COLUMBIA — Keith Crawford learned an economical way to support his 10 children as a single parent through the Money Smart program.
As a result of the program, Crawford started to use coupons. He would go through newspaper, cut out all the coupons and use them for grocery shopping. "It helped out tremendously," he said.
Crawford was among the 22 people who graduated from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Money Smart program Monday night at Memorial Baptist Church.
Money Smart, a free program, is designed to educate low-income individuals about personal finance and home ownership. It was started in 2004 by the Columbia Housing Authority as a local pilot program and offers 10 financial education and home ownership counseling classes in four sessions a year. About 500 people have graduated from the program, and about one-tenth of those graduates have bought their first home, according to the Columbia Housing Authority.
The program's main instructor, Cornellia Williams, asked students to save $1 a week. Crawford decided to save $2 instead. After the 10 weeks of classes, he has saved $20 dollars. He said he would continue the habit of keeping extra money in case of emergency. "It helped me learn to appreciate the little things that I do have," Crawford said.
In the fall, Crawford will attend Moberly Area Community College and study business. He said he wants to learn how to manage money and how to start a home business.
The program's 20-hour curriculum works in tandem with the Columbia Housing Authority's other programs — Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, Family Self-Sufficiency Program and the Homeownership Assistance Program — to help low-income individuals and families to be able to buy their own homes.
Shantelle Miller has gone through these programs and is going to move into her new home in the next six months to a year. She graduated from Money Smart several years ago. She's a single mom with three sons ages 4, 8 and 13.
She lived McBaine Townhomes, a public housing project in Columbia. Then she participated the Section 8 program, which helped her to pay her rent so that she was able to buy a car. Next, she took Money Smart to learn how to budget and save money, and then she joined the Family Self-Sufficiency program, which helped her buy a house.
Phil Steinhaus, CEO of the Columbia Housing Authority, said the program is promoted by people who have benefited from it.
Miller recommended the Money Smart program to three of her family members, and she was present to attend their graduation ceremony. "They saw me being excited about buying my first home," Miller said. "That kind of motivated them to want to take the class."
"I could rent for the rest of my life, but I actually want to own my house," she said.