Pay It Forward

All that we have, as an agency, comes from donations from the general public, from churches, from some small grants and from fund-raising. When we distribute funds to assist with gas, rent, prescription assistance, NYSEG shutoffs, etc., we are no longer asking you to sign a form noting that you will pay back $5.00 back per month. We would love it if your financial resources allow you to pay back, on your own terms, any funds that we have given you. This would allow us to use these funds to help other people. In many cases, however, we know that you will be unable to pay back in a monetary way, so we are instituting a new program, called “Pay It Forward.”

With this program, we are asking you to “pay back” by selecting the manner in which you would like to pay back.

Download the Pay It Forward Program Form


Alycia Anthony

Our previous loan program applied to most of the clients to whom we provide financial assistance. When clients were granted aid with rent, car repair, car insurance, prescriptions, electric shut-offs, heating oil, etc., they signed a loan form which stipulated that the clients would pay back TCRM a minimum of $5.00 a month until the original amount of aid was paid off. The goal of the program was to offer a sense of dignity, instill responsibility and enable us to continue to help others.

We decided that it was time for program evaluation since, while we were making some return on our expense outlay, most clients were not even making the first $5.00 payment and we knew that some would never be able to pay. In addition, the program required much administrative time, including record keeping, budgeting, tracking repayments, sending letters, etc. Our Finance Committee level recommended a change and discussion at the Board meeting led to a suggestion to develop a Pay It Forward plan.

Staff then worked at creating such a plan and on July 1, the start of our new fiscal year, we unveiled the new Pay It Forward Program. This new program embraces the values we wanted to maintain with our clients – dignity, responsibility, stewardship of resources, but not necessarily with the expectation of a monetary repayment. On the Pay It Forward form we suggest three “pay back” opportunities: community service to one’s church, community service to the community, or financial reimbursement to TCRM. We felt it necessary to leave a repayment option because that is the primary way a client can continue to help us to help others in their situation. With this option they can choose to pay the amount they wish according to their own time frame. Once they make just one payment to TCRM, they have fulfilled their responsibility to “pay back.” For the other two community service options, we offer some examples on the Pay It Forward form, e.g., helping out at the ACT dinner on Thursday evenings, raking leaves or shoveling snow for a neighbor, washing windows for an elderly person, helping with our Fall and Spring cleaning efforts, etc. Our goal was to offer opportunities for the client to complete the program, at TCRM, their church, or in the community. Paying it forward may be as simple as baking a cake for a friend’s birthday or visiting or calling an elderly neighbor. We wanted to make the program manageable so that even our disabled clients are able to participate. Endless possibilities allow for creativity. Once the community service activity is completed, we ask that they fill out the Pay It Forward form by listing the date of activity, what activity it was, and a signature from the person benefiting from the service. They then return the form to us and they have “paid” us back for the aid they received.

So far, I have received very positive feedback from the clients we have helped. Many have chosen the community service route, however there are still some who prefer a monetary reimbursement. Some clients have already “paid back.” I believe the Pay It Forward Program is more accessible, allowing everyone to participate. It gives the clients a feel-good feeling because it enables them to “give back.” We do plan to evaluate the program in the next several months. Changes may be made along the way to guarantee its success. For now, there seems to be a great benefit for both the clients and our ministry.

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    Owego, NY 13827
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