Archived Story

Niles woman benefits from free financial class

Published 8:59am Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Niles’ Chandra Williams felt helpless about her financial situation.

The 41-year-old single mother of two boys had just lost her job. To make matters worse, her ex-husband wasn’t sending child support payments because he was laid off from his job.

“I felt like I had absolutely no control over my finances,” she said. “It was terrible because I love the feeling of having all my bills paid and, all of a sudden, I was at a point where I was a couple months behind on everything. I panicked.”

Williams said she found the confidence to regain control of her financial situation by taking a free class offered through the Niles District Library called “Making Change.”

The eight-week course taught people how to make informed financial decisions, resolve debt issues and plan for the future.

Williams was one of nine Michiana people who graduated from the course last week. It was offered through a grant from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

Williams said the key moment for her came when she was asked to calculate her monthly expenses. Once she saw how much she spent each month, she knew how much money she needed to make each month. It was a turning point.

“It seems simple, but seeing that number really helped me,” she said. “The number wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I knew I could reach that number. It’s basically about not spending more than you make.”

Williams, who has a degree in textile and fashion design, just started her own apparel company called Lunch Money. Williams uses leather and other sturdy textiles to create small accessories such as purses, covers for phones and tablets, headbands, bracelets and mouse pads. She sells her items using Etsy.com, a large online superstore for artists. It’s a perfect business for her, she said, because it allows her to home school her sons, Alex, 16; and Noah, 10.

Williams said taking the class helped her realize it is possible to support herself and her kids through the new business.

“It was liberating to know I could do it because I’ve been looking for the thing I want to do with my life for quite a few years,” she said. “I finally found something I love to do, and I know I can make it work.”

Williams and eight others received certificates of completion during a graduation ceremony Thursday at a local restaurant.

Laura Hollister, Niles District Library employee, said it was an emotional moment.

“I can’ speak highly enough about all of them and how impressed we are of all of them,” Hollister said. “They are feeling empowered because they know they have choices. They can stand up and make decisions for themselves. They don’t feel helpless anymore.”

“Making Change” was the first part of a four-part financial education series being offered at the Niles District Library. The second part, “Supporting Change,” begins Aug. 8. It is a drop-in coffee/dessert/financial chat at 6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month.

Another eight week “Making Change” course will be offered in September.

Contact the library at (269) 683-8545 for more information.

Also, a personal finance course for young adults will be offered Aug. 19-23 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Niles District Library.

All classes are free.

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