MANITOWOC — Without Catholic Charities, Ginny Bauer shudders at the thought of what may have happened.
“We probably would have been out of our house and living in a car, if I even still had my car by then,” she said. “For sure, we would have been homeless.”
Bauer, 41, of Manitowoc, said her family experienced a financial crisis about a year ago when her husband, who’s legally blind, stopped receiving disability payments. Without warning, she said, the couple and their two children, ages 11 and 7, abruptly lost more than half of their income.
At the encouragement of a friend who was utilizing Catholic Charities’ services, Bauer visited Beth Snyder, financial health program coordinator with the Manitowoc branch of Catholic Charities.
Now, with her family’s finances back in order thanks in large part to Snyder’s guidance, Bauer expressed gratitude for Catholic Charities and its caring professionals.
“Beth helped me enough that I am right now debt-free and down to one credit card — and that card has no debt on it either,” Bauer said. “We went from almost losing our house and our car to being OK now.
“Catholic Charities has been there from day one and never judged me. They’ve always been there to help me, so I’m thankful for that,” she said.
Catholic Charities provides an array of social service programs to thousands of people throughout northeastern Wisconsin each year from offices in several communities. It is among the entities supported by the Bishop’s Appeal, an annual fundraising campaign conducted by the Catholic Foundation to nurture ministries and services of the Diocese of Green Bay.
Catholic Charities’ financial health services offer tools and guidance to help people learn responsible financial management.
Snyder, 54, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Manitowoc, has served Catholic Charities as a financial health program coordinator for the past five years and as a financial health counselor for 10 years before that.
Before joining Catholic Charities, Snyder worked as an executive director for an assisted living facility. She graduated from Silver Lake College, sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, with a bachelor’s degree in human resource management and a master’s degree in management and organizational behavior.
Helping people in need like Bauer is Snyder’s greatest motivation.
“I feel great about what I do each day because I believe in our mission,” she said. “Being missionary disciples, to me that means using my God-given talents to help others. That’s what I love doing at Catholic Charities.
“I believe if we weren’t offering this service, people in the community might not have anybody to go to for this service,” added Snyder.
“People talk about financial problems being one of the top reasons people divorce or families break up,” the financial health counselor said. “So I think it’s really important to have somebody to go to and be able to help you when you’re having financial issues or a crisis. We’re helping individuals and families, and that benefits the entire community.”
Catholic Charities helps people regardless of their religious beliefs. Bauer, who describes herself as Lutheran/nondenominational, said she was relieved to learn that upon her first visit.
Snyder said the financial health program primarily offers individual and group financial health counseling, workshops and seminars, representative payee services, pre- and post-purchase housing counseling, and bankruptcy services.
“The foundation of our program really has always been individual financial health counseling, so counseling people or families one-on-one,” she said. “All of the other services kind of stem from that.”
Snyder typically assists 50 to 75 clients during any given time period. The number fluctuates with the economy.
“When the economy was really bad and people were getting laid off, we were super busy and doing a lot of bankruptcies,” Snyder said. “As the economy has gotten a little better, there aren’t quite as many.
“But when the economy gets better, people start to use credit cards more and we start getting a lot of people saying, ‘I’m overextended in credit card debt and I don’t know what to do.’ So it ebbs and flows,” she said.
Snyder said Bauer was among her more proactive clients, not wasting any time seeking assistance.
“A lot of people, when they’re faced with a financial crisis, tend to freeze, kind of stick their heads in the sand and ignore it,” Snyder said. “But Ginny came and got help right away, and I think because she did that it made their situation better in the long run.
“We started working together and came up with a plan on budgeting, which bills to pay first, what things to prioritize, how to deal with the creditors. And we got things turned around,” added Snyder.
Bauer initially came to the Manitowoc branch once every two weeks. Now that her finances are in order and her husband is again receiving full disability payments, she comes in about once a month.
To supplement her husband’s payments and money received from his part-time work, Bauer bakes and sells cakes. She also volunteers at Autism Society of the Lakeshore; her 11-year-old son has Asperger syndrome.
Bauer said she’s thankful Manitowoc has a place like Catholic Charities with knowledgeable, devoted personnel like Snyder.
“Beth is a fun, relaxed, nice, calm person who’s willing to help people,” Bauer said. “She’s great to work with.”