A free credit repair workshop at the Crohan Community Center tomorrow from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. aims to help and educate people about credit and give them the tools and knowledge to obtain or repair credit or attain higher credit scores, something experts say is critical to achieve financial stability.
The event, sponsored and led by the Buttefly Effect Project, and supported by Riverside Rediscovered, Family Community Life Center, ASCEND Homes & Community Foundation and the Homeowners Assistance Program targets local residents who have future plans to buy a home, and will also provide advice on how to manage debt in relation to credit, among other things.
“The goal is to assist the community with real problems, so they are empowered enough to be able to buy a home or a car, and realize how much credit impacts their lives,” BEP founder and director Tijuana Fulford said.
“People [have] to work on prevention rather than intervention,” she said.
There’s perhaps no better example in today’s urban lore to understand the power of a good credit score than a scene from the movie “Magic Mike,” explained The Beauty of Credit founder and credit repair expert Danielle Gaspard, who will be teaching tomorrow’s workshop.
In the movie, the main character, played by Channing Tatum, goes into a bank to ask for a small business loan, but, to his surprise, he gets rejected for his low credit score. He then pushes a sack full of money towards the officer, telling her he has the financial backing needed. But since the credit score is the most important factor in any kind of loan application, his poor score causes him to be rejected again, It’s a harsh truth that, like Tatum’s character, many learn the hard way.
“There’s an ugly side to credit,” said Gaspard, who will graduate with a Master’s degree in Business Administration next month. “High interest rates, not being able to buy a home, getting denied, even getting a good job…it’s hard and the bottom line is that credit is power.”
That’s something Riverhead resident Tina Kennedy, a former bus matron who now works in child care, found out the hard way last year.
She just had gone to buy a car and when the dealership came back with an offer, the payments were so high, she couldn’t afford it.
She says she remembers thinking to herself “something has to change,” and when her friend suggested a credit repair workshop in Bellport, she jumped at the chance.
“Credit is basically about money: budgeting, teaching your children how to manage money and educating yourself about your finances,” said Gaspard, who taught Kennedy.
“It’s the best thing I ever did,” Kennedy said. “I went from having a 459 credit score to 650 now. I feel so happy.”
Kennedy said that she learned there about paying bills on time and about late fees, and secure cards and other ways to improve her credit. She said that she knew it wouldn’t be an overnight change, but working hard at it and seeing her credit score getting higher as the months passed made her feel “more productive” and in control, she said.
“I’m the first one in my family to have a regular credit card now and that makes me feel great,” she said. “We didn’t know anything about credit or how it worked. We were always struggling.”
This time, when she went to trade in her car, the payments were just right. “The car salesman was amazed at the change,” she said.
Curtis Highsmith, executive director of ASCEND Homes & Community, the nonprofit arm of the Southampton Town Housing Authority, said annual credit checks are vital to keep a “healthy credit” and that when it comes to housing, it is even more important.
“Just like with your health, you need to monitor your credit at all ages,” he said. “It’s not only buying a house, even for rentals now they are doing credit and background checks.”
Recently the Town of Southampton broke ground on Speonk Commons and will soon break ground onSandy Hollow Cove apartments, which are both workforce housing projects, Highsmith said.
“We are ready to build, develop and sell to first-time home buyers,” he said. In addition, “There are 12 houses in the Flanders and Riverside areas that are ready and we have five more that we are planning to do.”
Fulford said that the workshop tomorrow is free, and the first 15 to 20 people that sign up for the program will receive two months of free credit repair guidance from The Beauty of Credit, courtesy of BEP. All others will have to pay $25 per month.
The Butterfly Effect Project plans to expand the workshop to other locations on the East End as soon as possible, Fulford said.