Evette Baker is a financial education specialist with Prosperity Connection who focuses her work in the 24-1 Community footprint. This target area includes 24 small municipalities that comprise the Normandy school district. Prior to joining Prosperity Connection, Evette worked to assist families with homeownership preparation at another organization in the same geography. She loved the work she did, but felt slightly limited in her position. Although assisting with home ownership is an important part of financial wellness, Evette started to recognize that her clients’ difficulties often extended beyond the scope of acquiring a home. Since coming to Prosperity Connection, she has gained the opportunity to assist clients with the entirety of their financial situation.
“Instead of getting people home ownership ready, I am getting people ready for life,” she explained. Her background and expertise in homeownership and commitment to financial education offers Prosperity Connection clients a unique knowledge base.
Prosperity Connection works with a diverse set of households, comprised of people from all races, ages, economic backgrounds, and more, throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area. But no matter where her clients fit into these categories, Evette emphasizes that, “It’s ok to ask for help.” She recalled a client who refused to share her financial difficulties with her family. With the encouragement of Evette, the client found the courage to communicate her needs to her sons. They were grateful for their mother’s honesty and even cut her a check to help out. Prosperity Connection not only strives to assist clients in building a healthier personal balance sheet, but also focuses on how the community can bring about important personal change from the ground up.
“My work is making a difference because of the way I present it,” she said. By taking a unique approach, Evette is able to connect with clients on a personal level with plenty of enthusiasm. “I’m just going to go out and start talking to people,” she said when asked about how she first approached her role as an educator. With this endless positivity and expectation for possibility, Evette is able to connect with clients on a personal level. She believes in the importance of personal attention and detail. Her attitude makes her classes and personal coaching sessions truly enjoyable for clients. “I get into my zone and I jump around, I have a lot of fun,” said Evette about her energy level for classes.
Despite endless enthusiasm for the importance of financial education, Evette also realizes that meeting people where they are is an important step that cannot be overlooked. “Not everybody is going to hear me, or going to accept what I want to give out. You have to meet people where they are. Sometimes you give out the information and people just aren’t willing to receive it,” said Evette. Through mutual respect and teamwork Prosperity Connection strives to create a strong culture of acceptance within the community. Community empowerment is central to the mission of Prosperity Connection and is what sets the organization apart from others working in similar spheres.
Evette’s favorite class to teach is budgeting. In fact, she championed the unique “Organize Your Bills” class in which clients learn techniques for easy and reliable bill-pay. For example, she came up with the famous (among her clients at least!) “half and half” bill pay system. It may sound like a lunch special, but this strategy allows people to split the cost of a monthly bill between two pay periods so big bills can be spread out and are less intimidating. Small, easy to implement tips such as these are the core of Evette’s teaching style. After all she says, “A lot of people don’t believe that there’s hope. My whole thing is, if I can do it, you can do it.”
What’s one thing she wishes everyone could understand? “We want to give everyone the realization that yes, you can budget, yes you can save for the future, there is a way to get out of debt.” As Evette continues her work with Prosperity Connection, she hopes to instill confidence in all her clients. After All, her favorite phrase is “If you don’t know, you don’t grow”. And when It comes to finances as well as life, this is certainly true.