From Homeless to Hired: A Credit Union Member's Story
Delora Beal, at Dupaco’s Sycamore branch in Dubuque, Iowa, reached her 12-month savings goal: Funding for a reliable vehicle that helped make her eligible for a promotion at work. (D. Klavitter/Dupaco photo)
In 2009, Delora Beal faced a seemingly impossible career challenge.
She had recently improved her life by finding stable housing at Manasseh House, a non-profit apartment complex for homeless women in Dubuque, Iowa. And, she had been hired as a cashier at a nearby Hartig Drug store.
But her path forward at the local company, which had a history of promoting women, was blocked by one simple fact: she lacked a car.
“To be an assistant store manager, you have to have a car,” Beal said. “You need to be able to drive deposits to the bank and to use the car on the job during the day. You just have to have one.”
Beal, her son and friend had driven to Dubuque from Arizona in 2008 in search of work, but work was much harder to find than they expected, particularly after the first car broke down.
Beal had maintained her cashier's position by walking to work or riding a cantankerous bicycle that was on its last legs, but she knew she was eligible and qualified for the assistant store manager position – and even manager – if she could just find reliable transportation.
Then, one day in early 2010, she saw a notice on her apartment building's message board promoting the $1.1 billion Dupaco Community Credit Union and its individual development account program.
Individual development accounts are sponsored savings vehicles in which the supporting organization matches a consumer’s savings deposits, and applies the funds toward a defined savings goal. Often, that goal is saving for education, but capital for a business or a down payment on a house or vehicle is also popular.
In Beal's case, a Dupaco IDA could help her save money for a car, with the help of matching donations from the Iowa Credit Union Foundation.
“I can't remember if the paper was from the credit union or from the apartment building, but the branch wasn't too far from where I lived, so I went in to check it out,” Beal said.
After becoming a Dupaco member, another requirement for opening an IDA account was using direct deposit, a change Beal said she had no trouble making.
“I had had a checking account at Liberty Bank,” she said, “but it never really did anything for me, so I didn't have any problem switching.”
Using direct deposit allowed Beal to allot $50 from each paycheck toward the car. Roughly one year later, she was delighted to find she had saved $1,900.
Combined with the foundation match, her total savings was $3,800.
Read more: Credit union repo stretched her budget ...
Beal prepares to drive home her newly-acquired car.
Of course, $3,800 is not a lot of money, for even a used car in the competitive used car market, but Beal said she was finally able to purchase one of the credit union's repossessed autos.
“I found two other cars I had lined up first,” Beal recalled. “But when I took those cars by a mechanic, he advised me not to buy them because they would be too much trouble.”
It also worked out well to buy one of Dupaco’s repossessed cars, because the credit union was able to roll additional money for new tires and the first six months of auto insurance into the car loan.
Finally having a car again helped Beal obtain the assistant store manager position at work. That, in turn, boosted her income sufficiently to enable her to move out of Manasseh House.
She now lives with an elderly friend, whom she helps with household chores and other tasks, in exchange for a discount on rent.
The car also enabled her to help some other friends care for their horses, an activity she said she does for free because she loves horses so much.
“I have just always loved horses,” Beal said, her voice softening with the memory. “When I was a little girl, up until when my parents divorced, we always had horses and I used to love being around them so much. A job working with horses would be a dream for me.”
Thanks to her experience with the IDA, Beal has continued saving using direct deposit. That habit proved fruitful recently when an accident totaled her car.
“I was picking up another employee for work and making a left into a driveway when the driver behind me decided he was going to pass me on the left,” Beal explained.
“He caught me at the left wheel and the front of the car, and because the car was as old as it was, the insurance company totaled it,” she added.
Beal said thanks to the insurance settlement and a small GAP insurance policy, she was able to pay off the loan with $300 she had in savings.
And then, she discovered she qualified for a $10,000 loan from Dupaco to replace the first car.
“I got a 2009 Toyota Corolla,” Beal said. “It has 90,000 miles on it, but it’s in very good shape, and that's not such high mileage for a Toyota that's been treated well.”
She added that she looked forward to the better mileage and possibly lower gasoline costs.
“I really can't thank this credit union enough,” she said, her voice choking slightly. “I would tell more of my friends about it, but many of them are already members. They have helped me see how changing small habits and building small habits can change your life, and anyone who says they can't save probably just doesn't know how.”
“Everyone should know about what credit union can do for them,” she added.