Connecting for good--All Among Us and American Eagle Credit Union

Financial literacy classes at Women's Care Center to be supplemented by American Eagle

Debbie Monterrey
June 06, 2019 - 8:04 pm
Women's Care Shelter Ferguson All Among Us

Photo courtesy of Liz Olson Photography

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Connecting great organizations 

One of the best parts of my job is meeting people in our community who are doing wonderful things. 

Because the news cycle can often be depressing, frustrating, controversial or about the not-so-great things in our community, I relish opportunities to highlight the good.

Connecting a non-profit I’ve championed—All Among Us/Women’s Care Center—with one of my favorite clients—American Eagle Credit Union--scores as a personal win. 

The Women’s Care Center in Ferguson is the brainchild and passion project of Cathryn Shaw, founder of All Among Us. Cathryn worked for a construction firm in downtown St. Louis when a “wrong turn” one day put her in the path of a homeless couple that changed her life. Helping the homeless began taking up more and more of her time until she formed All Among Us, to address the immediate needs of the chronically homeless. 

Cathryn and I met several years ago when I was a Girl Scout leader and we invited her to one of our meetings to help the girls put together “blessing bags” that she would hand out to the homeless she served. The girls put in items like socks, snacks, paper and pens, and personal care items. She told the girls about the people who would receive these items, people who lived on the streets, on the fringes, all around us, all among us. People whose lives were very different than ours, people who are invisible to many of us.

As time went on and Cathryn realized city shelters weren’t meeting the needs of all, especially women. While her work with the homeless was about “what do you need right now, today” her vision grew. There were women who may not be living on the streets, but who didn't know where they would sleep that night. In a car? At a friend's house? She wanted to not just put a band-aid on a problem, but help women to lift themselves out of poverty and become self-sufficient. When she told me about her idea to open a residential women’s center that focused on classes, self-improvement and long-term self-sufficiency with plenty of on-going support, I wished her the best but wondered how one woman could honestly accomplish so much. 

Just a few years later, Cathryn had acquired an old, run-down church in Ferguson, had secured enough funds/donations and volunteer labor to renovate the place and had officially opened her Women’s Care Center. 

Women's Care Shelter Ferguson All Among Us
Photo courtesy of Liz Olson Photography

Amazing. 

Before Christmas 2018, I stopped by the Women’s Care Center to drop off the blessing bags my kids and I had made (now our yearly tradition) that Cathryn would hand out to those she still served on the streets. The first residents at the Center were helping put together their own blessing bags, plus gift baskets for kids that they would pass along to parents in North County so their children could have something under the tree.

Cathryn took me on a tour of the once decrepit but now beautiful space that included a lovely common area, a kitchen, dining room, reading room, shower room and bed space for at least a dozen women. She explained how the women were taking a variety of classes aimed at helping them on their path to self-sufficiency, and once they were ready to move out on their own, All Among Us would provide continuing support and the women would also return to mentor other women at the Center. Important components included job training and financial education. 

I immediately thought of American Eagle Credit Union. I knew they did classes for the community on a variety of subjects. What if I could connect them with the center? Cathryn was well aware of how important financial literacy was for her women. When you live in poverty, any setback is a big setback, maybe insurmountable. Any expense can drown you. Getting these women jobs and training was one step, but teaching them how to budget, how to save, how to traverse the banking/financial system, was crucial.

When American Eagle Credit Union told me about their 80 Random Acts of Kindness to celebrate their 80th anniversary, All Among Us and the Women’s Care Center was top of my list of recommendations and I’m so pleased the American Eagle was immediately receptive to the idea and got the ball rolling. They met with Catherine and several residents of the Care Center to make sure AECU tailored the classes to fit their specific needs.

There are plans for those tailored classes on financial literacy next month. Both organizations seem committed to developing a partnership that supports the residents toward self-sufficiency. I hope it becomes a permanent partnership. 

Connecting two organizations committed to improving our community--a total win-win. Thanks, All Among Us and American Eagle Credit Union!​