VALPARAISO | While doing an internship at Housing Opportunities early last year, Shannon Mellgren asked a part-time AmeriCorps worker about what she did.
"I thought it would be a great way to work with Housing Opportunities," Mellgren said. "I had seen myself working for not-for-profits as an accountant. I did a lot of volunteering in college, and I knew I would enjoy helping in any way I could with Housing Opportunities."
Mellgren, 23, is originally from Minnesota but now lives in Valparaiso after attending Valparaiso University, where she graduated in December with degrees in accounting and music. Her internship ended in May 2010, but she was back in August as an AmeriCorps worker.
She said the $12,000 stipend she receives for the year helps her relate better with the clients she works with, all of whom are low-income people, and to find ways to help them.
"It's hard, but it's a good sacrifice," she said. "What I've been learning is talking with people concerning their money is a mind-set that needs to change. The more positive the mind-set, the more chance of success. Job searches are very stressful when you have just enough money to get by."
She helps them develop a financial plan that looks to the future, which often is a reality check for the clients. Mellgren also manages the organization's food pantry.
"When I get a job, I would love to continue to support them in my spare time," she said of Housing Opportunities. "It's made me very grateful for the education I have. It's hard when you don't have the background or a degree to find a job that pays enough to live on, and many of these people do not have those."