Ask Sheila about her grandchildren and her joy is palpable. But, that beaming smile disappears when the conversation turns to her job.
For over twenty years, she worked at the same fast food restaurant, making salads for little more than minimum wage. After all that time, she earned just a dollar an hour more than the day she started.
Through the years, Sheila raised four children on that meager income. Nearly 70% of her pay went to rent, leaving about $300 a month for everything else. Occasionally, she turned to Crisis Assistance Ministry for help when the car broke down or she got sick and missed time from work. Emergency payments to the electric company or her landlord helped bridge the gap, and Sheila was extremely grateful. Still, she longed to be able to cover those emergencies herself.
Visiting the agency after a cut in her hours, Sheila entered an economic mobility program focused on building financial security. Meeting with a caseworker weekly for three months, they tackled barriers to Sheila’s success. They discussed money-saving strategies, digital literacy, self-esteem, and more. For the first time in her life, she opened a savings account and proudly deposited $50. The next goal she set was to find a better-paying job.
Talking about her caseworker and the trust they developed, Sheila said, “She understood how I felt and how things were going. She told me, ‘Sheila, you can do it!’”
By nature quiet and reserved, Sheila struggled to advocate for herself. Her fast food job had become intolerable; her hours were cut, she was bullied by a coworker, and her manager did nothing to defend her. As a gift on her 20th anniversary of employment there, she received a pen.
Sheila finally found her voice. Through personal determination, her caseworker’s coaching, and moral support from other program participants, Sheila took the brave step of applying for another job. After two decades, she traded her low-paying job for one paying several dollars more per hour.
With the potential for advancement and regular pay increases, Sheila has conquered her first two goals. Now she can focus on her third: buying her own home.
Watch Sheila’s story below: