Financially Fit: Helping others become self-sufficient


Anita Martinez
Manager, Greater Detroit Center for Working Families
United Way for Southeastern Michigan
The Greater Detroit Centers for Working Families work to help individuals and families gain self-sufficiency.

In two days, my five kids will wake me up before the sun rises, begging to open their Christmas presents. I’ll hop out of bed to go make coffee while my husband gets the video camera ready to capture the big day.

The holidays always provide me with an opportunity to reflect on my blessings and remember those who are in need and struggling. As a lifelong-Detroit resident, my experiences -- and the experiences of my family and neighbors -- are what keep me motivated as the manager of the Greater Detroit Centers for Working Families. I am committed to helping people become financially stable, and it’s become more than “just a job.”

The year after I graduated from high school and was about to enter college, the Detroit Newspaper Agency went on strike. My father, who worked 15 years in the newspaper business, was suddenly struggling with paying the mortgage and grocery bills – let alone finding the cash for my college tuition. 

I had to figure out how I was going to pay for my education. Those years weren’t glamorous. Balancing school full time while holding down a job was not easy, but that experience has helped me in my current role working in Financial Stability at United Way.

I understand first hand that many individuals and families work two jobs and still struggle. In this economy, unexpected bills or an illness can force a family to choose between buying groceries or paying the electric bill.  

When my father returned to work, I remember overhearing my parents talk about money, and it bothered me to know they struggled. I made a decision then to understand what it meant to be financially stable and help others get back on the path to self-sufficiency.

At the Centers for Working Families, our mission is to help people better manage their finances and improve their outlook. In partnership with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), we work to help families earn it, keep it and grow it.

When a client comes to one of our 9 centers, he or she meets with a coach for an assessment. Each center is a bit different, but clients can get help creating a budget and tracking spending; learn about financial credits and available benefits, such as the EITC and SNAP; and get job training.

The Greater Detroit Centers for Working Families was created in 2008. For clients in the program, the success has been outstanding.  Three years’ worth of Greater Detroit CWF data indicates that a total of 70.5% of clients who received services improved their net income, net worth and/or credit score. It's clear that clients find success when they are matched with financial assistance, workforce and income supports.

This year, my Christmas wish is that you and your family enjoy the holidays. Sometimes, the best gift you can give someone is knowledge. If you know someone who is struggling financially, I encourage you to check out the Greater Detroit Centers for Working Families.