Every day can be a terrible grind for those in poverty, for those who are living paycheck-to-paycheck, for those who don’t, or can’t, make enough to get by, to feed their families. Getting ahead financially can seem impossible. Enter, The Whatcom Dream. The Whatcom Dream’s mission is to reduce the poverty rate in Whatcom County, to educate those in need in financial literacy, and to break the cycle of poverty and debt that leads to so much despair in our community. Executive Director Trudy Shuravloff said, “It’s hard for those in poverty to dream when they have been struggling for so long. We encourage them to dream again.”
The Whatcom Dream’s financial literacy classes are a series broken into two parts. The series includes ten weeks of in-depth financial counseling, education and goal-setting, which includes home ownership, a college education, debt relief and other goals. The topics covered in the second part of the series are budgeting, debt 101, insurance, investing and banking. The Whatcom Dream also offers a workshop called Understanding Poverty (Bridges Out of Poverty) based on the Ruby Payne curriculum. Ruby Payne is the author of A Framework for Understanding Poverty and works as a consultant for groups like Whatcom Dream, who want to bring financial literacy to people in need.
The programs they offer aren’t a cure-all to poverty. Shuravloff says that they offer a program for participants to find a new way of organizing their finances by taking a close look at the obstacles they have, and finding ways to overcome the hurdles that contribute to poverty. Lack of education, housing issue, debt and other financial considerations are difficult to overcome. Whatcom Dream ensures that budgets are set realistically, tailoring them to the participants’ lifestyles. Participants create a visual collage board that represents important areas in their lives such as family, education and hobbies, and then focus on how to adjust their family budget to accommodate some growth and achieve goals.
The Whatcom Dream also offers a holiday program to families. The Christmas Toy Store offers families a chance to shop for their children at a significantly reduced rate of 75 percent off retail prices. The proceeds are used to help support the financial literacy classes that are open throughout the year. The Christmas Toy store is open one day only, December 13 at Roosevelt Elementary School. Free childcare is provided to allow adults to shop, with wrapping stations on-site, a Santa visit, tasty treats, and music provided by the school choir. Families can find high-quality toys that don’t require batteries, clothing, gift cards and other items. These items are donated by community partners and individuals.
Creating dreams out of despair, The Whatcom Dream is helping our community become healthier, safer and happier.