Friday, October 21, 2016

Position of Power: What You Need to Know About the Federal Reserve

Last month, Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart announced that he will be leaving office on February 28, 2017.  At that time, Lockhart will have served as Fed President for 10 years, the maximum term that the position allows. 

There is a lot of debate right now of who should be Lockharts successor. Many groups are calling for more diversity among Federal Reserve Bank Presidents. Perhaps you are wondering, well how does this affect me? The Federal Reserve has a large influence on the health of the economy. The price of goods, the strength of the American dollar, and the rate of unemployment, are all partially controlled by decisions made by the Federal Reserve.  Here is a short breakdown of what the Federal Reserve is, what they do, and how it directly affects your personal financial situation.

What is the Fed?

The Federal Reserve was founded by Congress in 1913 in response to the financial panic of 1907.  At this time, banks were running out of money, and Congress agreed that there needed to be a system of larger banks helping smaller banks to keep adequate amounts of money in the economy.

The Fed is made up of twelve Federal Reserve District Banks that each serve a district area. Each district bank is responsible for obtaining economic data on their region and hearing out the needs of businesspeople. Eight times a year, the presidents of each district bank meet with the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors to discuss options for policy change that would best benefit the public. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the policymaking body that is comprised of the seven members of the Board of Governors and five of the twelve District Bank Presidents.

The next FOMC meeting will be held November 1-2 in Washington D.C. 

What do they do?

The Federal Reserve Act was amended in 1977 to state that the objectives of the Fed’s monetary policy are to promote “employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.” This is often referred to as dual mandate.

The primary function of the Federal Reserve is to loan money to smaller, private banks. Banks make money by loaning money to customers with interest. Because of this, at a given time, most of a bank’s assets are in the form of receivables. Meaning they have money that belongs to them but it is currently owed to them—therefore not on-hand, available for use. The Fed fills that gap by loaning money to banks so that they have cash on hand to continue writing loans for everyday people like you and me. 

Just as private banks loan money to customers with interest, the Fed also charges interest for private banks to borrow money from them. By setting this rate of interest, the Fed can control how easy or how difficult it is for private banks to get these loans. When the Fed sets their interest rates high, it is difficult for private banks to obtain money, therefore they cannot turn around and loan money to customers as easily. When the Fed sets their interest rates low, it is easy for private banks to obtain money and they can give out many more loans at lower rates.

How does it affect me?

When the economy is slow—prices are high and people do not have the money to do everything that they would like to do—the Federal Reserve will purposely lower interest rates. In doing so, private banks can get more money, and the public will have more money to spend. The increased spending will boost the health of the economy.

When the economy is doing well and there is a large amount of spending by the public, the Fed will increase rates so that private banks do not have as much to distribute to the public. This will decrease spending and control inflation.

Inflation is the rate at which the general prices for goods and services is increasing. Essentially, when there is a large amount of money available to the public, there is also a high amount of spending (high demand of goods and services). Such high levels of spending will allow businesses to charge higher prices for their products. If so many people want the item, it is likely they will not mind paying a higher price for it. To keep this from happening, the Fed will increase interest rates, therefore decreasing consumer spending, and prices. 

Demand: a consumer’s desire and willingness to pay a price for a specific good or service

Dual Mandate: the objectives monetary policy as set by Congress. They are maximum employment, stable prices, and fair interest rates

Inflation: the general increase in prices and fall in the purchasing value of money

Interest: money paid at a particular rate for the use of money lent or for delaying the repayment of a debt

Federal Open Market Committee: policymaking body of the Federal Reserve that is composed of the seven members of Federal Reserve Board of Governors and five of the seven District Reserve Bank presidents

Federal Reserve: the central bank of the United States; created by, but acting separately from Congress

Federal Reserve Act: 1913 Congressional act establishing the Federal Reserve System, amended in 1977 to include the provisions of dual mandate

Federal Reserve Board of Governors: comprised of seven members that are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate

Federal Reserve District Banks: represent the twelve Federal Reserve Districts and are responsible for carrying out the day-to-day operations of the Federal Reserve System

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Abusive Relationships: What do they look like?

Although the month of October is centered on awareness of physical violence and abuse, abusive relationships take many forms. Often times, one type of abuse will lead to another. It is important to be aware of all types and know the warning signs. There are five central types of abusive relationships.

This is generally the image people have when the topic of domestic abuse is brought up. It might seem that the warning signs for this would be obvious. Often times, the victim will overlook or make excuses for small incidences of violence, and continue to do so until the problem escalates substantially.

Warning signs:
  • Feeling afraid of your partner
  • Fear of angering your partner
  • Wondering if you're the one who is "crazy"

It is a common misconception that unwanted or forced sex within marriage is not considered "rape." This is not the case. Sexual assault is any unwanted or forced sexual act that is committed without mutual consent. It can occur by force, through emotional manipulation, or when one party is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Warning signs:
  • Feeling legally or otherwise obligated to perform sexual acts
  • Unwanted touching
  • Demanding sex after a violent incident

Psychological abuse centers on power and control. This can also include elements of “brainwashing” the victim. Many times, the perpetrator will attribute controlling behavior to concern for the victim, claiming that he or she is looking out for the victim’s safety or well-being. The perpetrator will usually try to cut off any other personal connections that the victim may have so that the victim is heavily reliant upon him or her.

Warning signs:
  • Feeling like you must "get permission" before going somewhere or making small decisions
  • Feeling inferior to your partner
  • Your partner reminds you of past failures and shortcomings

The catch to emotional abuse is that it can be much more insidious and subtle. In many cases, neither the abuser nor the victim are aware that it is happening until significant damage or a “breaking point” has been reached. Emotional abuse damages the victim’s ability to connect with others and to connect with him or herself.

Warning signs:
  • Partner is putting you down in front of others to humiliate or degrade you
  • Partner makes claims such as "it was just a joke" when you try to address issues
  • Partner uses withdrawal or withholding affection or attention as means of addressing issues
Economic abuse occurs when one partner has control over the other partner’s access to economic resources. This control eliminates the victim’s capability to support him or herself and creates a high financial dependency on the abuser.

Warning signs:
  • Partner takes your money or convinces you to provide for him or her financially
  • Partner forces you to work more or less hours or quit your job
  • Partner pressures you to combine bank or savings accounts

If you or someone you know is involved in an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE). Reach out to someone and get help. No one deserves to be a victim of abuse of any type.

No Longer a Victim: Homelessness to Homeownership

Origin SC's Family Violence Intervention department exists to show those affected by domestic violence that they are not alone. We had another heartwarming success story come out of our program due to the support of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA). Our homeless prevention program manager assisted a domestic violence victim to find a place of her own. “Maggie” had three small children and nowhere to go after leaving her abuser. Origin SC located a nice, affordable three-bedroom home for Maggie and her kids. Thanks to the NFHA funds, we paid for Maggie’s rental deposit and first month of rent, giving her family a stable foundation as they work toward a better, safer, and brighter future.

The National Fair Housing Alliance offers forgivable grants to eligible individuals and families. Recipients must have a viable budget going forward and must complete a series of financial education courses.

Origin SC is very happy to have this funding and to be able to provide our clients affected by domestic violence further assistance and guidance toward total stability. Through our array of programs, our organization is able to provide a holistic help to our clients rather than single issue-based assistance.

Our violence prevention workshops and individual counseling help both victims and perpetrators get on a path toward stability. Each client is seen for an individual, prescriptive assessment and is then given a personalized treatment plan. Our programs include:
A 16-week anger management program
A 26-week batterers intervention program
A 16-week domestic violence victims empowerment program
Individual and family counseling

Here is what some clients have said about our Family Violence Intervention department:

“I feel empowered after the classes and feel stronger in my ability to make good decisions for myself and children.  The financial ‘Making Ends Meet’ class was extremely helpful in getting my finances in order.  I plan to learn how to take back control of my own finances.”

“I ended up in this class because I was not setting boundaries for myself.  I was accepting less than I deserve, and I let someone close to me manipulate me into thinking that I would be nothing without them.  But because of this class, I have the knowledge and communication skills to move on with my life.  Deep down I knew I deserved to be respected and loved, I just needed a push.  Now I am happier than I have been in years.”

“I’ve realized that I don’t need anyone in my life who doesn’t respect me, my feelings, my children, and my home.  Going through these classes was very helpful with me being able to learn the effects it has on my children and also being able to know the early signs of domestic violence will help me in the long run.  In the future, I’ll prevent getting to this place again by placing my own self-worth above anything and making sure my children are safe and loved.”

“I feel I really needed this to know I am someone again.  And that I will no longer be a victim of abuse.  Thanks to these sessions and all of the information taught.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

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!

Homemade Hamburger Helper


  • 1 lb. ground beef or ground turkey
  • ½  cup onions, diced
  • 1 tablespoon butter, optional 
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup cold water 
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teasopoon salt or seasoning salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon oregano 
  • ¾ teaspoon parsley
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese shredded

  • Instructions:

    1. Brown ground meat in a skillet over medium heat until almost done.
    2. Add in onions and cook until tender.
    3. Drain meat and onions on paper towels and return to skillet.
    4. Add remaining ingredients except for the cheese.
    5. Stir to combine.
    6. Bring to a boil.
    7. Reduce heat, cover and cook until pasta is tender, about 10 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
    8. * Do not overcook pasta. Check it at 9 minutes.
    9. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Sauce may be thin.
    10. Let pasta sit to thicken the sauce, meanwhile adjust seasonings if needed.
    11. Serve and enjoy.

    Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake



  • 1½ cups crushed cinnamon graham crackers 
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 3 (8 oz.) packs cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 2-3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon all-spice
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • pecans, optional garnish

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • cinnamon, enough to taste

  • Instructions:

    1. Place a pan of water in the oven on the middle rack and preheat oven to 350.
    2. Make the crust by combining graham crackers, butter and sugar in a bowl until large crumbs forms.
    3. Press the crumbs into the bottom of a greased, nonstick, 7-inch spring-form pan and freeze for 30 minutes or until set.
    4. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and cream cheese until smooth.
    5. Add vanilla extract.
    6. Mix in the pumpkin, followed by the eggs, cinnamon, all-spice, ginger and nutmeg. (Remember to mix ONLY until combined. Mixing creates air and lots of air makes the cheesecake crack.)
    7. Pour the batter into the prepared pie crust. Shake the pan gently to even the batter out.
    8. Place foil paper around the bottom of the spring form pan to prevent water from leaking in. Place the pan into the oven inside the pan of water.
    9. Bake for 60 minutes. (DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DURING THIS TIME)
    10. After 60 minutes, turn off the oven and crack the oven door open.
    11. Allow the cheesecake to cool slowly in the oven. The center will be slightly jiggly.
    12. When the cheesecake is cool enough to handle, place on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely. Do no remove it from the pan.
    13. Repair any cracks if needed, while the cheesecake is warm.
    14. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
    15. The next day, remove the cheesecake carefully from the pan.
    16. Use a napkin to dab away any condensation from the surface of the cheesecake.
    17. Garnish with pecans and cinnamon whipped cream when ready to serve.
    18. To make the cinnamon whipped cream, chill a bowl and beaters in a freezer.
    19. Add whipping cream to the bowl and beat on high speed until it starts to thickened.
    20. Add powdered sugar and continue beating.
    21. Add cinnamon and beat until light and fluffy.
    22. Refrigerate until ready to use.

    Fact or Fiction

    Not all abuse is physically violent. Fact

    A person does not have to be physically harmed to be considered a victim of domestic violence. Domestic violence is abusive behavior by one intimate partner against another, used to gain or maintain power and control. The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, or a combination of all three. 

    Domestic violence is usually a one-time, isolated occurrence. Fiction

    Depending on the relationship, domestic abuse may occur very often, or not often at all. The abuser often makes promises that the abuse will never happen again. However, once the violence begins, it usually gets worse as time goes on. 

    Domestic violence only occurs in low-income families. Fiction

    Many people still believe that domestic violence is restricted to low-income families. Domestic violence does not discriminate, and people of any class, culture, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, age or sex can become a victim. 

    Instances of domestic violence with a male victim are rare. Fiction

    Though there are more cases of female-victim instances, instances of male-victim violence certainly occur. Nearly 1 in 7 men (14%) have been victims of (some form of) physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.

    Meet the Staff: Andrea Orrell


    I originally started out at Origin SC as an intern during graduate school.  I interviewed for the internship here and immediately felt that it would be a good fit.  The interview here with my now supervisor, Neah Kelly, and the Executive Director, David Geer, was comfortable, and I could tell that this organization values the people they help every day.  I had interviewed with another organization before interviewing here, but did not feel comfortable at the other organization, so I was beyond thrilled when David offered me the internship on the spot.  It was an area of social work practice that I was not super familiar with, but it sparked my interest and I have become very passionate about this work.  I have experienced the re-branding process of the organization in the short time that I have been here.  I think that this organization is making strides to stay relevant and to continue to be a pillar in the community.  

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

    The thing that has surprised me the most about working at Origin SC is the work environment itself.  I do not feel stressed out coming into work.  Though we have multiple departments, everyone works together and is supportive of each other.  We all work as a team.  I also think that those who are in leadership are very transparent and maintain open communication with everyone in the organization which is a breath of fresh air.  I feel valued as an employee.  

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

    When I lived in Indianapolis, I worked in the school system with children.  I helped children develop life skills.  The children I worked with were thought of as having “behavior issues.”  This experience impacted me in a huge way.  I learned about these kids.  I learned that some of them had experienced abuse in their lives.  I learned that many of them had uninvolved parents and family, and I learned that they all had positive potential.  I also worked closely with a Social Worker who I consider to be a mentor.  This experience ignited my passion for helping others.  It is ultimately what led to me choosing to go to graduate school to get a master’s degree in Social Work.  It definitely has shaped me into the person I am today. 

    How has Origin SC helped you in your career development?

    Origin SC allows me to practice and fine tune my Social Work skills on multiple levels – from micro social work to macro social work.  I get to work with individuals, groups, and the community.  My position here at Origin SC allows me to work in all facets of Social Work.  Additionally, I am supported and encouraged to take advantage of any and all training opportunities available to me.  It is amazing to work for an organization that supports expanding my training and staying relevant in my field.

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

    The one thing in the world that I am most proud of is pursuing a field of work that allows me to help others and make a difference in their lives.  I know that the work I do is hard, and that not everyone can do it.  I take pride in that.