Back on Track program offers hope

A young couple received news they were not expecting, and the result would throw them into financial turmoil.

The husband and wife, who both work full-time jobs and have children together, were shocked when their longtime landlord told them he was giving them 30 days to vacate their apartment because he wanted to rent it out to another tenant.

The family loved their home, so the news stung. To make matters worse, they had no savings, made just enough income to pay their bills, and could not afford moving expenses, a security deposit, and first month’s rent up-front for a new place. Without any other options, they took up residence in a motel room that charged a high daily rate which made it difficult to save for a new place.

Unfortunately, their story isn’t unique, and they fall into a category often called the working poor, because they earn just enough to pay their bills, rent or mortgage, and for daily living expenses but have nothing appreciably saved for an emergency. And because they live paycheck to paycheck, all it takes is one sudden incident – an eviction, a car breakdown, a health issue – and they are sent into a downward spiral of debt that is hard to overcome. And, depending on the magnitude of the financial burden the end result can lead to homelessness.

To address this need and to help people stay in their homes, Conestoga Valley Christian Community Services created the Back on Track (BOT) program in January 2018 with a grant from the High Family Foundation and a private donor. BOT offers a caring and compassionate approach to helping couples and individuals to take control over their finances and to get them connected to area resources for further support if needed.

Each person or couple referred to the program are invited to meet with one of the financial coaches at CVCCS to find out more about their situation. Once an initial interview is complete, the counselor reports back to the BOT committee to determine if the program is a fit for them. If it is found that the person’s financial situation is not too far gone and that the payment of a one-time bill would help them with a fresh start, they are approved.

Once they are accepted, the clients must agree to participate in three financial coaching sessions at CVCCS. These are private, one-on-one, meetings to teach basic money management, budgeting, and to create a savings plan tailored for them. They will also have access to the food and clothing bank up to three visits, so they can focus their money on paying down debt or savings.

The program is created to take a holistic approach to teach financial literacy and to change mindsets towards money that often lead to intergenerational poverty. And because each case is unique, every plan is personalized to that particular client, so it is sustainable for the long term. If needed, financial coaches Dottie Slothower and Gayle Smith will refer clients to area resources that help people find affordable housing, educational programs to increase job skills, and employment opportunities.

Over the past 12 months, CVCCS has empowered numerous clients with getting their lives back on track. For example, paying for car repairs so clients can go back to work or continue with medical treatments, assist with rent or security deposit for people who suddenly lost housing through no fault of their own or needed to find more affordable housing, advocate on behalf of someone who took out a predatory loan in a time of desperation, make a car payment for someone who lost their job after 30 years with the same company and was working to learn a new job skill, and more.

As for the young family who was living in a motel, the BOT program helped them pay a security deposit to rent a new home. They are now on a path to a better financial future.

CVCCS looks forward to helping more families in the new year with a fresh start, but we need the support from our community to continue this service. To donate to the BOT fund or for more information, call us at 717-208-3711 or go to