Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Fresh Start & Rockstar Finance

Somehow, 2017 is nearly at an end. And despite how busy we always seem to get in the Done by Forty household each December, I really do treasure this time of year.

It's a time when we're reminded of the joy of spending time with the people we love and who love us back, the simple pleasure of a glass of eggnog and warm wool socks, and the importance of giving to others.

J Money and the good people over at Rockstar Finance were kind enough to grant us $100 from their Community Fund, so we could do a little good in our hood here in Arizona. 

I immediately thought of the organization our good friend Mandy works for: Fresh Start Women's FoundationMandy was cool enough to answer some questions for us. 

If you're interested in awesome charities devoted to empowering women, give the interview a read, and please consider donating if you're able.  

Can you tell me a bit about Fresh Start Women's Foundation, and the work the organization does? 

Fresh Start's mission is to provide education, resources, and support for women to positively transform their lives and strengthen our community. We envision a world in which every woman reaches her full potential through achieving personal empowerment and financial self-sufficiency.

This year, we are celebrating 25 years of empowering women in the community. We serve any self-identified woman, 18 years and older, at the Fresh Start Women's Resource Center in downtown Phoenix. We offer a plethora of programs and services to meet the diverse needs of our clients: career readiness, computer training classes, entrepreneur program, family law support, financial literacy and coaching, mentoring, professional clothing and salon services, social work services, and scholarships. 

What do you do for the organization? 

I am Fresh Start's Grants Manager. 

What drew you to work for Fresh Start?

Feminism is such an important part of my identity and Fresh Start's mission to empower women really resonated with me. 

Fresh Start does so many cool things that it's hard to talk about all of them. A few couple jumped out at me: can you tell me a bit about the Mentoring program, and the Girls Thriving program?  

We do so many cool things; we could be here all day! ;)

Our Mentoring program is our longest-running program, having started in 1998. In the program, motivated clients are matched with professional women in the community for a year-long commitment. Together, they work on identifying and achieving 3-5 SMART goals, ranging from buying a home to finishing their college education to landing their dream job and more. It's an intensive program but really rewarding for both parties.

We are piloting another Mentoring program in 2018 that will require a six-month requirement, rather than the full-year. It will also include peer mentoring, with three mentees matched to one mentor. We are piloting this because we have seen how powerful the cohort effect is in some of our other programs and one of our goals is to help women broaden their support network. 

Girls Thriving is our program for girls in grades 6-12. It's really about giving girls a safe and fun space to learn together, develop self-confidence, and plan for the future. They learn about goal-setting, assertive communication, boundaries, healthy relationships, reproductive health, and personal finance. The program is offered one Saturday a month, free of charge, and includes a lunch.

What issues do you see impacting women in our community?

Fresh Start serves around 5,000 women each year, the majority of whom live in poverty. Some of the major barriers they face include lack of affordable and safe housing; lack of access to reliable and efficient transportation, and the cost of childcare. Arizona is not only one of the most impoverished states in the nation; it is also among the states with the highest childcare costs. Infant care in Arizona costs just 10% less than publicuniversity tuition

Meanwhile, Arizona had 4,865 children on a waiting list for child care assistance as of February 2016. This is a major issue that is holding women back, and by extension, their families.

As most of our readers are personal finance enthusiasts, what role do you see personal finance education playing in helping women transform their lives?

We believe it's critical that women understand and take charge of their finances; thus, we have dozens of financial literacy workshops on a variety of topics. We even have a series that was specifically designed by the Allstate Foundation for victims of abuse. The number one reason why victims stay in abusive relationships is because of finances. Even when they do leave, they are often dealing with the financial repercussions from their abusers ruining their credit or depleting their savings.  

Financial management is one of the five main pillars of self-sufficiency in the new model we're implementing. Our goal is to help women improve their credit and increase their savings. One of our program outcomes is for clients to have three months of savings put aside by the end of the program, to ensure that they have emergency funds or money to put towards buying a home.

I think it's important to acknowledge that personal finance education does not on its own help women transform their lives. Fresh Start is in the midst of adapting a model that looks at the full picture of a person's life, rather than treating problems in silos. As we see it, it doesn't do someone much good to help them learn how to budget if they're living in a shelter or if they don't have adequate training to get a job that pays enough to live on. We have to look at the whole person and what may impact their finances, whether that's having someone they can rely on for back-up childcare or securing affordable housing in a safe neighborhood near work or access to quality trauma counseling. We want to set her up for long-term success, and personal finance is a critical component of that, just not the only component.

If readers want to get involved or donate, how can they do that?

We would love your support! Volunteer positions include workshop presenters, computer class assistants, tech coaches, donation sorters, and mentors. More information about volunteering can be found here

Tax-deductible donations can be made here. Thank you for joining us in empowering women to transform their lives! 

A big thanks to Mandy and all the rad people at Fresh Start, and to the folks at Rockstar Finance for their generosity. I hope all you readers have a happy end to 2017. 

*Photo is from cogdogblog at Flickr Creative Commons.


  1. Sounds like an awesome organization! Glad you were one of the ones selected!

    1. They really do some cool stuff. Thanks for reading, Tonya!

  2. Love it man! Thanks for participating and intro'ing us to a great place!

    1. You're the one deserving the thanks here, J Money. So cool that you're sending out all these $100 grants into communities through the PF blogging world.

  3. Hi,

    Such an awesome organisation and such a wonderful gift you gave them. I was homeless for one month with my daughter after fleeing an abusive relationship as there was no where I could turn. Its wonderful to hear of such a positive place.

    Little Miss Fire

    1. I'm tearing up a little here, Little Miss Fire. Thanks so much for sharing that and, yes, it's amazing that an organization like this exists.

  4. This is awesome! I love what you're doing Mandy, and how passionate you are about it. I think it's a great place to give that Rockstar $$$.

    1. Yeah, Mandy's pretty rad. The work they do at Fresh Start is all kinds of amazing.

  5. It's really sad how poorly supported low income families and the needy are in the desert southwest states. I'm encouraged to see a post like this. Yes, we should try to fill the gaps with programs like Fresh Start. But wouldn't it be great if the citizens compelled their politicians to do more? Trouble is, those with money tend to be retirees and snowbirds who often don't give a flying F about kids and others suffering around them, figuring they've already paid their dues elsewhere.

    1. We're definitely trying to change the politics and policies here in AZ, Cubert. We're closer than a lot of people think: watch the statewide senate race next year.

      Gonna turn this fucker blue.

      The demographics really are changing.

  6. Thanks for sharing this - I love seeing how people find ways to give back and learning about new places to support. It sure would be nice if our actual system was efficient and supported people directly but until then, it's our responsibility.

    1. Agreed! They system is what it is for now, but I'm optimistic that we're going to see change soon.

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