Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Problem Solver Tailors Workshops to People's Needs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Problem Solver Tailors Workshops to People's Needs

Article excerpt

Byline: Nancy Winckler-Zuniga

When people volunteer, they can change lives - including their own. Each week in Reason, we will highlight a volunteer's story of giving back and how that selfless act was a true revelation. The volunteer project is a collaboration among the Times-Union, the University of North Florida, the United Way of Northeast Florida and HandsOn Jacksonville.

There's a twinkle in Darrell Prather's eye when he's trying to find out about something, whether it's through his volunteer work with United Way of Northeast Florida's RealSense initiative or through working as a project manager at the Mayport Naval Station.

"I solve problems," Prather said, "whether it's equipment, supplies or personnel problems."

Prather said he draws comfort and inspiration from finding solutions and helping people. When he saw an email asking for RealSense financial-education volunteers, he signed up.

"I suppose it's why I'm drawn to teaching the financial workshops, too," Prather said. "It gives me a sense of peace trying to make things a little better."

But it's not always easy, he said. Most of the participants whom Prather helps reside in subsidized housing and are required to take the workshops. Many have gotten there under difficult circumstances.

The challenge for Prather is then to adjust the financial-education curriculum to fit their needs. For example, concepts like saving money for retirement may not be as immediate a need as learning to use a checking account properly.

"It's hard to give people the principles of finding extra money when there is none," Prather said. "I try to give them a sense that it's OK. A lot of us have been there, and through RealSense, there are people with answers. There are wonderful, helpful angels who are ready to answer their questions."

Prather said he understands many families are just a crisis away from financial hardship.

"I was fortunate," he said. "I could have been where these families are."

Growing up in a large Midwest family with nine brothers and sisters, life was initially pretty comfortable. …

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