A Story of RISE


A Story of RISE – Learn how our client Clay has worked with Employment Specialist Joseph Denton to make strides in his professional journey. Photo by: Matthew G via Flickr


Clay entered the Sound Outreach’s Resources to Initiate Successful Employment (RISE) Program in May 2017. Prior to his enrollment he had been unemployed five years, homeless for four of those years, and been in and out of jail. He attributes his inability to gain and maintain employment as a direct result of his ongoing battle with addiction, mental illness, and unresolved trauma.

“Before coming to Sound Outreach, I didn’t know what opportunities existed for me. Through working with this organization I was able to learn about several. Not only that, but I was also given some of the tools I needed to create opportunities for myself. I finally see that success is something I can achieve. Sound Outreach is a major influence in that discovery.”

Sound Outreach transferred Clay from RISE into the Center for Strong Families program where, for two years, he will have continued access to support in financial counseling and career development.

“Clay is an incredibly kind, ambitious, and bright young man who gave everything he had in an attempt to change his life for the better,” said Joseph Denton, Clay’s RISE caseworker. “Clay is a warrior.”

Since focusing on his recovery and keeping it his No. 1 priority, Clay has made huge progress. He recently celebrated nine months of continuous recovery.

That progress has helped Clay maintain his current job while simultaneously attending a six-week life skills hosted by Worksource Tacoma entitled, Strategies for Success. Coming from a diverse background in the Culinary Arts with “Sous Chef” on his resume, he quickly became gained part-time employment working as a line chef.

Upon completion of the Worksource program, Clay identified a career path of either Human Services or Medical Services. Driven by the need to help those less fortunate, he accepted an internship with Pierce Co. Aids Foundation (PCAF). He voluntarily provides outreach, educational, prevention services for our community.

Clay’s future ambitions are to continue his volunteer work at PCAF and he has enrolled in Tacoma Community College to begin his education in Nursing. Right now, he’s taking important steps on the way toward that goal. He works as a server at a Tacoma restaurant and is saving for his first car.

Thank you to Joseph Denton, Clay’s caseworker, for the text to this story!

Creative Commons-licensed photo courtesy of Matthew G.

Credit Up Podcast Episode 10: Jackson’s Journey


Sound Outreach Executive Director Jeff Klein hears about Jackson’s powerful journey toward a career as a social worker.



On this new episode of the Credit Up podcast, we speak with Jackson, who has big aspirations for her employment journey. Despite her struggles with chemical dependency and the criminal justice system, Jackson has surpassed all statistical expectations. Now she is using her own journey as the path toward becoming a compassionate social worker. Our executive director Jeff Klein spoke to Jackson about this journey and how Sound Outreach can help make it a successful one.




Starting the Financial Counseling Journey

Jennifer Watson (left) with her Sound Outreach Financial Counselor, Julie Tran.

When we heard about Jennifer Watson’s story, we learned what determination was.

Having overcome homelessness, joblessness, and a heart-wrenching health scare for her daughter who was born with a respiratory issue, Jennifer kept seeking ways to help herself and her family (she also has a son). Even when she had to stop working or attending classes to care full-time for her daughter, she kept her goals in front of her. It wasn’t easy though: as her situation dragged on, she felt her professional skills erode.

Two things changed the game for Jennifer: through her perseverance (and a bit of luck), she landed an interview for an entry-level DSHS job that would build her skills toward becoming a Financial Services Assistant. She nailed the interview and got the job, and because her income increased, she was referred to a Sound Outreach Financial Counselor.

When someone meets with a Sound Outreach Financial Counselor for the first time, one of the things we check is a person’s credit history. Jennifer’s credit score? She had no idea, because she hadn’t looked in years; she figured it would just be bad news. Without work, she had felt powerless to change that so she felt better not knowing. “Not only financially, but mentally, I wasn’t ready to worry about credit or anything. I just wasn’t there,” she said.

Jennifer knew her credit score was important information. She had taken a financial literacy course at Goodwill years ago that explained the basics of credit and savings. Seeing how this information could help her was a different story.

When she was young, she had been the victim of financial fraud. She lost her trust in banks, which she thought was supposed to prevent such theft. “I was really young, and I was never guided financially,” she said. Instead, she stashed money away throughout the house, in clothes, anywhere that wasn’t a bank. Some years later, she tried again: “I got an account and the next day I shut it down because I was so overwhelmed.”

Jennifer’s Financial Counselor, Julie, learned all this by spending time talking to Jennifer and hearing her story over several meetings. Julie set about rebuilding Jennifer’s trust in financial institutions. She quickly realized that while Jennifer was feeling overwhelmed, she was already doing the hard work: to keep her family going, Jennifer had created a handwritten budgeting system for herself, meticulously listing out all her spending and trying to plan for the weeks ahead.


A sample of Jennifer’s handwritten budget, which she used to track weekly expenses.

Julie saw how effective Jennifer’s method was but felt even more impressed by the goals Jennifer had set for herself. Instead of reinventing the wheel, Julie helped Jennifer put all the pieces together, starting with showing Jennifer that her credit score wasn’t as bad as she feared – she just had to look at it first. In a moment, Jennifer’s doubt was gone. Her credit score wasn’t terrible. It was good enough to start imagining possibilities. She had thought it was “so far gone that nothing was possible.” Now, talking to Julie, even her goal of home ownership seemed achievable, and she was all in.

One day, just after a financial counseling session with Julie, Jennifer walks into a credit union and opens new savings and checking accounts. “With the hope that [Julie] gave me, pulling my credit score and just seeing that I can do things to build the score to be able to get into a home is what did it.” She was on her way.

At the same time she opened the accounts, she also committed to a strict savings routine. Julie had no idea all this was happening – until their next meeting. Jennifer arrived for her meeting with Julie and excitedly proclaimed that not only had she opened new accounts, she had also saved by using her handwritten budgets to squeeze out small amounts every week. In the three months since Jennifer last saw Julie, she had pulled together over $400 – just in time to pay for a birthday party for her daughter, who was now healthier and fast approaching her 7thbirthday.

If Jennifer could have offered herself advice when she was younger, she would have told herself to get a knowledgeable advocate and have an open mind at the 1stmeeting. Luckily, Financial Counselors like Julie are here to be exactly that kind of advocate.

To learn more how Sound Outreach’s financial counseling services can help you build your financial management skills to achieve your financial goals, visit us at www.soundoutreach.org/services. Like with Jennifer, one of our AFCPE-certified Financial Counselors can help you take the first steps in your journey toward prosperity.

For more information about ways you can get involved with Sound Outreach, please visit www.soundoutreach.org/you-can-help.

Why We Call Our Work “Financial Empowerment”

Why We Call Our Work “Financial Empowerment”

Talking about finances can involve hard painful moments. But there we were, on a Tuesday afternoon at a Sound Outreach financial coaching session with our client Justine Gordon – and we were laughing. Just a few months ago, that wouldn’t have happened, but along with new financial management skills, Justine was feeling something she hadn’t had in a while: trust.

Even though we were enjoying this particular session, Justine tells us it’s never easy to talk about money. “It’s a huge source of frustrations,” she says. “I’m 51, I’m poor – and I have a Master’s degree. I feel like I should have money.”

Justine came to Sound Outreach via our Center for Strong Families, where she received employment assistance. Our employment coach noticed her financial situation and connected Justine to Silke Bone, one of six accredited Financial Counselors on our financial empowerment team. Justine has been meeting regularly with Silke for over a year. Their relationship has taken time to grow, but now it is strong and based on trust, now they can laugh together. Even after Silke changed locations to meet with clients in Spanaway, Justine did not change counselors. She preferred to travel so she could continue her financial counseling with Silke.


Justine had been working hard at reducing her debt, but without the right information, her efforts did not lead to positive outcomes. This is where Silke’s financial coaching has been most valuable. “Having somebody as an advocate who is available and accessible is extremely helpful because you don’t get that anywhere else,” Justine said. When she signed on with a debt consolidation company that caused more harm than good, Justine says Silke stepped in with precisely the advice she needed: it was not her fault, but she would have to take control of the process.

Silke encouraged Justine to be active in speaking to her lenders and banks so they can see her as an equal partner in resolving her accounts. Using that advice, Justine paid off thousands in debt by being in control of the debt consolidation process. Silke views her role as mainly keeping Justine on track and focused on concrete actions, but Justine thinks the counseling helped her in a way that went beyond finances: “I took the power back,” said Justine. “Silke made me feel no shame.”

Justine has made so much progress in a relatively short period of time. “I had no idea what credit is,” she said about her first attempts to tackle her finances. When she attended one of Silke’s free workshops on building credit, a switch flipped and she thought, “In our society, nobody offers that information. That is something everyone who has a credit card should go to.”

Justine truly inspires us with her persistence. We are proud to work with her on her journey toward financial stability. If you feel similarly inspired, please consider making a donation that will help Sound Outreach continue supporting our clients to help themselves. In addition to financial empowerment services like the ones Justine described, our entire Sound Outreach team is connected to a continuum of integrated services that help clients advance from insecurity to stability to prosperity.

For more information about our services and ways you can get involved, please visit www.soundoutreach.org/services/

Credit Up Loan Guarantee Fund- Judith’s Story

Judith is a first generation American who started her own cleaning business two years ago.  She had no credit, but needed a car to get from house to house, so she went to predatory auto lender– a “buy here, pay here” dealer, and ended up with an APR of 21.58% and monthly payments of $568. She grossed $3,800/month in her business. Twenty six months of on-time payments later, she still owed $16,000 on the loan, but her vehicle was only worth $12,000. Even though her credit score had climbed into the high 600’s as a result of her on-time payments, she couldn’t find a financial institution to refinance her to a lower rate.

Judith met with one of our financial counselors who thought she would be perfect to be our first test case with our Loan Guarantee Fund. This fund is held by Sound Outreach at Harborstone Credit Union to help reduce the risk of defaults when they lend to our clients.

Because we knew Judith made vehicle payments on time at $568/month for more than 12 months, and because we guaranteed half of any potential default, Harborstone refinanced her auto loan to below 5%, bringing​ her payments to $377/month, which saves her $191 monthly, and a total of $6,500 in interest over the next 48 months of payments. We have high hopes for Judith’s success and for our continued partnership with Harborstone Credit Union!

The Little Family Foundation believes so strongly in the ability of our new Credit Up Loan Guarantee Fund to have a real, measurable and direct impact on the cycle of poverty that they have offered to match all new donations in order to significantly grow our fund and to support our Financial Counseling program!

For every dollar donated, half will go toward our CreditUp Financial Counseling Program, and half will be matched up to $10,000 and placed in our Loan Guarantee Fund. Reaching our $20,000 goal would mean that Harborstone Could loan up to $400,000 to our clients in order to help them end the cycle of poverty!

Will you join us in the fight to end poverty in Pierce County?

Credit Up Podcast Episode 7!

Sound Outreach’s Board Chair Amy Remington and Deputy Director Alanna Rodgers sit down to talk all things housing and financial empowerment. They talk about the impact Credit Up can have in our community, the relationship between the housing market and financial empowerment, what is happening with the local housing market we may not be aware of, and where we seem to be headed. Download the episode on your Podcasts app or click on this link, and thanks for listening.


Victoria Woodards is our guest for the latest Credit Up podcast!

Victoria Woodards is our latest guest for the podcast. She sits down with Jeff Klein to talk about financial empowerment in Tacoma, equity, and the Urban League’s African American Financial Capability initiative.

Click on the photo or, better yet, subscribe to the Credit Up podcast on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

Credit Up Podcast Episode 5!

Tim Jumper, Director of Sound Outreach’s Center for Strong Families, sits down with Jerae Ray to hear his story about overcoming his criminal background to get a high-wage job, and how he used the first Credit Up emergency loan to get trained as an iron worker apprentice.

Use the link below to listen, or subscribe to the Credit Up podcast on iTunes!