Shirley Allen has had three dreams in this lifetime – to go to Bermuda, to have her own home, and to go to Hawaii. She made it to Bermuda on her class trip in high school; Hawaii is still on the horizon. Currently, she is only days away from achieving her second dream, owning her own home. Shirley has skillfully brought together a variety of community resources to help her realize her dream of home ownership, including a Family Development Account with Women, Work, and Community, a statewide non profit organization that provides individual assistance and group training for building careers, starting and growing businesses, managing money, and building leadership capabilities.

A Family Development Account is a savings account that an individual opens at a local bank or credit union. Every dollar deposited in a FDA is matched with two dollars from public and private investors. This savings can be used to buy a house, start or expand one’s business, or further one’s education. In Shirley’s case, she used this account toward her home purchase.

For the past nine years Shirley has been living with her partner and two children at River Valley Village. “I like the people here but I have always wanted to own a home. We are looking forward to moving to the country,” says Shirley. Their home is being built in South Paris.

In January 2006, Shirley contacted Women, Work, and Community for help. After meeting with staff at WWC and applying for the program, Shirley opened her FDA in June 2006. Since then she has become an advocate for Women, Work and Community. “They are great. I could not have made it this close to buying a home without them.” Shirley used the FDA money toward the down payment on her home in August 2007.

One of the requirements for having an FDA is participation in a financial management course. Shirley attended WWC’s “Financing Your Future: Managing Your Money to Meet Your Goals” class at USM Lewiston-Auburn College. In this training, individuals explore their attitudes and beliefs about money, look at their current financial situation, create a savings plan and discuss wise use of credit. “This class taught me how not to get into trouble,” Shirley says.

Shirley credits the Community Concepts Homeownership program, Lewiston Housing Authority and Women, Work, and Community for coming together to help realize her dream. Laurie McDonnell, coordinator for WWC’s Lewiston Center, says Shirley should be commended for her tenacity. “I have to give Shirley all the credit for staying on top of all the coordinating between various programs. She has done a remarkable job. It is wonderful to see that all her hard work has paid off.”

Shirley and her family will be moving into their new home in early summer. More information about Women, Work, and Community may be found at

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