Friday, September 16, 2016

Meet the VISTAs

VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) dates back to 1965 after being introduced by John F. Kennedy in 1963. It was focused on a single goal: to fight poverty in America. In 1993, VISTA joined forces with AmeriCorps to supplement it's State & National and FEMA Corps Service Programs. Every year, more than 7,000 Americans commit to a year of service to overcome poverty. They come from all walks of life and serve in more than 1,200 nonprofit and government organizations across the nation.

Unlike the AmeriCorps State & National members, VISTAs do not provide direct services such as tutoring children, building homes, or working with clients. Rather, their efforts are focused on capacity building projects such as developing marketing strategy and program development support for their organizations. The goal of VISTA is to strengthen an organization in a way that the programs developed can continue to serve the needs of the community once the VISTA's service term is complete.

Origin SC is in it's 8th year of being a VISTA host site. Our past VISTAs have played a vital role in the administration of our annual Money Rocks event, the development of our Student Debt Solutions programs, and our organization rebranding this year. For the 2016-2017 program year, we are fortunate to welcome four VISTAs. Read more about each below:

Gabri-EL Dawkins, Technology & Design Coordinator

Education: BA in Media Arts from the University of South Carolina - Columbia

Hometown: Charleston, South Carolina

Why she chose VISTA: chose to serve a year with VISTA because I enjoyed my previous service year as a CAC AmeriCorps member in Knoxville, TN and thought, why not give it another year? Plus, with my position as the Technology & Design Coordinator, I get to fully utilize my degree!

Favorite Hobby: I love to read and write (poetry and fiction). I also enjoy singing, illustrating, photography, and film making.

One place she would like to visit: One place I would like to visit is Japan. My cousin works as a recruiting officer for the Navy and she’s been to Japan at least two or three times now, and loves it every time. She highly recommends visiting.

Nana Opoku, Community Outreach Coordinator

Education: BA in Political Science/ Pre-Law, Minor in Sociology from Georgia College and State University

Hometown: Born in Accra, Ghana; spent most of my time in the US around the Atlanta, Georgia area

Why she chose VISTA: I chose to do VISTA because I have an interest in public/social policy. I hope to work in that field someday, and I wanted to see the ways that nonprofits operate.

Favorite Hobby: I love literature & poetry, and I write as much as I can. I also love reading. My free time is usually spent in bookstores or shopping; I love thrifting. I also enjoy reading up on the latest political news; this election year has been a fun one for me!

Someone she admires: Someone I admire would be Dr. Maya Angelou. She dealt with some awful situations and was surrounded by horrible people, but she made something of herself through poetry, dance, writings, and civil rights activism. I think that to be able to do that as a black woman is pretty awesome.

Jennifer Wallace, Marketing Coordinator

Education: Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from Georgia Southern University
Master of Business Administration from The Citadel

Hometown: Charleston, South Carolina

Why she chose VISTA: I chose to do VISTA because I wanted to learn more about my career field while making a difference in the community.  

Favorite Hobby: In my free time, I like crafting, cooking, volunteering, traveling, and catching up with family and friends. 

Someone she admires: I admire and respect my father because of his dedication, consistency, and patience while raising me. From listening to his lectures and observing his behavior, he has influenced my choices and personality in so many ways. My dad is one of the hardest working people I know, and I strive to do my best in everything because of him.

Katie Barnes, Public Relations Coordinator

Education: BA in Business Administration from MidAmerica Nazarene University, Minor in Social Justice

Hometown: Atchison, Kansas

Why she chose VISTA: I chose to do VISTA because I am passionate about community/economic development and poverty alleviation and wanted to gain experience in the nonprofit field.

Favorite Hobby: I LOVE music! I attend a variety of concerts (from the Gaither Vocal Band to Fall Out Boy to Pentatonix). I enjoy singing as well as playing guitar, piano, clarinet, and saxophone. 

Top Bucket List Item: This is not a specific item, but I want to travel to a variety of places, meet a variety of people, and experience a variety of things. Before this time last year, I had only been out of the Midwest a few times. Coming here has shown me that there is much more to the world than the small town that I grew up in.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Fact or Fiction

You can receive unemployment benefits if you get fired. Fact

In most states, you are eligible to receive unemployment benefits even if you get fired. The only reason you would be ineligible is if you were fired for intentional or reckless misconduct. Always be sure to file for unemployment immediately after you lose your job because it can take some time for you to start receiving benefits.

Your credit report cannot be a determinant during the hiring process. Fiction

In most states, your credit report can in fact be used during the hiring process to determine your eligibility. However, the employer does need your permission to run a credit check, so make sure you understand your rights before you sign the consent form.

When times are tough, take the first job offer you get. Fact and Fiction

Job-hunting can be tough, especially if you are unemployed or facing financial hardships. You may feel more inclined to accept the first offer that comes along, but it is important to explore other options and consider the intangibles before you commit. If you decide that you need the job right away, understand the risks and create a career plan to help you transition into your desired position. 

Penny Pinchin' Cuisines

Cooking on a budget doesn’t have to be a task. Check out these low cost recipes that the entire family will enjoy!

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup


  • 3-4 carrots, diced
  • ½ white onion, diced
  • 3-4 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 7 cups chicken broth
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 cups egg noodles, dry
  • 1 lb. chicken, cooked and diced
  • ¼ cup butter  
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream 

  • Instructions:

    1. In a large pot, melt 2 tablespoons of butter.
    2. Add carrots, onions and celery and saute until tender.
    3. Add in chicken broth and fresh parsley.
    4. Bring to a boil.
    5. Add in noodles and cook until noodles are tender, about 7-8 minutes.
    6. Remove from heat.
    7. In saucepan over medium heat melt butter.
    8. Stir in flower and whisk constantly for about 1½
    9. Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly.
    10. Stir in heavy cream and bring to a light boil.
    11. Boil lightly until sauce thickens, continue stirring.
    12. Pour sauce into chicken noodle soup and stir until combined.
    13. Add in cooked diced chicken.
    14. Season with salt and pepper if needed.
    15. Serve immediately.
    16. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

    Funnel Cake Bites


  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (optional)
  • 2 cups milk (I used almond milk)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • Powdered sugar

  • Instructions:

    1. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, oil, butter, vanilla extract, milk and sugar (if using).
    2. Gently stir in flower, baking powder and salt.
    3. Stir until flour is combined. Batter will and should be a little bit lumpy.
    4. Heat oil on med-high in a deep skillet.
    5. When oil is hot, do a test by dropping a bit of batter into the oil. (The batter should begin to fry calmly instantly. If it smokes, sputters, or browns quickly, the oil is too hot.)
    6. Use a mini ice cream scoop and scoop out the batter and drop it into the oil. (Work quickly and be careful not to crowd the batter.)
    7. Fry until golden on both sides.
    8. Remove from oil and place a paper-towel lined plate.
    9. Sprinkle generously with powder sugar.
    10. Eat immediately.

    Meet the Staff: Paige Morris

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

    I sent my resume in response to an open position not knowing anything about the organization, just the position they were looking to fill.  When I realized that I had applied to a non-profit I was skeptical but interviewed anyway.  After the interview, I was intrigued by all the different lines of service that Origin was involved in and was surprised at the benefits offered to the staff.  They were much better than I had found in the private sector.  I have seen the organization grow, shrink, and grow again in my 9 years with the company.  I have seen them constantly evolve the services offered and add new ones as the needs of the community changed. 

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

    I am continually surprised at the caring spirit of our staff and the welcoming we receive in the community. We service clients in the community at all stages on their path to financial stability and our staff is always encouraging, uplifting, and genuinely concerned for those we serve and the community as a whole. 

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

    I cannot define one experience that has shaped me.  I believe that every experience and person encountered during a lifetime leaves an impression on us and through those impressions, good or bad, molds us into who we are. 

    How has Origin SC helped you in your career development?

    Working at Origin SC has provided me with opportunities that I would have never had at my last employer.  The Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer have mentored me and allowed me to further develop the skills I had as well as helped me to gain new skills and experiences by sharing their experience and knowledge with me. 

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

    I am most proud of the many blessings I have received.  Throughout my life, I have made mistakes, experienced the loss of loved ones, friends and pets, and  experienced financial difficulties.   In spite of all of these trials and tribulations I have been blessed with loyal and supportive family, friends, colleagues and communities who have seen me through the tough times and helped me overcome them all.   

    Beyond the Paycheck: Things to Consider When Choosing a New Job

    So you find yourself perusing the ads for a new job. You may be astounded by that nice figure in the salary box in the job description. However, there are many other factors in addition to pay that should be taken into account when choosing a job.


    Although it might have taken you twenty or thirty minutes to get to your 2:30 interview, the before and after work rush hours can easily double or even triple that time in some cities. As most of us know, Charleston is especially bad for high traffic rush hours. According to The Post and Courier, the stretch of I-26 from the U.S. Highway 52 Connector to Ashley Phosphate Road is the most congested stretch of road in the entire state. An average of 151,400 vehicles pass through there every day. With predictions for continued growth in the city, drivers should expect increased traffic and longer drive times in the years to come.

    Corporate Culture:

    You probably met your best friends from high school by working alongside them in a biology lab, or by seeing them at your locker or the lunch table every day. The same thing happens in the workplace. Naturally, you are going to build relationships with the people you see day in and day out. The people you are surrounded by and your fit in the culture are crucial for job satisfaction and success. It is good to make observations such as the formality of the work environment, the presence of an open-door policy, and the relationship between different levels in the corporate hierarchy.


    Paid leave, health insurance, disability, tuition reimbursement, retirement savings plans, and health club memberships are just some of the many employee benefits offered by companies. The U.S. Bureau of Labor requires employers to have certain benefits such as Social Security, 
    Worker’s Compensation, and FMLA (The Family and Medical Leave Act) for those who work thirty or more hours per week. It is important to think of benefits as a crucial part of your overall compensation. Prospective employees should also look into the quality of the benefits provided. According to US News, only twenty-two percent of firms provide access to a retirement plan that guarantees payments for life.

    Level of Autonomy:

    Do you prefer to work alone or in groups? Generally, everyone has a preference one way or the other and each individual performs more effectively in his or her niche of the spectrum. Although developing skills on both sides is important, some are naturally self-motivated, while others are energized by a team. It is a good idea to know what level of autonomy will be expected of you when going into a new position.


    We have all heard about those dead end jobs that cause careers to plateau for a bit too long. Those positions that seem to be headed nowhere with little opportunity for learning, growth, or promotion. When looking for a new position, take into consideration how long current employees have been in their current position. Does the company provide opportunities for further education or training? Does the company have a brand that will allow you to network within your industry? Make sure that after a few years of working within the company, you will be further along than where you started.

    Work/Life Balance:

    Being able to properly prioritize work tasks with everything else going on in your life is crucial to your physical and emotional health and well-being. Perhaps you have a family at home that needs your care and attention. Maybe you have leisure interests that you would like to pursue when not at the office. If nothing else, making time to relax and recharge is essential to maximize effectiveness in all areas of life. Check to see if your job offers flexible scheduling and personal time off. Will you be required to answer work related calls and emails in your personal time? Will you be under a large amount of stress on a regular basis in this position?

    Welcome Home, Hodges!

    Here at Origin, our mission is to help individuals achieve financial and housing stability through advocacy, counseling, and education. One prime example of this is Jakara Hodges. A North Charleston native, Jakara completed several of our classes and says that her time in our program changed her life.

    Before coming to Origin, Jakara was struggling as a single mom to provide for her two daughters, De'Aja and Tarianna, while also in nursing school. They lived in public housing to sustain themselves until she was able to get a better job. Upon completing her RN certification, Jakara was ready to move toward financial security and ultimately buy a home for her growing daughters. Unsure of where to begin, Jakara found Origin after being referred by a friend.

    Jakara was paired with Revena Dawson, one of our credit counselors who has been with us for more than six years. Jakara and Revena met on a regular basis to navigate a personalized financial plan to achieve her goals. One of Jakara's proudest achievements was paying off her credit cards and improving her credit score.

    After a little over a year in the program, Jakara was able to call herself a homeowner! All of her hard work paid off and she beat the odds against her. She and her girls are now happy in their new neighborhood with plenty of space and room to grow. Jakara now shares her journey and is an inspiration to others.
    "Anything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and never let anyone tell you that you can't do something." - Jakara Hodges