“If you’re working the program, the program works for you.”
Marsha Hatfield is confident she would have achieved her key life goals given enough time. But she credits her participation in the Northwest Project with accelerating her progress.
Since joining one of the first NWP cohorts based at The Fairbanks, Hatfield has earned an office administration certification and is now working to become a peer support specialist with encouragement from her employer, the AIDS Project of the Ozarks. In March, she purchased what she hopes will be a “forever” home for her and her son, Skyler, in the Grant Beach neighborhood.
“I would have gotten where I was going because I was determined, but I wouldn’t be where I am yet,” Hatfield says.
Originally from Kansas City, Hatfield, now 53, moved to northwest Springfield in 2006. After a divorce, she and Skyler navigated some challenging times. A work colleague shared a flyer about the NWP and she decided to give it a try. She ended up as her cohort’s valedictorian.
She credits the program with improving her budgeting skills to build up her savings, increase her credit score and start planning for retirement. She also appreciated the built-in support system and accountability that helped her sever toxic relationships in her life.
“It helps a person build self esteem to handle situations that get thrown at you,” she says. “You learn tools on how to process things and keep moving forward.”
The Drew Lewis Foundation also initiated the Blue House program to purchase neighborhood properties, make renovations and sell to eligible buyers, like Hatfield, who rented the home for two and a half years before buying it. With recent low-interest rates, her house payment is lower than the cost to rent a two-bedroom apartment. She’s planted flowers and started a vegetable garden at what she calls her “own little piece of heaven.”
“I have a future for my son and he doesn’t have to worry about going to a different school. It’s the American Dream of owning your own home and I have that now,” she says.
She acknowledges the challenges of staying with the program long enough to see its impact over time. It may feel slow going at first, and some don’t stick it out, but the participants who keep chipping away should accomplish many of the goals they put on their vision boards at the very beginning.
“I’ve never lived on my own until the last three years and I never thought I’d be able to do it,” she says. “It’s very empowering to know I don’t have to rely on anyone else to make sure my son and I are taken care of.”