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News from Innovative Changes



This month ushers in tax season, a time for much anxiety but also opportunity. Tax refunds can make a huge difference for a household struggling to make ends meet. This is particularly true for those who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a well-known poverty alleviation tool. If budgeted wisely, returns can be used to fill in income gaps over the course of the coming year or to pay off outstanding high-interest debt, the fees for -- and stress around -- which may compromise a family's financial health and wellbeing. Unfortunately predatory products like Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs) and Refund Anticipation Checks (RACs) are marketed directly to low-income families who can least afford them.   


In 2008, Oregon workers lost $23 million to RAL, RAC, and tax preparation fees. Thankfully there are groups like CASH Oregon,  NAYA, and Catholic Charities' El Programa Hispano that offer free tax preparation. Click here to learn more about IC$'s efforts to help keep taxpayers informed.


This month's newsletter also brings you stories that are reflective of what we exist to accomplish and how we do so: Frank A. has been an IC$ client since before we even opened our doors and the Portland Housing Center is one of our critical asset-building referring partners.

Finally, sign up now to participate in the ReVisioning Value (ReVV) 2011 Conference hosted by Springboard Innovation and designed to help those working for a better world! Get a discounted ticket today!

Happy tax preparation!


Sarah Chenven
Program Director

Frank's Story


One day, back in November 2009, Frank A. opened up the Portland Tribune to do some light reading. He flipped through the pages skimming articles, but stopped when he came across the headline: Program takes aim at the high cost of payday lending. 


"I just happened to see this story about people in debt with too many payday loans and I thought: this is me," Frank says, "I didn't know that there were places out there to help with this." Frank had a lot of debt at the time, so immediately got in touch with Innovative Changes, which was still in its planning stages.


"We didn't even have an office yet," reflects Program Director Sarah Chenven. Instead, they met in a coffee shop and started talking about the basics: budgeting, getting organized, and coming up with a plan.  "Frank was very interested in dealing with his outstanding collections accounts and ongoing budget challenges but didn't know where to start. We knew his situation was representative of the many households we were formed to assist."


Frank admitted that he wasn't sure what to expect at first: "I had never gone to talk with people about myself or my problems. I don't like people knowing my dirty laundry, but it felt good to open up about my finances with people who cared and to realize that I wasn't the only one going through all this."


Partner Highlight: Portland Housing Center Raphael

PHC logoThe Portland Housing Center (PHC) believes that everyone deserves access to home ownership. Through education, counseling and financial services it has made homeownership possible for over 6,000 families since 1991. Not only does PHC provide quality in-house services centered on proactive planning, but it connects clients to myriad other services to ensure that they have the resources they need to be fully prepared homeowners. One such service is Innovative Changes' credit building program.


Many PHC clients face barriers to buying a home due to lack of or poor credit. This prevents them from qualifying for mortgages or getting good mortgage rates. Imelda Ortiz, a Homebuying Specialist at PHC says "Innovative Changes truly helps us by giving our clients access to loans that not only help in rebuilding their [credit] history but help to rebuild their self confidence. Since they are not denied, they feel a sense of empowerment and a newfound commitment to changing their habits in order to reach a common goal of owning a home." 


Upcoming Seminar: Making the Most of Tax Time  SLs

Tax Credit Forms

After completed a great winter series of our Financial Household Stability courses taught at the New Columbia Opportunity Center and the Broadway Vantage Apartments, our first Student Loan seminar which we hope to teach again this fall, we are excited to announce our next monthly seminar: Making the Most of Tax Time.


Making the Most of Tax Time will be held on Tuesday, March 1st from 4:30 to 6pm at the Lloyd Center. In the spirit of tax season we want to ensure that people are informed of all the options out there- good and bad- during this annual window of opportunity. The seminar, taught in conjunction with Irena Solomon of the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), will cover topics such as the mechanics of getting a tax return, how to wisely budget and save your tax return, Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs), Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs) and more! To sign up contact Talia at 503-943-5620 or


To Register: call or email Talia at (503)-943-5620/


The seminar is $5 and fee waivers are available for those who qualify. Seminars are open to all.  


*This seminar is part of our ongoing monthly seminar series covering special topics of interest to our clients. If you would like to suggest or teach a future seminar or find out more information about our education programs, contact Talia (information above).


ReVisioning Value Conference coming up: Get a discounted ticket today!ReVV

ReVV2011The Revisioning Value (ReVV) 2011 Conference is a unique two-day conference designed to help those working for a better world embed new tools and practices into their organizations. Educational institutions, community leaders, government, and people looking to make a difference are invited to come learn how to leverage new strategies and ideas that are accelerating impact for social and economic health. It will be held March 7th and 8th at the Paramount Hotel in SW Portland.  


The six big themes being focused on this year are:


Impact Investing: Funding and investing models that promote financial and social returns.             

Strategy: Integrate new proven strategies that increase success and results.
Metrics: Learn to integrate social and environmental measures into your organization.
Start up: Learn where to find needed talent, funding, and community support.

Innovation: Learn how to create the conditions under which citizens and communities innovate.
Ecosystem: Engage with new tools, policies, and frameworks that strengthen the larger ecosystem.


*By your tickets by the end of the week and use the code: changexchange to get a 10% discount. To register and find more information visit the website.


You Can Help!

Innovative Changes is able to keep its rates low because of the donations it receives from those who care about Oregonians. Please help us continue to meet our clients' needs by making a generous donation today.
  • $25 allows an individual to attend our 4-part Household Stability financial education class on cash flow planning, budgeting, saving, banking, and credit.
  • $100 keeps a family warm this winter by covering their heating bill.
  • $150 covers 6 months of intensive individual financial coaching for 1 family.
  • $500 helps a family make car repairs to commute to work.
  • $1,000 keeps a family facing eviction housed.
Your gift will make a difference. Thank you from all of us at Innovative Changes for your generosity this holiday season.

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In This Issue
Frank's Story
Partner Highlight: The Portland Housing Center
Upcoming Seminar: Making the Most of Tax Time
ReVisioning Value Conference
You Can Help!
Quick Stats
Quick Stats
As of 2/10/2011



147, averaging $470.92 for a total of $72,050

Revolved amount  

Repaid loans

Financial education clients


Read the full list of our partners >

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Our Mission
Innovative Changes exists to help low-income individuals and families, and those who otherwise lack adequate access to capital and/or financial services, manage short-term financial needs in order to achieve and maintain household stability.