The Lake County Haven (The Haven) has been helping women transition from homelessness to independence since 1992. It provides the housing that women and their children are missing, but also the education, employment and life-skills training to get them back on their feet. In the fall of 2015, the Haven added another essential course to its program: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Money Smart classes led by Libertyville Bank & Trust Vice President of Small Business, Michael Barbini.

“Michael takes a dry and sensitive subject and adds his warmth and humor to create a truly fantastic group,” said Laura Sabino, executive director at The Haven. “We want every client to learn to create and live by a budget, to shop wisely, repair their credit score, make smart financial decisions and save for a rainy day. Money management is a critical skill that our clients need so that they are never homeless again.”

Every Monday, from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Michael presents the FDIC Money Smart curriculum to the women and pairs it with his own knowledge to answer questions based on each woman’s personal situation. He even goes beyond the course to meet with residents one-on-one at the local library for credit counseling and repair. Michael helps the women develop a financial recovery plan and think about short and long-term goals. And, he assures them their goals are within reach no matter what their wage is.  

“When the women say there isn’t a point in saving money, I remind them of the power of $20,” said Michael. “I tell the women to save this amount each week for two years. They’ll end up with $2,080. Often, this is the amount they need in order to move into their own apartment or put down on a vehicle. Watching the women realize the power of just $20 is so rewarding. By breaking down something that seems so unattainable, the women realize that anything is truly possible.”

Many women at The Haven are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. Others are battling drug or alcohol addiction and the vast majority struggle with serious mental health and physical issues. Almost all are unemployed, underemployed, heavily indebted and unable to pay rent.

“I see these women at their lowest point when they have absolutely nothing,” Michael continued. “I’m presenting information that is often overwhelming and scary. I try very hard to brighten their day by making them laugh, by making fun of myself and by keeping it real.”

But, Michael does more than brighten their day: he provides these women in need with real tools to help them define and reach their goals. During his one-on-one sessions, he helps them read credit reports to get a sense of their current financial picture and helps them draft a monthly budget. Then, he encourages them to develop financial goals to achieve in three months, six months, 12 months and beyond, empowering them to take charge of their own financial future.

One resident said, “I have gained the willingness to actually face my dilemma. Now that I’m aware of a place to start, I know that it can get better from here.” 

Libertyville Bank & Trust is also supporting The Haven’s mission with a gift card drive from now until September 30. The gift cards will benefit its residents as they work to achieve permanent, independent living.

“We are truly blessed to have Michael and the bank as our partners,” said Laura. “Move over, Suzie Orman…here comes Michael Barbini!”