Up Center helps displaced workers stay on their feet

Published 3:10 pm Saturday, November 27, 2010

by John Allen

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one in a series of guest columns from representatives of organizations that benefit from the Franklin-Southampton Area United Way’s annual fundraising campaign.

Frank was a single father with two teenage sons who was facing a problem a number of others have faced in this economy. He was about to be laid off from International Paper, and now he was anticipating a future when he could not pay his mortgage.

That’s when Frank took a trip to The Up Center, a nonprofit formerly known as Child & Family Services of Eastern Virginia and Family Services of Tidewater. There at the organization’s downtown Franklin office, he began to map out his future.

The Up Center staff worked with Frank’s mortgage servicer and submitted a request for a mortgage loan modification. This involved preparing a comprehensive financial plan, including a bare-bones budget, and submitting and resubmitting required documentation.

Through persistence, Frank was able to obtain some part-time work, which contributed to his loan modification request, and The Up Center was able to escalate Frank’s case. In the end, Frank’s mortgage payment was reduced by $350 a month, and he has since been able to make his mortgage payments in full and on time.

Frank’s story is just one example of how The Up Center is helping the community. This regional nonprofit has been serving eastern Virginia for more than 125 years, and today it assists nearly 10,000 people every year.

In Franklin and Southampton County, The Up Center helps Social Security recipients who need assistance in paying their bills through its Representative Payee program. In addition, with support of the Franklin-Southampton Area United Way, The Up Center’s Housing & Financial Counseling Department assists individuals in establishing and maintaining financial stability and permanent housing. This includes efforts to counsel seniors who are considering applying for a reverse mortgage loan. As an agency approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The Up Center helps many seniors who need assistance.

This includes Marge and Jack, who own a home in Courtland. The couple had taken out a home-equity loan two years ago to do home repairs, but it was becoming difficult to maintain their monthly payments and pay for new medications that Jack needed. Marge had heard that a “reverse mortgage” might be able to help them.

Over the course of two sessions, The Up Center staff explained the benefits and costs of the reverse mortgage in great detail. After the final session, Marge and Jack became convinced that they wanted to pursue a reverse mortgage.

The mortgage they received paid off the home-equity loan, supplemented their income by another $200 per month for the rest of their lives and provided for a $30,000 line of credit that would only be used for emergencies.

These types of complex cases are not the only situations in which The Up Center helps. The agency also meets with scores of individuals yearly to help with family budget preparation and credit report reviews and corrections.

Individuals desiring a free, confidential consultation are encouraged to call me at 757-965-8639.

Additionally, The Up Center has partnered with the Blackwater Regional Library to teach a variety of financial topics at the library on a routine basis. A schedule of classes will be published at the agency’s website www.theupcenter.org in December.