By Daniel Sheehan, Arts and Features Editor June 20, 2019

For two women, Melina Williams and Charell Hendricks, the night prompted reflections on just how drastically their lives have changed in a matter of a few years.

“I forget when it’s pay day sometimes, and that is something that I thought I could only dream of – not living check to check,” said Hendricks of her now-stable financial situation. That stability is just one of the pillars of the CFO program, which uses personalized mentoring and life coaching to help individuals realize their goals and become self-sufficient and economically independent.

Judy Parks, vice president of Mobility Mentoring Programs and Services at EMPath, explained that the “holistic” scope of the program is meant to bring about permanent, sustainable progress.

“The CFO program was the pilot of this idea that, in order to help someone move out of poverty, you have to not just help them get a job or get an education, but you have to help them in all aspects of their life, in a very integrated way,” she said.

Participants in the program are paired with a “mobility mentor” who draws up a “bridge plan” to self-sufficiency, a visualization aid that helps the participant set separate career, family, and personal health goals. Other roles of mobility mentors include connecting folks with resources, services, and information they might not be aware of.

Parks, who has worked in affordable housing for more than three decades, said the single biggest problem she continues to encounter is the “deep lack of information” in poor communities. Without access to that information, she explained, “people don’t know some of the choices they could make; they don’t know some of the options they have; and they don’t have the connections that others have.” EMPath’s mobility mentors help to bridge that knowledge gap.