For the last 23 years, Beatriz Mauersberg has worked for Money Management International, a nonprofit focused on helping clients overcome current and future challenges by giving them the education, tools and support they need to make it happen.
Her role? Offering financial wellness education through online and in-person classes all over the state of Georgia, especially those serving the Spanish community.
Fortunately, Beatriz discovered Home of Hope years ago, and eventually brought her heart for serving and knowledge of financial education with her as a volunteer.
“I used to work for the Red Cross, so I was very involved with nonprofit organizations,” Beatriz said. “When I started with MMI in 2000, I got involved with several network groups. That’s where I was able to learn about an organization that, at the time, was called Gwinnett Children’s Shelter.
“Since 2005, MMI has received a grant that allows us to go and help clients, consumers or residents of programs here in Gwinnett County that are helping to build financial stability and prevent homelessness. And ever since Gwinnett Children’s Shelter became Home of Hope [in 2014], I’ve been helping there. I volunteer once a month to teach our financial literacy curriculum.”
Throughout the years, Beatriz has seen what Home of Hope does – and the part she plays in it – make a big difference for women and children in need.
“I think Home of Hope is one of the greatest programs here in Gwinnett County to help people avoid homelessness,” she said. “People can stay at Home of Hope for 12 months, they offer life skills classes to every resident – it’s a great program, really a hidden gem.”
But for Beatriz, giving her time is nothing new.
“Volunteering is in my blood,” Beatriz said. “I volunteered with the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta for over 20 years, starting in 1993 with a program called Girls Are Great, which was specifically for underserved hispanic girls. I’m also on the board and volunteer a lot at the YMCA in Lawrenceville, and I’m very involved with the Latin American Association.
“I also encouraged my two daughters (now 23 and 26) from a young age to volunteer, because I think it’s a great way for kids to learn leadership and how to give back to the community. My older daughter actually got involved with Home of Hope when she was in high school, serving on their youth leadership board!”
At Home of Hope, Beatriz helps to teach women basic financial skills like budgeting, how to get out of debt and how to build up savings. And while it’s second-nature to her, many of the women at Home of Hope have never had access to this kind of education before.
“Maybe growing up all they saw is moving from here to there. Maybe some have made mistakes,” Beatriz said. “But we’re telling them, ‘It’s time to move on, and here are the skills you need.’
“They’re being educated and given resources, because we want them to be strong so they don’t fall down again. And then they can share that information with others!”
One recent encounter at Home of Hope summarizes why Beatriz offers her time as a volunteer.
“I’m a certified educator by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – we have to take a lot of training. So when I teach the budget, I do it step by step. I often have people say things like, ‘I never knew that a budget has to be done that way,’” she said.
“I always start my classes at Home of Hope with time to catch up on what’s happened since the month before. Of the eight residents in my class last month at Home of Hope, four were brand new to the program, two had been there before, and two had already moved out to apartments.
“We’d been going over managing income and expenses and recording daily expenditures for 30 days. And this one very perky lady said to me, ‘I can’t believe how much I’ve been able to save thanks to this program, and I am almost finished with my debt. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to save money, and after this program, I’ll be able to move on and have some savings.’
“When I hear stories like that, it really makes me happy that they’re taking something out of it.”
With the help of amazing volunteers like Beatriz, Home of Hope offers women and their children not only essentials to make it by day-to-day but also the tools to help rebuild their lives, no matter what brought them to Home of Hope in the first place.
But as Beatriz tells her classes, it’s up to each individual to choose a new path.
“One of the things I tell these groups is: the information I’m giving them is basic. I’m not telling them that they cannot spend here or there. I’m not telling them what to do; I can’t make them do anything,” she said. “I’m just bringing them resources and education – it’s up to them what they want to achieve and have at the end.
“Some participants complain about the program, but there’s always people who find something to complain about. I can perceive when I’m bringing the information and people just put up a barrier, thinking ‘That doesn’t work for me,’ or ‘I’m not able to save,’ or ‘I can’t do that, because everything is expensive.’ But you also find people who are grateful.
“And most at Home of Hope are – grateful for the program, for a safe environment, a roof over their head, the ability to save money.”
Having spent many days volunteering, Beatriz has a dream of her own for Home of Hope.
“My dream is that they’d be able to serve more people. A lot of their staff has been there a long time; I always see those same faces who really care for the community,” she said. “But I think a lot of people, even in the area, don’t know about Home of Hope.
“The difference that I’ve seen there is women getting not only the money management and other skills, but a strength and knowledge, too. They fell down and got hurt, but they’re getting stronger. And at Home of Hope, they have someone to lean on, a safe place, food and resources.
“Home of Hope is making a big difference.”
Fun fact: The National Foundation for Credit Counseling does a yearly award to a partner organization. For years, Beatriz had been nominated for Financial Educator of the Year but never won. Last year, though, she was named the Financial Educator of the Year, and her organization won Housing Counselor of the year as well as Client Story of the Year!