Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Consumer Credit Counseling Service Workload Doubled

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Consumer Credit Counseling Service Workload Doubled

Article excerpt

Some businesses shrink or close when times get tough. But it seems that something has to grow in the current economy - ev en if it's financial troubles.

At Consumer Credit Counseling Service, 2519 NW 23rd St., the client list is growing almost faster than the organization can keep up.

Consumer Credit is an independent agency that offers budget counseling and debt management plans to people, and charges little or no fees for the service.

Last year, processing an average of 70 families a month was considered a sizeable load, noted Gloria Kelley, executive vice president.

But the workload for Consumer Credit counselors more than doubled in April, when 161 families sought help from the agency.

The service, which gets about a tenth of its operating budget from United Way, had about 300 active clients in December, Kelley said. When the numbers are counted for May, she expects them to total around 470.

Kelley, who has been with the organization for about 12 years, resembles a sprightly, curly-haired fairy godmother. And to some of the clients, she probably is.

She said she heard about the job with the counseling service while working in the credit office at Montgomery Ward's department store.

"The minute I heard about it I wanted the job, because it's a helping position," she said.

Her method of operation is to make people feel comfortable enough to say anything. And many of them do.

Among those counseled by Kelley and her team are a former madam who was put out of business by the police, homosexual lovers and drug addicts.

"We listen to it all, but we discard anything that doesn't have to do with financial problems," she said.

Kelley's husband, Frank, is an associate minister at Western Oaks Nazarene Church. Often the two team up for family and marriage counseling, with Gloria handling the financial aspects.

She has also visited chemical dependency units at area hospitals, where she helps recovering drug addicts prepare for the financial pressures they are likely to face.

The need for financial counseling got so intense in January, Kelley said, that the waiting period for an appointment with Consumer Credit Counseling was 10 weeks. Part of the problem was the departure of one counselor, which has now been alleviated.

She hopes for one or two additional counselors by the end of this year, plus a computer to issue the approximately 1,600 creditors' checks a month that are now cut by hand.

Oklahoma City's down economy, plus record bankruptcies, tell part of the story of why the clients come. …

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