Thursday, July 20, 2017

Meet the Staff: Sarah Cornwall

What drew you to Origin SC originally? And how has the organization changed since?

I was looking to do service with Americorps VISTA and when Origin SC offered me a marketing position I jumped at the chance to be in a position that allowed me to be creative. 

From then to now SO MUCH has changed, as I’ve learned is common with nonprofits. Since I first started we’ve added and expanded programs, and it’s been exciting to see those programs develop and further serve our community. My favorite big change was rolling out an entire brand new website, I loved being able to see what that process was like, second would be our rebranding!

What has surprised you the most about working at Origin SC?

How big of an impact we make. From our Representative Payee, Conservator, and Homeless Prevention programs, to our Financial Education and Homeownership programs, it is truly wonderful how many individuals we help keep stable. I would of never known that these services were being provided in the community had I not been employed with Origin SC. Working for Origin SC also introduced me to other amazing nonprofits in the area and all they do to serve our community.

What is an experience that has really shaped who you are? 

I have so many, but I think my first life shaping experience was in high school doing a “Homestay” abroad program. Living with another family in a different country gave me new perspectives and set off a chain of decisions that has brought me to where and who I am today.

How has Origin SC helped you in your career development?

I would have never thought of entering into technology for my career, but that is the path I am currently on and it wouldn’t be so without Origin SC! They gave me the opportunity and challenge to take over their IT operations and I am so glad they did. 

What is the one thing in this world you are most proud of?

I think sticking on my current career path with technology; it’s a long and often confusing road. Narrowing down a specialty field and career in technology can be daunting. There is always learning to be done and it can feel overwhelming and unattainable on some days, but I’ve managed so far and I’m excited to see where this path will take me!

Robo-advisors: The Future of Investing

Studies show that more people are showing interest in beginning to save for retirement at a younger age. This is great, but many financial advisors refuse to meet with clients under a certain income level. Oftentimes, this income requirement is astronomical for the average worker. Some advisors require that clients have $50,000-$100,000 ready to invest before they will even speak to them.

Early investing is key for higher returns. But without the access to professional advice, many young investors have no idea where to begin. To solve this problem, robo-advisors were introduced in 2008. Robo-advisors are automated, online portfolio management services. They use computer algorithms to manage client investments and are much cheaper than a human financial advisor. Robo-advisors were initially created in response to the financial crisis of 2008 and to keep up with the movement toward online financial platforms. Robo-advisors can translate to higher net returns for beginner investors by automatically balancing portfolios and harvesting tax-loss. 

Some robo-advisors are totally automated, while some are partially managed by human advisors. There is a wide spectrum of human involvement between different investment companies—all at varying price points for the investor.

The first investment companies to roll out robo-advising software were Betterment and Wealthfront. Betterment has a management fee of 0.25% - 0.5% with no account minimum to begin. Wealthfront has lower management fees of 0% - 0.25% but requires a $500 account minimum to open.

In 2010, FutureAdvisor rolled out. FutureAdvisor links client’s investment and retirement accounts wherever they are and provides a free investment plan. This allows investors to use other servicers (where they did not receive complimentary financial advice) and does not require investors to move their assets. The catch? FutureAdvisor has higher end management fee of 0.5% and requires a minimum balance of $10,000 or more.

There are many pros to robo-advisors including low management fees, low balance minimums, nobel price-winning algorithms, and their ability to expand the investment market to those who might not otherwise be consider for financial advice. However, some cons of the technology include the inability to have face-to-face assurance when making financial decisions and less ability to have a more personalized plan.

Overall, robo-advisors can be a great option for those who want to begin investing, but aren’t sure how to begin. It is important to begin investing early and the fees and income requirements of some human advisors make that difficult. Contact Origin to begin your path to financial stability. We can help you lay the foundation to pay off debt, improve your credit, and set up your budget to be able to start down the investment path. Click here to learn more or call 843-735-7802.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Meet the Staff: Adrienne Wynn


In 2008, I was seeking an administrative assistant position in the Charleston area. I applied with Family Services Inc (now Origin) as an operator for our client hotline. My interviewer and now Director was my customer at a previous place of employment and had no idea that I applied for the position! You never know whose watching. Here I am 8 years later and loving it! 

What has surprised you the most about working at Origin SC?

What surprises me the most about working for Origin is the feeling that I have when I am able to be a part of helping someone achieve his or her goals. Individuals who come into my office with no hope at all leave with the information, tools, and determination to make it to the finish line. The nervous feeling that I get with every customer as if it is my first customer is mind blowing. I am able to step out of myself and do whatever it takes to make their dream a reality. 

What is an experience that has really shaped who you are? 

Working with Origin has been a great experience and has played a huge part in shaping me to be the person that I am today. It’s not about me….It about the customers that I meet on a daily basis. 

How has Origin SC helped you in your career development?

Origin has been a great help in my career development. From a phone operator I never thought that I would be assisting individuals towards their dreams.  

What is the one thing in this world you are most proud of?

I am very proud of myself. I would not change a thing about my journey, Origin SC has witnessed me change as a person, a mom, a renter to a homeowner, a college graduate and most importantly a person that wants to see everyone that walks into our office succeed. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Potential Changes for Student Borrowers: What you need to know

Recently, President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced a plan to revamp the student loan repayment process. Read on to learn what this means for new borrowers and those in repayment.

Currently there are over 44 million individuals in the United States repaying a total of $1.4 trillion in student loans. The majority of this debt is in the form of federal loans with being serviced by nine different companies. Many do not understand the terms of their loan when they are first borrowing and others are unaware of the options that they have for repayment once they leave school.

The biggest proposed change would be that all federal loans would be serviced by one company. There are currently four companies bidding to be the provider: Navient, Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (or American Education Services and FedLoan Servicing) and Nelnet and Great Lakes Educational Loan Services (submitting a contract together). Having just one servicer would allow the federal government to better monitor the quality of customer service and support for borrowers. It is also suggested that the new plan could save taxpayers up to $130 million over the course of the next five years.

Critics worry that having a single servicer could give too much power to one company. Whatever firm is granted the contract would have significant impact on the financial situations for all of the 44 million Americans in student debt. They would have the power to control repayment and refinancing structures with no other option for borrowers to transfer to.

The Trump administration has stated that interest rates and repayment plans will not be changing much. However, there has been talk of changes to loan forgiveness programs. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program could be potentially eliminated for those serving in the public sector, affecting more than half a million people. Currently, borrowers can have their student loans forgiven after 20 years of making monthly payments at 10% of their income. Trump has proposed that this process be changed to 15 years of payments at 12.5% of income. This would cause monthly payments to rise, however borrowers would save on interest and the loan would be forgiven sooner.

There is currently no timeline on the rollout of the new policies for student loans. If you or someone you know needs assistance navigating the student loan process, Origin SC offers a FREE student loan workshop on the last Monday of every month at 6:30 PM at our North Charleston location. We also offer one-on-one counseling for debt management. To learn more, click here or call 843.735.7802.

Welcome Home, Jaquawna!

Each year, Origin SC helps hundreds of people find a place to call home. Many of our clients never before thought that they would have the opportunity to own a house. We are so excited to welcome Jaquawna and her daughter into their new home.

Jaquawna started out in our credit coaching program. By persisting toward her goal, she continued into our homeownership program and closed on her house just in time for summer. Read more below:

I first knew I wanted to buy a home when my rent continued to increase every year. I would think to myself, “It has to be cheaper to own a home.” I felt like the amount of money that I was paying out every month should have been spent on something that I could call my own. 
 I'd always dreamed of buying a home but as a single mother, I didn’t think it would be financially possible for me. I originally came to Origin, formerly known as Family Services Inc. because I heard an ad on the radio in 2012 about classes to help with budgets and credit. I learned so much that I didn’t know before in these classes. I wondered why this stuff wasn’t taught more in depth in high school. I began to apply this new knowledge to my life.It wasn’t until I took advantage of the opportunity to meet with a counselor on a one-on-one basis that I truly considered pursing my dream. Mrs. Revena Dawson worked with me to create a plan for my goal. With her help, I began to budget my money, build my credit and save for a home. I felt like giving up sometimes when unexpected expenses popped up or there wasn’t enough money to make ends meet or build my savings. But Mrs. Dawson continued to encourage me and guide me in the right direction. I will never forget those times when she would review my bank statements with me and showed me the reality of my spending habits. She believed in me and worked with me to help me believe for myself that becoming a homeowner was an achievable and affordable goal. So I pushed harder toward my dream for my daughter and me.
I learned so much about the home buying process. It was not as complicated as I originally thought. I learned what lenders were looking for in an applicant, how much house I could afford, and why it is important to have your home inspected prior to purchase. I enjoyed the homeownership class with Mrs. Debbie Kidd.  Origin made the process easy to understand and reduce a lot of the stress associated with the home buying process.
On the day that Mrs. Dawson told me that I was ready to begin apply to lender, I couldn’t believe it! All the hard work had paid off. When I began receiving responses from lenders, it was unbelievable how affordable my mortgage was in comparison with the rent I was paying.  Again, Mrs. Dawson was right there for me, helping me weigh the pros and cons on each option. Once I decided on a product, it was time to look for homes. Location, Location, Location is everything. I viewed several homes but I knew exactly when I had found “the one.” It was in my preferred school district and located within an acceptable distance from work. It had the right amount of bedrooms and space. And my mortgage wouldn’t be far from what I was paying for a one bedroom apartment!! My agent put in me in for it but unfortunately it went to another applicant. I was crushed but I kept searching. My agent calls me up one day to tell me that the sale fell through and my perfect home was back on the market. I jumped on it immediately and on April 29th, 2017. I signed my closing documents and became a very proud first time home buyer. My daughter and I absolutely love our new home.  We will forever be grateful to Mrs. Revena Dawson and Origin for helping us turn a dream into reality.

If you or someone you know is interested in buying a home but doesn't know where to start, click here or call 843.735.7802 to learn more about our homeownership and credit coaching programs!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The 411 on Conservatorships

You probably know Origin SC for their housing stability services.  Or perhaps you have participated in workshops in our financial education programs. In honor of mental health awareness month, Origin SC would like to highlight the hard work of our Conservator Department.

You may be wondering, what exactly is a Conservator? In the State of South Carolina, a Conservator is appointed by Probate Court when an adult has been deemed to be incapacitated.  This may include one who suffers from a mental or physical illness or disability, advanced age, chronic use of drugs or alcohol, or other cause to the extent that the individual is unable to make responsible decisions concerning their financial affairs. 

The purpose of a Conservatorship is to identify and secure all assets in order to protect the individual from possible exploitation or financial mismanagement.  A budget is then established with both the immediate and long-term needs in mind.  A Conservator determines what benefits the individual might be eligible for (Medicaid, VA benefits, etc) and would handle the application process.   The goal of a Conservatorship is to protect the client’s assets while still allowing as much independence for the client as is medically and financially possible.  

The Court generally looks for a family member to serve in this role for the incapacitated adult – however, sometimes there is no one willing or appropriate to serve in this role.  That’s when the Court appoints an independent agency – and that is where Origin’s Conservator Department steps in.  Oftentimes, when there is discord among the family, it is beneficial to have an independent agency handle the financial affairs to take the pressure off of family members.  

Assets may include cash, bank and investment accounts, stocks, bonds, life insurance policies, real estate, automobiles, preneed arrangements, etc. The Conservator must file an Inventory and Appraisement within the first 30 days, then files Annual Accountings to the Court detailing all transactions and assets.  They often must meet with the client and family and testify in Court hearings as well.  

There is a second type of Conservatorship – one to protect the assets in excess of $10,000 received by a minor.  These funds can be received from an inheritance, insurance proceeds or personal injury settlement. These funds will be managed by the Conservator until the child reaches the age of 18.  No funds can be released before that time without Court approval.

Signs that an individual might need a conservatorship include:

Withdrawing or giving away large sums of money for no identifiable reason,

entering lotteries or sweepstakes,

demonstrating a pattern of late and non-payment of bills,

buying personal property that is not needed

While in the conservatorship program, our counselors:

Develop and implement a financial management plan for the client

Advocate on behalf of the client with creditors to ensure payment of debts

Provide options for pre-need planning of funeral arrangements

And, liquidate and/or consolidate assets such as selling a home or vehicle.

If you suspect that an individual may be in need of a Conservatorship, you can contact the local Office of Adult Protective Services or your local police department.  You can also contact Iris Albright, the Director of the Conservator Department, at (843) 735-7830.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Health Care Reform and Our Clients

With the new administration, the topic of healthcare has been at the top of the debate list. The proposed health care reform significantly affects three major groups of Origin SC’s clientele. Older Americans, mental health patients, and victims of domestic violence are among those who may soon have a more difficult time finding affordable coverage.

Origin SC’s representative payee and conservator departments work with seniors and individuals receiving mental health services. Our Family Violence Intervention Program works with individuals who have physical conditions resulting from rape or battery. Many of these clients also struggle with mental disorders such as depression or PTSD resulting from abuse. Under the proposed American Health Care Act, these types of services will not be covered under public health care.

Origin SC’s representative payee and conservator departments work with seniors and individuals receiving mental health services. Our Family Violence Intervention Program works with individuals who have physical conditions resulting from rape or battery. Many of these clients also struggle with mental disorders such as depression or PTSD resulting from abuse. Under the proposed American Health Care Act, these types of services will not be covered under public health care.

The second provision that would put Origin clients at risk is the elimination of protection for people with pre-existing conditions. In the world of medical insurance, the term pre-existing condition is not limited to conditions that one is born with. A pre-existing condition is defined as any health problem that was present before the start of an insurance plan. This can include innate conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or blindness. It can also include conditions that developed later in life but before the insurance policy began. Some of these conditions may already be part of your family’s history and have come about genetically. Others are a result from a traumatic event such as rape or paralysis resulting from a car accident.

Innate mental disability, socio-emotional disorders, and physical conditions resulting from traumatic events are all in the category of pre-existing conditions. Under the Affordable Care Act, people with pre-existing conditions were protected by a provision preventing companies from refusing coverage or increasing rates based on such histories. The proposed American Health Care Act would take away this legislation and would allow states to regulate protections to the degree that they individually determine.

The United States House of Representatives has passed the American Health Care Act on Thursday, May 4. The bill still has to come before the Senate, but Republican Senators have stated that they do not plan to vote in favor of the bill written. Rather, a 12-member Senate committee has been working on  drafting another health care reform bill. To alert your senators about your concerns with the potential changes, reach out to them at their contact info below:

Senator Tim Scott

Senator Lindsey Graham

Meet the Staff: Tracy Strickland


I had a good friend that was an attorney that worked with Origin SC. (At that time, known as Family Services,  Inc.)  She knew I was unhappy at the Law Firm I was working at and thought I would be good fit in this organization.  I applied and here I am. 

Since working here and doing what I do, I have planned and prepared for my future!  

What has surprised you the most about working at Origin SC?

I have been most surprised by how the organization has grown since I started. I am also amazed by the re-branding we underwent last summer.

What is an experience that has really shaped who you are? 

Being a single parent.  I was able to learn how to be a strong independent woman!

How has Origin SC helped you in your career development?

Origin is known in this community for the good work that we do.  I have built very strong bonds with both co-workers, community leaders, attorneys and Judges from all over the State.  

What is the one thing in this world you are most proud of?

My son!  I raised my son for the most part by myself.  He is now 26, a nuclear engineer and just got engaged.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Meet Our AmeriCorps State and National Member: Sadie Frasier

AmeriCorps is an umbrella organization funded through the Corporation for National and Community Service. Within AmeriCorps, there are three distinct programs: AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), and AmeriCorps State and National. AmeriCorps State and National is the largest of these programs and has sites in every state and all U.S. territories.

AmeriCorps State and National awards grants to non-profits, faith and community based organizations, public agencies, Indian tribes, and institutions of higher education. Since 1994, more than 900,000 men and women have provided service as AmeriCorps members. AmeriCorps State and National programs address community needs through a wide range of activities such as:
  • Training Citizens in disaster preparedness
  • Providing mitigation
  • Improving housing situations for economically disadvantaged people
  • Improving the school readiness of pre-k children
  • Improving the academic performance or engagement of K-12 students
  • Engaging in environmental protection work
  • Enhancing the quality of life for older or disabled adults
  • Increasing access to food resources
  • Engaging veterans and military families
Trident United Way's AmeriCorps Family Navigator Team

This is Origin SC's first year as an AmeriCorps State and National Host Site. Our AmeriCorps member is placed with us through Trident United Way's Family Navigators Program. In this program, AmeriCorps members use the Stepped Approach to assist clients in achieving financial stability. To learn more about the Family Navigators Program and the Stepped Approach, click here.

Origin SC is so fortunate to have Sadie Frasier as our AmeriCorps State and National Member this year. Read more about Sadie below.

Sadie Frasier, AmeriCorps State and National Member

Hometown: Hollywood, SC

Education: General Business, Limestone College

Favorite Hobbies: Crocheting and making pigtoe pillows and balls

Favorite Place to Visit: The beach or amusement parks, anywhere where there is NO snow or extreme cold temperatures!

Why she chose AmeriCorps: I chose AmeriCorps because I was interested in the work as well as the opportunity to receive an education award for my service.

What impact has this experience had on you?  I had no idea what to expect when I submitted my application. I started serving in schools educating parents of students on better budgeting and financial planning. Now, I am able to do the same thing at other nonprofits as well. I decided to serve a second year and was given the opportunity to work in a new school and a new agency. I can say that serving with AmeriCorps has been very rewarding. This experience allowed me to see my city in a different way and it opened my eyes to the needs of the people around me. I am so glad to be able to help people with their finances, health, and food security.

What has been your takeaway from your time at Origin SC? Serving at my agency, Origin SC, has been very enlightening. Before, I did not know of Origin and their services. This organization provides great services to the community. It has been overwhelming at times to hear and see the challenges faced by individuals and families facing homelessness. My takeaway is to be grateful for what you have. Seeing people at risk of losing everything or struggling to receive basic services has been a constant reminder of how much I am lucky to have. It is so important to remember that there are people with many more struggles than you. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Skinny Budget Woes: South Carolina Lowcountry could lose $1 million in federal funding; $61 million in direct investments

By now it is well known that the Trump Administration has released its proposed “skinny” budget. This legislation includes funding cuts for many domestic discretionary programs such as education, economic development, and transportation. One item on the chopping block is the Community Development Block Grant program under the Department of Housing and Urban Development. At first, one might think that this is just another administrative cut that has no direct effect on them. However, if this program is cut, taxpayers and communities across the nation will see a detrimental impact.

Housing and community well-being is a foundation contributor to the overall health of a community. Housing stability is a key factor in a family’s safety, health, educational achievement, and personal success. Simply put, when one is not in a stable housing situation, it is nearly impossible for him or her to flourish in any other area of life. Though the government may continue to invest in programs such as education, health care, and family affairs, all work in these areas is wasted effort without a stable housing situation for the families whom are served.

The Robert J. Wood Foundation recently issued County Health Rankings for every state. This information can be found at www.countyhealthrankings.org. This study proves over and over that where a person lives influences how long he or she will live. The local level data makes it clear that good health is influenced by many factors—not just medical care itself. Housing is one of these factors. The Urban Institute has also released research at http://howhousingmatters.org which also demonstrates the critical linkage between housing stability and better education, communities, local economies, and more.

It is crucial that America invests in the bedrock of what makes our society stronger, smarter, and safer. Housing is much more than just shelter. Housing is the incubator for creating pathways to achieving the American Dream and social prosperity.

Case in point, the NeighborWorks Reinvestment Corporation, or “NeighborWorks America,” helps to support a wide network of 245 community-based nonprofits across the country. All NeighborWorks partner organizations focus on housing stability initiatives for families, veterans, immigrants, and seniors. Without this program, rural and urban communities across the nation would lose the critical investment that brings the private sector to the table to create housing opportunities for social mobility. Here are some statistics demonstrating NeighborWorks’ success in 2016 alone:

In 2016, Origin SC alone was able to:

Assist 557 first time homebuyers on their path to homeownership through education and coaching

Help 120 individuals close on their first home

Serve 1,169 in foreclosure prevention

Invest $51 million back into the community

Prevent 1,800 low-income, disabled individuals from facing homelessness.

According to the How Housing Matters study by the MacArthur Foundation, 63% of adults reported that they believe actions can and should be taken to make housing more affordable for more people. Additionally, a significant majority of voters across the political spectrum believe that it is responded that it is “very” or “fairly” important for elected leaders to take such action.

Each of us needs to reach out to our legislators and let them know why we value housing stability in our communities. They need to know about the impact that Origin SC and NeighborWorks America has had in South Carolina. Please write to your senators and representatives asking them to reject the program cuts proposed by the White House and to support the Community Development Block Grant program and Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation’s (aka NeighborWorks America) “core” appropriation at $135 million. We need to specifically ask them to reach out to the THUD appropriation committee staff with a show of support.

Relevant contacts for South Carolina include:

Senator Tim Scott

Senator Lindsey Graham

Congressman James Clyburn

Congressman Mark Sanford

Congressman Jeff Duncan
Congressman Trey Gowdy

Congressman Tom Rice

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Meet the Staff: Jenna Johnson


When my husband was offered a job at an engineering firm in Charleston, it was hard for me to leave a job that I loved in Atlanta but the prospect of living in Charleston closer to family and near the coast was an easy “YES!” I stayed behind a month continuing to work and looked for jobs in Charleston’s nonprofit sector, but nothing immediately caught my eye. It wasn’t until I moved here that I stumbled upon a summer AmeriCorps VISTA position that I thought would be perfect as I got my feet wet in learning about the nonprofits here. I had another job offer on the table going in, but when Origin (then Family Services) offered me a full-time Marketing Coordinator position in place of the VISTA opportunity, I felt drawn here. I learned about the impact that this century-old organization had in the community, and how they seemed to be more behind-the-scenes. I wanted to change that and give them more exposure! 

Origin has progressed in ways that I could have never dreamed. Our programs have been remolded to fit the needs of the community, just as it has since 1888, and our services have modernized. It has been a unique experience and a privilege to be a part of the journey and the transformation.

What has surprised you the most about working at Origin SC?

Nonprofits generally have a more “charity” and a little less “business” mindset. Obviously, nonprofits should be mission-driven, but without proper planning, many nonprofits fail. One thing that surprised me in working at Origin is the fact that it is run like a business. We look at numbers, not with profit in mind, but with sustainability in mind. How can we be sustainable for years to come so that we can continue to serve thousands of people in our community? Origin is constantly focused on answering that very question. 

What is an experience that has really shaped who you are? 

There’s no way I can pick just one experience. Being a pastor’s daughter and a Christian shaped my desire to help individuals in my community find life and purpose. My experience as a Clemson Tiger shaped my worldview that there’s a much bigger world than what’s in my back yard, and to never give less than 110%. And I’d have to say that being married to my best friend and being a mom has changed me forever – my husband and daughter inspire me every day with their empathy and compassion. Both at different levels, but equally motivational.

How has Origin SC helped you in your career development?

This organization’s dream became my dream when I began working here five years ago. My experience in leading the rebranding project for our organization from start to finish was a very long career-defining moment. I had worked on large projects before, but nothing compares to leading a 128-year-old organization through strategic and creative planning that would impact it for years to come. It was not an easy job, and most of the time, it wasn’t even fun. But it was fulfilling. It means the world to me that this organization came together with all of its creative juices and expertise to whip up a name, image, and brand that reflects all facets of our mission. I learned my strengths, I worked through my weaknesses, and saw a dream become a reality. 

What is the one thing in this world you are most proud of?

I am proud and yet so very humbled at what this organization has accomplished in the five years I have been here! It was a privilege to play a part in the rebranding project for Origin. It’s not every day that someone can say that. I am ready to see the next big thing Origin will take on!