United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley helps make financial counseling available

PARKERSBURG – Helping people get their finances in order is among ways the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley helps the community.

For the past few years one of the agencies receiving help from United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley is the Consumer Credit Counseling Service in Parkersburg.

Shelene Shrewsbury, counseling services supervisor, said the funding allows them to offer classes to the public and not ask for payment up front for other services.

“Our funding allows us to offer a free credit education classes and free budget classes. It has also allowed us to not charge up fro t for counseling services,” she said. “We are able to sit down with somebody and go over the situation. When they are experiencing financial problems the first thing they don’t want to do is pay for a service to help them out of the problem. United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley has allowed to take that off the table.”

Heather Ayers, client services coordinator, said the Consumer Credit Counseling Service in Parkersburg is the only one left in West Virginia. The others have merged with other organizations, she said.

“United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley funding offsets the costs of the classes. It was often hard to find a grant and this has really helped us,” she said. “We’ve started more programs than we had in the past and they are free to public.”

This year, Shrewsbury said the United Way funding was used to begin a student loan counseling program.

“We became certified for this in the last couple months with student loans now outweighing credit card debt in our country,” she said. “It is what we felt we needed to begin focusing on as an agency.”

Shrewsbury and Ayers said the funding has helped the Consumer Credit Counseling Service upgrade its facilities and equipment to help them access programs.

“Within the last few years it has been all around nice to have a nice professional office space and it has increased our equipment abilities,” she said.

Shrewsbury said being part of the United Way has allowed the to network and that allows them to help more people.

“We have met up with other agencies so we can trade off resources and make referrals,” she said. “It has created a network with groups like Community Resources, Voice of the Streets, the Circles campaign and the Community Service Council.”

Now Consumer Credit Counseling Service help with more than just debt programs.

“We have always been a resource referral agency,” Shrewsbury said. “So if we see there is an option that can assist a client along with what we are doing here, we are definitely going to refer that client or can assist beyond what we can do.”

Recently Consumer Credit Counseling Service participated in their first Day of Action by painting at Jefferson Elementary Center. Consumer Credit Counseling Service was one of 13 non-profit agencies working that day.

Shrewsbury said the Consumer Credit Counseling Service in Parkersburg was established in 1971 and on Sept. 8 will celebrate the 45th anniversary with a dinner at the Parkersburg Art Center. All proceeds go back to the agency to provide education, an awareness campaign, will help them not have to charge clients up front and give them resources so they can point people in the right direction if their needs are beyond what they can handle.