Four Bands Success Story: Kyle and Christine Ward
June 4, 2014
1.What Four Bands products/services have you taken advantage of?
I have taken the Entrepreneur class, I took the Credit when Credit is Due, and have used the Credit Rebuilder loan.
2. What made you want to use these products/services?
I wanted to used these products/services so I could get my credit back in good standing so I could provide for my family.
3. What is the most important thing you have learned as a result from your experience with Four Bands?
The things that I have learned from Four Bands is how to correctly manage my finances and how to spend wisely.
4. How has your experience with Four Bands changed your life?
This experience has changed my life dramatically, I have seen my credit rating go from poor to having good credit, I have beenable to make some big purchases without worrying about getting denied, and the greatest accomplishment is that I was able to purchase a home.
5. If you could give any advice to other entrepreneurs or asset-builders, what would it be?
My advice to people is that you have to be patient. Rebuilding doesn’t happen overnight. Keep your eye on the prize and good things will come to you.
For more information on the Four Bands and to read more of their success stories, please visit http://www.fourbands.org/stories.htm.
By: Cora Mae Haskell
New Online Learning Center for Native Entrepreneurs
May 13, 2014
Achieving Self Sufficiency by Saving for Homeownership
May 15, 2014
Jennifer Wooden Legs grew up just outside of Pine Ridge, South Dakota and graduated from Red Cloud Indian School. Now 22 years old and the mother of a toddler, Jennifer works part-time as a library aide and is in the process of completing Oglala Lakota College’s nursing program. She, her son, and his father currently reside with her parents in their home. After seeing her older siblings become self-sufficient adults, Jennifer has the desire to provide a home for her family so they could live independently.
However, the process of becoming a homeowner on the Pine Ridge Reservation is full of roadblocks. First, there is the unique circumstance of trust land status that has prevented a private sector real estate market from developing on the Reservation. Any land leases must be processed by the federal government, which is a long and arduous task. The trust land issue has also resulted in a lack of lenders who are willing to finance mortgages on the Reservation. Lack of experience and knowledge by consumers of the mortgage process multiplies the difficulties in purchasing a home.
Affordability or lack of capital was identified as the number one barrier to homeownership in a market study published by Mazaska Owecaso Otipi Financial (Mazaska) in 2011. Financial readiness – poor credit or no credit, little financial experience, or lack of financial management skills – was also cited in this study as a major obstacle in becoming a homeowner.
For Jennifer, the cost of raising a child while going to college limited the amount she could save towards a new home, but she identified the Lakota Tiwahe Asset Building Program offered by Lakota Funds as her solution. Through this program, Jennifer has opened up a special savings account, called an Individual Development Account (IDA), where she makes monthly deposits. For every dollar she deposits, Jennifer receives $3 in matching funds. After saving for two years, Jennifer will be able to use a total of $5,760 in savings towards her home purchase.
Jennifer will also be able to tap into resources through Lakota Funds’ community partners to overcome the other obstacles associated with homeownership on the Reservation. The Oglala Lakota Tribe’s Department of Credit and Finance has developed guide that informs aspiring homeowners of the step-by-step process for obtaining a land lease, and Mazaska offers a variety of lending products paired with homeownership courses that provide the financing and knowledge for residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation to become successful homeowners.
“My mom and dad have always encouraged us to do our best. I knew I needed to save for a home for my family, but I didn’t know how I would do it while working and going to school.”
By the time she graduates the nursing program, Jennifer will have accumulated the capital, financing, and knowledge necessary to achieve her goal of becoming a homeowner. More importantly, she will be able to provide a stable permanent home for her family. For more information on the Lakota Tiwahe Asset Building Project please visit http://www.lakotafunds.org/matchsavings.htm.
By: Heidi Cuny
Native American Non-profits Announce Economic Impact of Free Tax Preparation Sites
April 29, 2014
First Interstate Bank Supports Lakota Tiwahe Family Asset Building Efforts.
February 25, 2014
Lakota Federal Credit Union Reaches 1,000 Members.
October 16, 2013
What Tribal Members Should Know about the Affordable Care Act.
August 20, 2013
Promoting Indian Homeownership in the State.
July 15, 2013
South Dakota Senator Johnson and Oglala Sioux Tribal President Brewer Provide Opening Remarks During Lakota Federal Credit Union Grand Opening.
May 3, 2013
Federal Initiative Brings Healthy Fare to Food Deserts.
April 1, 2013
Gardens Flourish on Pine Ridge.
December 5, 2012
Lakota Federal Credit Union Up and Running.
November 29, 2012
Pine Ridge Family Plans for a Brighter Future.
November 12, 2012
Abigail’s parents, Steph and Barrett, plan to make annual withdrawals from the account to help pay for school clothes and supplies but will set aside half of the savings for Abigail’s college education. “It will help us all around, and most importantly it will help the girls,” says Steph. The Haas’ also have two other daughters, Sharissa age 10 and Josephine age 2, who they plan to enroll in Lakota Funds programs. In a couple years Sharissa will be eligible for Lakota Funds’ Youth Individual Development Account Program (a matched savings program for high school students), and Josephine will be eligible to enter the Child Development Account Program that Abigail is in now.
As graduates from Lakota Funds’ financial literacy course, Steph and Barrett have been emphasizing the importance of saving to their children. “We want them to be responsible and know that money doesn’t come easy. You have to earn it,” says Barrett. He and Steph both have changed their habits to set a good example for their children. They comment, “The financial literacy classes are a real eye-opener. They make you realize things you’ve done and what you can do better.” Barrett says he thinks more about budgeting now and is aware of things like the fact that winter is coming and the utility bills are going to be higher.
In addition, Barrett was able to improve his credit by using Lakota Funds’ Credit Builder Loan to pay off debt. The staff at Lakota Funds coached him through the process. “Not only did I clear up my credit, but it cost me a lot less than if I were to go to a credit counseling agency,” says Barrett.
All of this has prepared Barrett and Steph for their current endeavor – saving for a home. In order to achieve this goal, Barrett enrolled in Lakota Funds’ adult matched savings program. Through the program, Barrett makes regular monthly deposits totaling up to $1,440, and Lakota Funds matches his deposits 3:1 (up to $4,320), for a grand total of $5,760 that he will put towards his family’s first permanent home. He and Steph also completed a homebuyer education course and are working closely with Mazaska Owecaso Otipi Financial, a valued partner of Lakota Funds’ that provides housing loans on the reservation.
The Haas Family has been living in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailer for the past two years. Barrett says, “The trailer is small and you can tell it was built to be temporary.” The Haas’ are currently looking into the costs of building a home that will better suit their family’s needs. Steph adds, “I grew up in a trailer, and although it was home, I am so excited to have something permanent.” Steph and Barrett are also excited that this home will remain in their family. “It will be a place for our girls to come home to after college, and who knows when we get older we might want something smaller and one of them can move into it,” says Barrett.
Native American Food Entrepreneurs Plant Seeds for Success.
July 13, 2012
While each food entrepreneur utilizes a unique approach to gardening, they each reap rewards beyond produce. John Yellow Hawk’s family has lived on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for generations, and John remembers his grandfather and his parents farming potatoes on the very same plot of land where he lives now. “Growing up there were no jobs. I don’t know how my mom and dad raised us, but I think it was on potatoes,” he chuckles. Continuing the tradition, the majority of the long rows in John’s large fenced garden are growing potatoes. John plans to sell most of his harvest at the local farmers market, but he also will keep enough potatoes to feed his family until nextyear’s harvest. He estimates this will save approximately $100 per month in food expenses.
Marlene McDonald has been growing a garden for years and enjoys the fact that her children love to eat freshly picked vegetables. Byparticipating in the Su Owojupi Project, she has been able to expand into seven garden plots and also plans to sell some of her produce at the farmers market. “It would be really nice to have extra income. With five daughters it is not always easy,” says Marlene. Prior to obtaining her loan and grant through the project, Marlene and her children dug up the soil for their garden by hand.And, due to the reservation’s limited infrastructure, they also hauled all of the water from the house to the garden in buckets. Only recently did the rural water department provide an outdoor watering system at their home.
Both John and Marlene agree that gardening is a familyaffair – even the youngest of children help pull weeds and water. “It gives them something to do,” comments John. Marlene feels that gardening teaches her children responsibility. John hopes that his children and grandchildren will keep his family tradition of potato farming alive. Enjoying the rewards of hard work is also a family affair during harvest time. “Sometimes I’ll wake up and find my kids out in the garden eating straight off the vine. You just can’t get any healthier than that,” says Marlene.
Gardening also offers a type of therapy to the gardener. For Marlene, being in her garden helps take her mind off of the stresses of life. With her husband gone for nearly six months on assignment for the National Guard, Marlene has been operating as a single parent and struggling to makeends meet. Adding to the discord, a wind storm destroyed her home, forcing her and her daughters to live in a motel. Still in the rebuilding process, Marlene says the Su Owojupi Project was a great opportunity that has helped turn things around for her family.
She says even though she doesn’t have much to give, it is important to give back to the community. She plans to give a portion of herharvest to elders, and has planted a hubbard squash plot per their request.“The elders are always asking for hubbard squash, and I had to special order it. Now we have eighty plants here for them.” Right in the center of the hubbard squash field, a pair of thunder birds, also known as night hawks, have build their nest and laid four eggs. Thunder birds are sacred in Lakota culture, and Marlene’s daughter tells her this is a sign of good luck.
For John, gardening is a way to help him grieve the loss of his wife who died last year. “After being married twenty-nine years it is like losing your right arm,” he explains. His garden helps take his mind off of things and get through the grieving process.
Tenants of Eagle Nest Housing Development Prepare for Home Ownership.
May 29, 2012
Eagle Nest Housing Development made history in 1997 as the first Native American tax credit financed low-income housing project in America, and since then has been providing low-income families with affordable housing. As the tax credit agreements are now reaching maturity, Lakota Funds, who owns the development, met with current tenants at the beginning of this year to ensure those interested have the necessary resources to successfully transition from renter to home owner. “It was shocking to see how foreign the concept of home ownership is,” comments Tawney Brunsch, Executive Director of Lakota Funds.
Home ownership for reservation residents is often complicated by trust status of land, lack of access to lending products, and little experience with banking and finances. However, the strategy that Lakota Funds has developed will allow individuals and families to bypass those typical obstacles. “Since Eagle Nest is on deeded land and we are helping tenants build their financial skills and connecting potential buyers to lenders who have a track record of doing business on the reservation, we expect this to be a smooth process,” states Ms. Brunsch.
Dawney and Chris Morrison, who have lived in their home in the Eagle Nest Housing Development for six years, comment, “I never thought this would happen — not here.” The Morrison’s are one of a handful of tenants that have chosen to work with Lakota Funds on their path to home ownership. They recently completed a financial education course, are working at improving their credit rating, and plan on completing a comprehensive home owner preparedness course next. The Morrison’s are excited to have the opportunity to leave a legacy for their two daughters. “They will get to learn from us what this is like and how to do it. This is something that we get to leave behind,” Dawney says.
Although, the homes are currently equipped with solar panels, the development is undergoing additional improvements to make the housing units more energy efficient and, in turn, more affordable to potential buyers. Lakota Funds expects to sell approximately five units in 2014 and the remaining units following over the next couple of years. In addition, Lakota Funds is examining the possibility of utilizing New Markets Tax Credits to build another housing development on a 120-acre parcel adjacent to Eagle Nest.
While the housing crisis on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is well known, an overarching strategy is still lacking and available housing resources barely accommodate the population growth. If the population of the reservation is equally spread across the available housing units, it averages 11 people per household. Chris Morrison explains, “Many people apply for housing and are on waiting lists for five or six years. In the meantime, they just stay with family.”
The 30 homes in the Eagle Nest Housing Development only meet a small fraction of the reservation’s housing needs. “It makes you wish you had more than 30 homes to offer, but we feel that it is critical that we help in any capacity we can,” says Ms. Brunsch.
Lakota Funds Celebrates National Financial Literacy Month with First Youth Matched Savings Program Participant.
April 6, 2012
Kolton, who has been in the program for a month, is attending classes to build his personal financial skills and also receiving three dollars for every dollar he deposits into his Individual Development Account (IDA), a special matched savings account. By the end of the program period Kolton will use up to $2,880 in savings to enhance his bucking stock business that he started last summer. This infusion of capital will enable him to purchase more stock and equipment, getting one step closer to his dream of becoming a quality rodeo stock supplier and bull rider.
“We see Kolton as a true entrepreneur who is setting an example for other youth on the Pine Ridge Reservation to renew our traditional Lakota value of self-sufficiency, and we hope that his example will inspire others to achieve their dreams,” comments Tawney Brunsch, Executive Director of Lakota Funds.
The Lakota Funds Youth Matched Savings Program, currently open for enrollment, combines personal financial skills and asset-specific training with group meetings and a savings plan that enables youth participants to achieve asset-specific savings goals, such as saving for college or to start or expand a business.
Kolton, who grew up helping his grandpa with ranch hand work, began riding bulls at the age of 10. He has since taken a particular interest in the business side of rodeo stock and has learned from a mentor-like relationship he has built with a bucking bull breeder in Colome, South Dakota. He originally purchased two bulls to practice riding on, and quickly realized his investment could generate a new stream of income if he supplied bulls to rodeos. Over the course of a year, he has sold and bought other bulls to improve and grow his herd, and while his bulls are only two years old he is currently working to get them ready for rodeos by implementing specialized training techniques with the help of a couple friends.
Anita Ecoffey, Kolton’s grandmother, comments, “I am very proud of him. I think he’s accomplished a lot at a young age, and he’s on the road to prosper. There are a lot of places out there to help, and Lakota Funds is one of them. We are grateful for that – not just for us but for the Reservation.”
Cody Gibson Makes Tax Refund Money Matter to Pursue Further Education.
November 1, 2011
Cody had always been interested in business and soaked in a wealth of knowledge from the class, but it also made him realize he wanted to go back to school to further his education and gain additional tools to prepare himself for a successful business venture. However, finances were still an issue. Luckily Four Bands had a solution for that, too. Cody went to the Four Bands VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) site to get his taxes prepared free of charge, received an EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit), and enrolled in the Four Bands IDA (Individual Development Account) program to start saving for college. Through the IDA program, Cody received a 3:1 match from Four Bands for every dollar he deposited.
After approximately two years, Cody had saved enough money to sufficiently pay for his college tuition, required fees, and miscellaneous expenses throughout the school year. In January 2010, Cody withdrew his IDA funds and headed back to Haskell where he will receive his Associate’s Degree in Business this semester. “I got to see how investing in something could build. It surprised me to actually see it happen,” says Cody. He also says the IDA program enhanced his financial skills and taught him about savings and assets, “I never really thought about investing before. Now I want to make my money work for me. I don’t want to work for my money.” Cody’s new habit of saving even came in handy when his vehicle broke beyond repair; he was able to save and purchase a more reliable car.
Through the Business program at Haskell, Cody has gained in depth knowledge on accounting, business finance, and business practices. Although, he says some of the best training he has received to date is from CREATE where he learned by example from instructor Cora Mae Haskell the value of customer service. “She just treated everyone so good and was so patient.”
Upon graduation, Cody plans to seek full-time employment in a Tribal or government job to help improve their business strategies. He also has an abundance of dreams he looks forward to fulfilling in the future, such as getting his Master’s Degree and starting his own Architectural firm that focuses on energy efficiency.
Cody reflects on his experience in the Four Bands IDA program, “It has taken me to another level of appreciation, where people are willing to take a risk to invest in your ideas.”
Wesley Wolf Invests in Gardening Business through Matched Savings Program.
August 11, 2011
In 2009, Wesley Wolf heard about the Four Bands Individual Development Account (IDA) program, or matched savings program, through the local newspaper and thought it would be a great way to make one of his ideas become reality. Participants in the Four Bands IDA program save towards an asset-based goal such as starting a business, owning a home, or pursuing secondary education and receive a 3:1 match in the process. Wesley wanted to buy a green house and grow vegetables and other plants year-round so that he could sell them locally. He enrolled in the IDA program, attended all of the required classes, and saved toward his goal for one year.
Wesley completed the IDA program in March 2010 and bought his green house in April 2010. He also began the Master Gardener program, a training program through the South Dakota Cooperative Extension that trains volunteers to serve in providing horticultural information to the citizens of South Dakota. The training consists of more than 60 hours of classroom work and 50 hours of volunteer work as an intern where participants are educated on basic botany, insects and diseases, plant propogation, fertilizing, and more. His certification as Master Gardener and this additional knowledge positions him for a successful business endeavor.
In 2011, Wesley’s business bloomed as he used his first batch of seedlings from the green house to supply community gardens in and around the Eagle Butte area. With his help many community residents will enjoy fresh produce throughout the summer and into the fall. In an area where a large percentage of the population suffers from diabetes and where quality produce is rarely available at local grocery stores, Wesley’s products will have a meaningful impact. But Wesley isn’t stopping there. He continues to grow his business and is currently installing a windmill that will power the green house during the winter months.
Sherlynn Herrera, Loan Fund and Financial Literacy Specialist at Four Bands, comments, “The IDA program has opened many doors of opportunity for people here on Cheyenne River by offering financial education and asset-specific training, and supporting the people who are determined to make a difference in their lives and in the community. Saving has always been a tradition not only for the Lakota people but all people; it is our vision quest that we must make a reality. You have the power to shape the future for your family.”