Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Meet the Staff: Alex Gale


I was first drawn to Origin after seeing how important the work that we do is, particularly the Representative Payee program. My mother has worked for the company for a long time, and I have always been impressed by how hard everyone works for their clients. Since I haven’t been here that long, the company hasn’t changed much. However, I have been here for the rebranding from Family Services Inc to Origin SC and I cannot tell you enough times how great I think the rebranding has gone! I love our name, the new colors schemes, and our saying: Your Path to Home Starts Here!

What has surprised you the most about working at Origin SC?
What has surprised me the most about working at Origin is how much I have learned so quickly. Everyone that I have worked with is exceptionally knowledgeable about their programs and the services that we provide. I still feel like I learn something new every day! I was also surprised at how many of our services that we offer for free. Thanks to all of the grants and professional working relationships that we have developed over the year, we are able to provide very important services to those in need without them needing to pay a dime, such as our Victims of Domestic Abuse programs. 

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

I would have to say the experience that has most shaped who I am was my time at Hampshire College. I was exposed to new ideas that I had never even thought about before. The diversity of the school really forces students to face what they don’t know, what they may not be comfortable with, and to have conversations with people that you might never have had otherwise. For instance, I became friends with two individuals at the school. The first, names Anas, was a 20 year old Palestinian man who had been shot by Israeli soldiers when he was 14 because he and his friends were throwing rocks at them. The other was Noah, a 22 year old Israeli man who spent 9 months in a Palestinian prison camp after getting captured during his mandatory military term. To my enormous surprise, these two were great friends! They helped establish a program at the school to bring together people from opposing viewpoints to share their themselves and their ideas, with the inevitable eventuality of realizing that we aren’t nearly as different from each other as we would sometimes like to think we are.

How has Origin SC helped you in your career development?

Origin has been invaluable to my career development in ways I never thought possible. The standards of practice and quality of our services, not to mention the wide range of services that we offer, continues to impress me as I learn more about the company. The experience that I have had so far, and specifically the opportunity to work with experienced and passionate professionals, has really inspired me to think bigger, work harder, and challenge myself to grow as an individual.

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

I am most proud of the work I have done on the LIFT program. It has been an honor to assist our clients, individuals and families, to find a house to call home! Many of these clients are achieving homeownership for the first time, and many of them have been working up to this point for several years. It is a special kind of feeling when you hear the overwhelming joy in someone’s voice as they watch their dreams come to life before their very eyes. It is a humbling experience and I’m so glad to be able to be a part of it. 

Fa-la-la-la-Financial Stress!

It shouldn't be a surprise that consumer credit counseling agencies see a spike in the number of people seeking help come the first of every year. Every January and February, the there is a 25 percent increase in consumer credit counseling clients across the nation - most seeking assistance recovering from their holiday spending. Robert Manning, senior research fellow at the University of Houston and author of Credit Card Nation: The Consequences of America’s Addiction to Credit, says that the country’s ethics regarding credit have completely changed. Now, not only is debt accepted, but it is encouraged through rewards programs and easy access to substantial credit.

To make sure you start the New Year off on a good financial foot, there are two ways to combat holiday debt: preventative measures and practical repayment.

Preventative Measures:

1.  Only spend what you have.

Too many people make the huge mistake of using credit as income. Approval for $1,000 more on your credit limit does not equal a $1,000 a month raise in pay! You should only charge items on your credit card that you would be able to pay for in cash. Think of credit cards as a step in the transfer of money, not as a loan until payday.

2. Leave your card at home.

If you are not going out with the intention of making purchases, why not avoid the temptation altogether? If you plan to go to the store and buy a gallon of milk with cash, then, you have no reason to even take your credit card into the store. If you can’t resist the urge to spend, eliminate it!

3. Buy gifts year round.

Breaking news: Christmas comes every single year at the exact same time. That’s right! From Christmas of this year, you have exactly 364 days to prepare for the next round of merry madness. If you know who you are going to buy for year after year, then take advantage of deals throughout the year when they happen. By the next Christmas, you will have saved time, money, and the stress of having so many extra expenditures at one time.

Practical Repayment:

1. Make more than the minimum payment.

Most credit card statements have some indicator of how long it will take you to pay back off your card if you only make minimum payments. When you chose to make only the minimum payments on your credit card bill, your payment is mostly going to interest that has been accrued and not the actual charges that you have made. Making only the minimum payment can lead to a false sense of security and a hole that is only growing deeper and deeper.

2. Focus on the cards with the higher interest rate first.

If you have multiple credit cards with outrageous balances on them, after the minimum payment is made on each card, focus on the cards with the highest interest rate. After that card has been paid off, move on to the card with the next highest interest rate. This method will help you save on accruing interest. If possible, transfer the balance on your higher interest cards to your lower interest cards.

3. Overwhelmed? Speak with an Origin credit counselor!

Here at Origin, we have a team of licensed credit counselors who are here to help you get out of debt and manage you credit score. We will give you expert advice on the best payment methods for your specific situation to get you out of debt faster and on a path toward financial freedom. And, if eligible, you can enter our Debt Management Program to pay off your debts in five years or less.

To learn more about our Debt Management Program, click here or call 843-735-7802!

Gifts that Count Without Counting Dollars

Spreading holiday cheer doesn't have to break your budget. Giving your time, talent, or just a smile or kind word can lift another person's spirit without costing you a penny. Here are some ways to give this season without spending a lot of money:

Give Blood
On average, we all have about a gallon and a half of blood in our bodies—so why not roll up a sleeve and donate a pint that will go to save up to three lives. In the United States alone, approximately 32,000 pints of blood are used each day and 4.5 million Americans undergo blood transfusions each year. Winter is an especially difficult time for blood banks as drives are cancelled across the nation due to inclement weather. This holiday, donate your life-saving blood without paying a penny. You might even get a free pop and T-Shirt from your donation site! To learn about the local Red Cross Blood Donation Centers, click here.

Adopt a Grandparent
As our population of older Americans continues to grow, so does our need for programs to help these people lead full, productive lives. Both seniors living alone and within senior homes can use someone to share stories with, run errands with, and feel invested in. According to the University of California, 18% of senior citizens live alone and about 43% of these seniors report that they feel lonely on a regular basis. Socialization is a key factor in seniors’ health and can slow the progression of physical and cognitive illnesses.

Love, Inc. is a local nonprofit that provides senior services and programs within area assisted living homes. Click here to learn more.

Volunteer Time at a Local Nonprofit
From local soup kitchens, to churches, to children’s programs, nonprofits are always begging for volunteers to give their time and talent to help the community. You might be able to share your expertise in areas such as business development or tax preparation or simply help out by sorting donations or reading to kids. Find your volunteer niche and reap the benefits of giving while meeting new people! For volunteer opportunities in the Charleston area, click here.

Origin SC is always looking for volunteers! To learn about opportunities to volunteer at Origin SC, click here.

Help a Neighbor with Chores
Have an elderly neighbor or know someone who might have some health issues that prevent him or her from getting around easily? Offer to mow their lawn, rake their leaves, or drive them to the store! This will take a huge burden off of that individual as well as their families.

Shop at a Local Thrift Store
Many thrift stores such as Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and Habitat for Humanity ReStore shops not only have great finds for rock bottom prices, but give the money that they make through their stores to do other good in the community. Goodwill Industries provide job training and employment placement services. Proceeds from ReStore sales support Habitat for Humanity’s mission to make sure everyone in the world has a decent place to live. To learn more about Palmetto Goodwill, click here. To learn more about Habitat for Humanity ReStore, click here.

Babysit for a Single Parent
According to a 2015 study by Child Care Aware, There were over 186,000 single parent families in South Carolina. Even more alarming, the cost of adequate child care makes up 31% of the income for a single mother. Got nothing to do on a Friday night? Why not give a single parent the night off and spend the evening playing dress-up, tea parties, or power rangers?  He or she will be glad to catch a break!

Be a Pet Foster Parent
Pet foster parent program allow cats and dogs to receive more personalized care and attention as they wait for adoption. Often victims of abuse or neglect, these furry ones can be difficult to care for in a shelter environment with limited one-on-one attention. Foster pet programs give these animals a temporary home where they can better adjust while waiting to be adopted. The Charleston Animal Society has a foster animal program. Learn more about it here.

Invite a Friend Over for Dinner
The easiest way to make conversation and get to know one another is over a nice hot meal. Invite a friend over who may be going through a difficult time and enjoy a home cooked meal together. They will appreciate your hospitality and the opportunity to relax and have a stress-free meal will help take their mind off of whatever it is their dealing with. This will also keep that leftovers plate from sitting in the back of the fridge, forgotten.

Be a Mentor
You don’t have to be a teacher, a coach, or a counselor to be a positive role model for a student. Adolescence is an important period of development and young people need knowledge from experience, advice, and encouragement from people outside of direct authoritative roles such as parents and teachers. 59% of mentored teens earn better grades. 27% are less likely to begin using alcohol. Mentored youth have greater likelihoods of going to college, improved self-esteem, and increased socioemotional development. A few great mentoring organizations here in Charleston include Big Brothers Big Sisters, Be a Mentor, and Reading Partners!

Leave Positive Reviews

With the number of people rushing to the internet with the slightest bad experience, it is nice for businesses to get a positive public comment or review. This can really make a difference in a potential new customer using their product or service. If you have used a company and are satisfied with what you received, let people know about it! 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends. Sites such as Yelp, Yahoo, Angie’s List and Facebook all allow you to share business reviews.

Donate Rewards
Many credit cards and business rewards programs allow members to donate points to a nonprofit of their choice. American Express has the Members Give program allowing cardholders to donate $10 for every 1,000 points to any non-profit registered with their program. Southwest Airlines also has a list of charities that points can be donated to. Rather than leaving those points to expire before you can use them, put them to good use through these point donation programs.

Double Your Donation
In the spirit of corporate philanthropy and employee belongingness, many companies will match charitable gifts made by their employees, sometimes up all the way up to 100%. Our local corporation, Boeing, matches donations up to 100% up to $6,000! Find out if your employer participates in a gift matching program and stretch your dollar even further!

To donate to Origin SC, click here