Answering the Call

By Sarah Spunt on February 14, 2017

Categories: Financial Strength, Our Work, Real Stories

In Chicago, the parents we work with emphasize the importance of education and wanting their children to have access to high-quality educational opportunities – including putting their children on a path to college. With the climbing cost of higher education and lack of financial bandwidth, the idea of saving for college can be daunting.

Since LIFT is committed to helping parent’s dreams become their children’s realities, we want to incorporate program elements that help parents and caregivers reach their long-term goals, including of sending their kids to college. In February, LIFT-Chicago launched a 529 Child Savings Account (CSA) match savings program for parents enrolled in our career and financial coaching program. Our goal is simple: to help parents start to save enough money to increase the likelihood of their child enrolling in – and completing – college.


*Image credit: Illinois Asset Building Group

To launch this program, we leaned on skill-based volunteers from WomenOnCall, a community of skilled, experienced, professional women who have an interest in helping nonprofit organizations fulfill their missions. The group creates opportunities for professional women to volunteer in a more meaningful way by effectively and efficiently aligning their skills, expertise and interests with short-term, high-impact volunteer opportunities.

LIFT recruited two volunteers, Nicole Huey, who works in financial regulatory compliance, and Melinda Brahimi, who holds a master’s in public administration and studied the importance of financial literacy in low-income and immigrant communities. Huey and Brahimi teamed up to develop training and program materials for staff and parents that would allow parents to make informed decisions about if a Child Savings Accounts was the right tool for their family.

“It feels really good to know that I can use my skill set in a way that may benefit families in Chicago,” said Huey. “It’s easy to get disillusioned in life, especially when working in finance, so it was nice to know that I could contribute my knowledge in a way that could potentially help a child pay for college one day.”

Using skill-based volunteers has a dual impact, it allows organizations to use experts to help implement and complete projects, and provides an opportunity for volunteers to use their skills to benefit the community. Both women joined WomenOnCall because they wanted a means to give back and connect to organizations that influence positive change.

“Tackling the topic of poverty truly calls for all hands on deck, and I am happy to always help LIFT succeed in its mission,” said Brahimi. “It makes me feel wonderful knowing I am helping others…and will be searching for my next project soon.”

The best part for the volunteers and LIFT? WomenOnCall allows volunteers to continue to work with organizations they find a fit with. And lucky for LIFT, both women are interested in staying engaged.

“LIFT has come up with some very clever and effective solutions to help with the poverty issue in Chicago,” Huey said. “[It’s] a wonderful organization that is looking to solve the problem of poverty at the root, instead of just patching a leak in the dam and I hope I can do more in the future to contribute.”

About the Author

Sarah Spunt

Sarah Spunt is a licensed clinical social worker and the Executive Director at LIFT-Chicago, a national nonprofit that empowers families to break the cycle of poverty. At LIFT, she is responsible for cultivating new key partnerships; building and sustaining relationships with new and existing donors and supporters; and leading the development of LIFT-Chicago’s strategic plan Read More