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Sonia: A Future Chicago Homeowner

Building Credit and Community through Lending Circles at The Resurrection Project

Sonia arrived in Chicago from Puerto Rico one year ago with hopes to turn over a new leaf. As a result of a difficult divorce, her credit report was dotted with blemishes.

A low credit score and considerable debt were keeping Sonia from accessing affordable loan options and achieving an important personal goal: purchasing a home.

In her search for a solution, Sonia discovered my organization, The Resurrection Project (TRP), in a local newspaper.  She learned that TRP provided Lending Circles and became interested in this opportunity to re-establish her credit—so much so that she didn’t mind taking a 45-minute bus drive from the north side of Chicago to our south side neighborhood to meet with me.

Like all Lending Circles participants that come to TRP, Sonia began by meeting with me one-on-one for an initial financial coaching session. Together, we reviewed her monthly income, budget and credit history, and we discovered several discrepancies on her credit report. While we completed her Lending Circles application, she reached out to the credit bureaus to address and resolve these inconsistencies.

At her Lending Circles formation in April, Sonia became a member of Los Ganadores—“The Victors.” As the name implies, Sonia has since won several small victories, leading her closer to her ultimate goal of rebuilding her credit and becoming a homeowner.

Since participating in Lending Circles at TRP, Sonia has increased her credit score by 65 points, decreased her debt by nearly $7,000, and increased her savings by $1,000.

Since joining Los Ganadores, Sonia has not only made significant strides in her personal finances, but she has also gained a new friend. Sonia and Alicia, another participant, connected at their Lending Circles formation and established a beautiful friendship. One wonderful aspect of the TRP Lending Circles program is the sense of community that participants form, both at the start of a circle and beyond. Alicia and Sonia formed a close bond through their Lending Circle. Alicia now volunteers at Sonia’s church food pantry and even joined Sonia at her wedding last May.

Sonia has embarked on the journey to make a new life for herself in Chicago, and we are so happy to support her in reaching her goal. Sonia will be telling her story in her own words at TRP’s next Lending Circles Brunch, where all of our participants come together to share their experiences and celebrate their accomplishments.

About the Author: Madeline Cruz is a Senior Financial Coach at The Resurrection Project (TRP), which offers financial coaching, homeowner education, entrepreneurship support, and immigration services in Chicago, IL. She’s a featured speaker on the panel “True Heroes: Engaging Clients in the Digital Age” at the 2016 Lending Circles Summit.

Building momentum in Chicago

Senior Account Manager Daniel Lau shares his experience on bringing Lending Circles to Chicago

I open an email from our CEO Jose: “Daniel, save March 31 and April 1 – we’re going to Chicago for a Lending Circles presentation!”

All right! I love traveling and haven’t been to Chicago for a few years. With generous support from Chase, we are now on the search for more Lending Circle Partner Providers in Chicago. It’s one of our target service areas and the first of a series of roadshows for 2014 to expand our programs and bring the savings, credit-building, and financial empowerment benefits to more low to moderate-income and recent immigrant communities across the United States.

It’s already been a week since I was in Chicago, but I’m still buzzing with excitement. The presentation went well – we even had people in the audience who are doing an informal Lending Circle help explain how it works! There is a ton of interest and potential from nonprofit groups. I had so many people come up to me at the reception that I didn’t even realize there was a whole other side of the room with more food!

The day after I was able to spend time with one of our newest Lending Circles Partners, the Chinese American Service League in Chicago’s Chinatown.

I sat in on their financial education workshop (my Mandarin listening skills were put to the test), strategized about Lending Circles implementation, got a tour of their offices and Chinatown, and had a delicious dim sum lunch!

Afterwards I moved over to the Pilsen neighborhood to visit The Resurrection Project. A beautiful mural greeted me as I entered the building. I learned about the many hats they wear in the community as a nonprofit property manager, financial education provider, and homeownership extraordinaires. Lending Circles would be a great complement and enhancement to their amazing work.

The Chicago roadshow led to the start of so many great relationships, I can’t wait to see how they grow and build the momentum for Lending Circles and financial capability for our communities.

Next up – Miami!