Remarks by Michelle Jones at Decatur Rotary Club, Decatur, GAviernes, 20 de febrero de 2009

I've been with Consumer Credit Counseling Service for 12 years, and over the course of those twelve years, I have had the same introductory conversation hundreds of times. I'll be at my daughter's school, or in the grocery store, or at a networking event and someone will ask what I do. "Why I work for consumer credit counseling service" I'll reply and they will inevitably respond, "oh, that's great . . . now what exactly is it that you do?"

Now for some of you in the room, that may not be the case. We're the organization that you know typically only if you ever have cause to need us. So if you have an employee base or some other constituency who may be in need of our services, you may well know who we are. And if you've ever tried to help a friend, family member or neighbor during tough times, you may have discovered our services during your search for resources.

But for those who may not be familiar, I'll give a brief overview before I get onto the main topic of today's conversation, which is the pressing foreclosure crisis that continues to plague our communities and our nation, what that has looked like from my agencies perspective, and what we can do and are doing to help.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta is based in downtown Atlanta at 100 Edgewood Avenue in the United Way building. However, while we are based here, we are one of the nation's leading nonprofit counseling agencies, providing confidential financial counseling to people who have too much credit card debt, have missed a mortgage payment and are trying to avoid foreclosure, and for people who may need to file for bankruptcy.

We provide much of our counseling over the phone and over the Internet. In recent years, technology has enabled us to reach many more people, either by toll-free, 800 telephone number or through our web site, which is www.CredAbility.org.

However, we still counsel many people in person. We have 10 offices throughout north GA and metro Atlanta where a person can make an appointment and speak to a certified credit counselor. In fact, we have an office staffed with counselors in downtown Decatur, just a block from here at 140 East Court Square.

We often refer to our agency as a financial emergency room. Our job is to work with people who are in the midst of a financial crisis, identify their options and best next steps, and then move them to a situation where they can deal with their financial lives in a confident manner.

An increasing amount of our work these days comes from homeowners who are delinquent on their mortgage payments and seeking help to avoid foreclosure. Our job is to help them find a solution that will either save their home, such as a loan modification, or offer a graceful exit, such as a pre-foreclosure sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. But at CCCS, while the consumer is our primary client, we act as a neutral 3rd party and work to craft solutions that will not only work for the homeowner, but also one that is acceptable to the mortgage company. It's because of this measured, impartial advice and counseling that both homeowners and mortgage servicing companies see the value of working closely with our organization.

Because of the increased demand from people seeking help, the number of housing counseling sessions we conduct is skyrocketing.

Housing counseling sessions at CCCS have been increasing since the mortgage crisis began three years ago. Back in 2006, when we had only eight housing counselors, we conducted less than 10,000 housing counseling sessions. That number jumped to over 31,000 in 2007 to an unbelievable high of 73,573 last year. During that period, we have gradually added to staff and now have roughly 175 housing counselors in total who are helping people trying to avoid foreclosure.

WHO WE SERVE