YWCA launches new program

The YWCA Northcentral PA is empowering domestic violence survivors through a new match savings program aimed at helping survivors reach career-oriented goals.

This unique opportunity helps those who have experienced domestic and financial abuse to build a new skill and habit of banking, explained Diane Hake, lead case manager for YWCA – where about 80 percent of homeless women have experienced domestic violence in their lives.

“Often survivors have not had access to money or banking and this program requires them to work together with us to create a pattern of saving,” Hake said.

The first step to being part of the program is completing the Financial Empowerment Curriculum, which Liberty House piloted through a $10,000 grant from the PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence via an AllState Economic Empowerment Grant. Any domestic violence survivor seeking services through the YWCA is eligible to complete the curriculum.

“The program is taught through the eyes of a domestic violence survivor,” Hake said. “It teaches individuals skills that may have been denied to them. Often, domestic abuse includes being excluded from banking and money decisions.”

Upon completion of the course, participants can sit down with a case manager to identify a goal that will help them toward a job and a career. Goals can include saving for new tires for a car, a washing machine to launder work uniforms, a new laptop, bicycle or other appropriate item.

Participants in the program can set their savings goal to save up to $300 over the course of at least four months. “We want to see them establish a pattern of savings,” Hake said. “We want them to get into the habit of walking into the bank, building that relationship.”

After the initial financial goal has been met, the YWCA will match their savings amount 1:1, up to $300.

The money they have been saving, the participant must then price out the item they wish to buy and contact their caseworker.

“Then we will contact Woodlands and have them write a third-party check to the store where they want to make the purchase,” Hake said.

Woodlands Bank in downtown Williamsport has partnered with the YWCA to make this program a reality.

Shelly Hepler, Woodlands Bank Vice President of County Banking, recognized the benefit of the program. “Woodlands bank is extremely excited to have been given the opportunity to partner with the YWCA by creating the “Match Savings Account” product,” Hepler said. “We are always seeking new opportunities to get involved in the betterment of our community, and this request was a perfect fit. We were honored to be asked to join hands with the YWCA in this very worthy project.”

The benefit of the program, according to Hake, is teaching a valuable life skill that has been denied to domestic violence survivors.

“We want to empower these individuals to reach their own goals, as well as teach them to pay themselves first to become sustainably self-sufficient,” she said.