YNDC ‘Springboard’ Counseling Program Gets $25,000 Boost from Premier

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A $25,000 grant from Premier Bank will help Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. continue its work in helping residents build the foundation of a stable financial future. 

“Getting people financially stable is the springboard for everything else. If they come in for counseling, we may refer them to our healthy eating programs,” said Tiffany Sokol, housing director for YNDC. “We may point them to a place where they can rent a better property. We may get them to the point where they can buy a home, which goes right alongside our work in home renovations and our work with banks to get people financed.”

Sokol joined YNDC Executive Director Ian Beniston and housing counselor Stacy Costley, along with Premier Bank Mahoning Valley regional president Frank Hierro and community development officer Lee Fields, for a check presentation Tuesday. 

“We’ve found that the money we’re able to invest into the organization pays huge dividends. They do a great job of rehabilitation. They identify needs in the neighborhoods. They take action. They have a great network of volunteers and workers,” Hierro said. “They do so much with the dollars they receive and we’re proud to support them year in and year out.”

Part of the reason for Premier’s long-standing support of Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., Fields added, is because of its work beyond just getting residents lined up to buy a home.

“We talk about sustainability, so when someone buys a home, we want them to keep the home, handle any small repairs and maintain their home,” he said. “A lot of people don’t have a clue about what it takes to be a homeowner. Budgeting, savings, your credit all ties in and wraps it up with a pretty bow. If you have that down pat, then the chances are you’ll have a bright future.”

The $25,000 will support YNDC’s Community Financial Empowerment Initiative, which provides one-on-one counseling to help participants improve their credit and finances with the goal of getting them ready to move into better housing, whether it be buying a home or getting a better space to rent. 

“Housing counselors work with people on an individual basis, putting together a work plan with things like a budget and any credit issues. It takes time,” Beniston said. “Some people are in it for months, some for years. Clients have to participate and put in work.”

One of the most recent success stories, Sokol added, is a client who started working with her in 2014 – the year the Community Financial Empowerment Initiative was launched. After six years of work to improve her credit and finances, the client got the keys to her first home on Christmas Eve last year.

“It took several years to reach her goal,” Sokol said. “If they stick with it, we’re next to them the entire way.”

Over the past year, YNDC’s housing counseling work has been more in-demand, Beniston and Sokol said. Housing prices, for both renters and buyers, have increased “fairly significantly,” the executive director said, which in turn made the need for financial guidance greater.

But work wasn’t just driven by clients seeing their budgets tighten, Sokol said. After stimulus payments were made in the spring and winter, YNDC saw a surge in interest.

“They’ve gotten checks from the government and want to make sure they’re using it wisely and investing in their future,” she said. “People want to improve their quality of life, whether it’s getting into a better rental or a home.”

Also helping was YNDC’s pivot away from in-person meetings. Since clients could talk to their counselor over the phone and no longer needed to drive to their monthly appointment at the nonprofit’s headquarters just off Glenwood Avenue, attendance rose. 

“It worked out for a lot of our clients. Having the convenience of phone counseling allowed them to do it from home,” she said.

Pictured: YNDC housing director Tiffany Sokol, YNDC housing counselor Stacy Costley and YNDC Executive Director Ian Beniston joined Premier Bank regional president Frank Hierro and community development officer Lee Fields for a check presentation April 6.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.