't for me attending the Credit Cafés. I have become so knowledgeable on how to control my credit score and it keeps climbing.” IHA advisors have no doubt that Kristina will achieve her dream of homeownership after all she has already accomplished with her finances.

Credit Café started in 2015 as a one-time workshop. IHA now operates it at least once every month at locations across Frederick County. Anyone in the community with any financial goal in mind is welcome to attend Credit Café at no cost to them. Just like Kristina, participants will receive credit-related guidance through a one-hour group workshop and a 30-minute, one-on-one advising session.

IHA is continuously seeking experienced financial advisors to volunteer their time and expertise. To register or volunteer for a Credit Café, contact Lacy Ames at 301-788-0239 or lames@interfaithhousing.org. Donations to the Unity Campaign will go directly to participants. Every $25 raised covers the cost of running a credit report, and $50 also covers a personalized credit advising session – just like Kristina received.

To make a donation, text UnityFrederick94 to 71777 or visit IHA’s Unity Campaign online.

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