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Dreamsavers Offering Matching Funds for Tuition, Home Repair, Housing, Technology

Hannah Hawkins / Mainstream
Lisa Alderidge and DeAna Nelson’s program matches $3 for every $1 applicants save in approved programs.

What do 46 small business owners, 129 students, and over 100 homeowners have in common? Every one of them achieved their dream with only a fraction of the necessary funds coming out of pocket. The NeighborWorks Umpqua program DreamSavers matches Oregon residents’ financial deposits with a 3:1 return.
This 300 percent interest will allow participants to personally save up to $3,000 yet walk away with a $12,000 balance because for every dollar the participant puts into an approved savings account, DreamSavers matches that dollar with $3 of their own. Yes, it’s free money.

NeighborWorks Umpqua is a private rural 501(c)(3) organization whose focus is largely community based. In 2003, NeighborWorks Umpqua started the DreamSavers program to help beyond the typical welfare aid for Oregon counties’ residents.
“We are a very specific program where we work with people who can survive, but they want to move beyond survival to something else and they are ready to put the work into doing that. It takes a lot of discipline,” Stacy Howard, IDA program manager, said.
DreamSavers is an Individual Development Account or IDA program whose goal is to help Oregon residents reach their dreams with a little financial help.
“Oregon has the largest IDA program in the nation; we are really at the cutting edge,” Howard said.
Oregon is leading nation-wide partly because Oregon offers their DreamSaver donors the incentive of a tax credit. Supporters can donate funds and receive a 75 percent tax credit on their state tax return.
“We have people who donate $25 and we have people who donate $200,000 to our funder, Neighborhood Partnerships,” Howard says. “They really made the program very flexible and that’s what makes people want to donate.”
On top of financial assistance, the program is structured to provide participants with training, goal setting and support.
In order to acquire the benefit of thousands of free dollars, hopeful participants must present a vision or realistic dream in any of NeighborWork’s five main savings goal areas.
The DreamSavers program can help people start saving to start or expand a small business, to acquire a post-secondary education, buy a home, repair or maintain a home, and even get assistive technology for employment.
In order to qualify, a person must be at least 12 years old, an Oregon resident, willing and able to save for a minimum of six months, and meet specific, required household income limits.
"A 'household' is a family unit that is supported by the income. If your parents are supporting you and claiming you on their taxes, then you don't qualify," Howard said. "If you pay your own taxes, if you file as ‘not a dependent’ on anyone else's form, we would consider you your own household."
DreamSavers requires proof of taxes filed the previous year, two months’ worth of pay stubs and two months’ worth of bank statements to prove independency.
As if the financial match ratio of 3:1 was not already a sweet enough deal, NeighborWorks Umpqua has a variety of additions to help Oregon residents become successful in their dream area.
Neighborworks Umpqua will aid in any post-secondary education imaginable, paying for tuition, books and fees.
"It can be any post-secondary education: college, certificate program, trade school, vocational school, you name it. There are very few grant programs that work for trade schools or certificate programs," Howard said. "DreamSavers is much more flexible."
To get the education assistance, applicants must also show a career plan. This helps to educate through research what the job market is projected for that specific field. NeighborWorks Umpqua is driven by success and well-being of their clients.
"We [DreamSavers staff] will guide you, but we will not do your work for you. We want to help you realize what you are capable of," Howard said.
DreamSavers staff also helps those struggling to buy a home, by sitting down with each case individually and going over debt, credit and income.
"In order to buy a house, it has to be feasible for them to buy a house within three years," Howard said.
Different factors play into the decision of whether someone is qualified to participate in the buying of a home. However, DreamSavers does work with people and often is optimistic about a client's future household income to support the buying process. The staff will sit-down and explain, after reviewing the person's socio-economic standing, the things they'd like to see improved before accepting the person into the program.
The DreamSavers home repair/maintenance assistance is only for homes that require fixing. It is not to be used for upgrading or improvement. Adding on another room to a house is not within limits, but things such as repairing a leaky roof, repainting, installing new sheetrock to replace damaged walls and more are all in the realm of house repair.
The program’s assisted technology for employment, in simple terms, provides anything that may help someone get a job. This could be just about anything from transportation to computer programs to dental cosmetics. There is no set list of what DreamSavers will do to help financially. They are very flexible and open to ideas.
A small business specialist working with the DreamSavers program can also assist with help for researching and writing a business plan to those interested in starting or expanding a small business.
"People come in and they say 'This is what I want to do,' and we say, 'Ok, well, how does it fit into this program?'" Howard said. "We haven't thought of all the different ways that people want to use the funds."
The rules for possessing the money from the DreamSavers program are very strict, however.
"You have to make a regular deposit every month. You can only save for three years. You have to be in the program for 12 months for every $1,000 spent."
The whole idea is to get people to make goals and then work towards them. DreamSavers wants to see people change their financial behaviors.
"Most people who go through the program say it changes their outlook on money," Howard said. "It doesn't always change their behavior, but it changes their view on spending and saving."
Over 275 people have achieved their dreams of buying a house, owning their own business, or attending post-secondary education with the help of DreamSavers. Howard and her DreamSavers staff say they eagerly await the opportunities of helping residents achieve their potential and embellish their dreams. For more information on the DreamSavers program, visit www.nwumpqua.org, call 541-673-4909, or stop in at their office located at 605 SE Kane Street, Roseburg 97470.