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Mulberry Community Service Center
Success Stories!

We love a success story!

Many graduates have taken advantage of the Financial Incentives we offer to increase their savings, increase their education, increase their earning potential, and purchase homes.  Many have also benefited from our Coaching and Credit services.  Here are a few of their stories...

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On October 8, 2021 Brian purchased his trailer, and the Mulberry Community Service Center was honored to be in attendance and bring our matching check for $2,000 to settlement.  Within one week, Brian totally converted and outfitted his trailer, and on October 16, Mr. B's King of Wings celebrated its Grand Opening.  The Mulberry staff was excited to be some of his first customers and enjoyed some great food.

Mister B's will be open every other Saturday from 10 am - 6 pm at 110 NW 4th Avenue in Mulberry.  Way to go, Brian!!

Brian pursued his goal with unbridled determination.  He quickly completed a business plan for his business, Mr. B's King of Wings.  Within six months he saved his $2,000.  In September 2021 he attended the requisite business class from SCORE and the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce.  Based on knowledge gained from that class, Brian immediately revised and powered up his business plan.  He also shopped and found the perfect trailer to finish out to house Mr. B's King of Wings.

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Brian Smith lives in Mulberry and graduated from the Financial Stability classes at the Mulberry Community Service Center in June, 2018.  He completed his $300 savings in March, 2021 and received the $150 savings incentive.  In April 2021 he applied and was nominated for the Savings for Asset program with the goal of  starting a business.  Brian's business goal was to own and operate a food trailer.


Three years ago, Abigail Callejas-Mejias participated in Teen Trendsetters, an afterschool program at Mulberry High School, where the Mulberry Community Service Center provided MoneySmart classes.  Abigail completed the classes and became part of our financial stability program.

She saved $300 in a savings account and received our $150 financial incentive.  On October 23, 2018, she was nominated to the Savings for Asset Matching Program with a beginning balance in her account of $452.  Abigail's savings goal was college education.

Abigail graduated from Mulberry High School with the Class of 2020, and enrolled at Southeastern University (SEU) with the goal of being accepted to their Nursing Program.  In one year, she finished two years' of pre-requisite classes, completing the last two classes during Summer 2021 at Polk State.  Throughout the year, even while doubling up on her course work and working at Home Depot, she made the Dean's List!

While studying and working, Abigail was also saving.  She reached and surpassed the $2,000 savings goal to receive the Savings for Asset matching funds.  As a result of her hard work, she was accepted to the SEU Nursing Program, and began nursing school Fall 2021.  On August 6, 2021, the Mulberry Community Service Center was honored to present her with a check to SEU for the $2,000 matching funds.  She plans to graduate with the Class of 2023 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing (BSN).

Abigail said her parents are her inspiration, and what an inspiration this young woman is to others!  When asked what advice she would give, she didn't even have to think about it, immediately responding, "Never take 'no' as an answer."

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During November 2019 Jessica Sida attended our class hosted by the Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine, and quickly signed on to our Financial Stability Program.  Jessica came into our program with specific goals: “My goal is a 650+ Credit Score! My goal is to re-fi my mortgage ASAP.”


Jessica said the classes were very informative and she learned how to use the "Snowball" Debt Eliminator to take control of her financial habits.  We explained the top five factors that affect credit scores, and helped her pull her credit report.  We worked with her to identify the factors hurting her score, and explained exactly how she could restore her credit and achieve her goals.  We also provided guidance on how to pay down debt while staying on a budget. Armed with this information, Jessica began restoring her credit. She paid down credit card balances, and negotiated payment of old, cancelled debts in return for their removal from her report. Within one year, Jessica happily reported an increase of 119 points in her credit score!  She also opened a savings account and received the $150 financial incentive!


Jessica accomplished both her goals - increasing her credit score, and refinancing her home!  When she reached out to the Personal Finance Center of Polk County, Jessica was paying an interest rate of 6.25% for her 30-year mortgage. Through the help of the Personal Finance Center of Polk County, Jessica secured a new rate of 3.25% for the remaining 14.5 years of her mortgage, dropping her monthly payments by $400, increasing her monthly cash flow and saving interest!

Well done, Jessica!!!

Eric Sanderson is a mid-60-year-old male who has proven that, once he makes a decision, there is no way he will not follow through. Eric had previously taken a financial stability class elsewhere that disappointed him because it was only advertising for budgeting, investing, and credit restoration services for pay.


In October 2019, Eric attended the Personal Finance Center of Polk County’s Financial Stability course at the Auburndale Community Center. Eric was determined to attain four goals: Create a livable budget, maintain a savings account, pay his debt, and purchase a car. He faced a big hurdle. He had been injured at work and forced to leave his job of over 20 years, so he was living with part-time minimum wage employment and battling for approval of disability payments.


With the assistance of the Personal Finance Center of Polk County, he created a budget to guide his spending, and started saving $336 a month in his emergency savings fund. Then, he was nominated for the Savings for Asset Program and started systematically saving to reach his $2,000 goal purchasing a car. Working with a financial coach, Eric paid down his credit cards, paid off past debt, and negotiated its removal from his report. As a result his credit score increased by 104 points!


Also, as he paid down debt, he increased his cash flow and, in just eight months saved $4,534 for the down payment on his new vehicle! The Personal Finance Center, in Partnership with the United Way of Central Florida, through the Savings for Asset Program, matched $2,000 of the money Eric had saved for a down payment on his Certified Pre-Owned 2017 vehicle! Additionally, his improved credit score enabled him to obtain a lower interest rate, yielding a much lower payment, on his vehicle loan.

Happy motoring, Eric!


Emilio Gonzalez was a student at a local barber academy and  working part-time during the day when he attended our financial classes in Fall 2017.

Our classes showed him that he could move spare money from his checking account into a savings account, which took Emilio to his first success of saving $300 and receiving the $150 savings incentive from us.

This further motivated Emilio.  When he heard about our $2,000 Savings for Assets program, he became fueled to save for his  tuition. 

Through hard work, focus, and determination, Emilio saved $1,862 toward his barber academy tuition, and the United Way matched every dollar!  In June 2018, Emilio passed the state exam to become a Licensed Restricted Barber and is now employed at an upscale barber shop in Lakeland.

Emilio, like many of our students, was inspired by our program, and says he shares everything he's learned with his family and friends.

Maria Meyers attended our financial classes at the end of her junior year of high school.  A few months later, we helped Maria write her first resume and the next day she landed her first job!

As a graduate of our classes, Maria will be eligible for our savings match incentive, job credentialing scholarships, and savings for asset grant for college tuition.

Learning and practicing sound financial principles at her young age will greatly help Maria avoid the financial pitfalls so many experience.  Well done, Maria! 


The Woods Family attended our financial stability classes in October, 2013.  For four years, they worked diligently to get their financial house in order.


In January 2018, the Woods were nominated for our $2,000 Savings for Asset Matching Grant with the objective of buying their first home.   The Woods used our credit restoration services, and by October 2018 had increased  their credit scores by an average of 84 points in order to be able to qualify for a mortgage. 

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Also during 2018 they completed the required first-time Homebuyer's Education hosted by the Keystone Challenge  Fund.  Between January and December 2018 they saved $2,000, which we matched dollar-for-dollar. 


On December 11, 2018, the Woods closed on their brand new, 4-bedroom house!!  Congratulations to the Woods Family on their successful journey to financial stability!

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Danisha Smith is passionate about being able to help the elderly, children, well, let’s just say everyone. She previously volunteered her services and felt it was one of the best choices ever.   She did some research, and found out about the requirements to become a Home Health Aide.

Danisha reached out to coach Jennifer about Financial Classes that would allow her to receive a scholarship to assist in paying for her Home Health Aid Certificate through a local healthcare institute. Danisha was highly proactive and worked hard to achieve her goal.  She completed the Financial Stability classes, and within two weeks was able to achieve the $300 emergency savings goal to qualify for the scholarship.

We assisted Danisha with a $300 scholarship to the healthcare institute, and she completed her Home Health Aid Certificate training on August 7, 2019.  As Danisha says, "Now I am on an adventure to continue to not only inspire others but encourage you to put a smile on someone’s face. It’s not for everyone but think about it this way! You’ll someday need that person, whether for your loved ones or yourself, with empathy, compassion, and patience to care for you too."  What an honor for us to be able to help this driven young woman achieve her goals!  Well done, Danisha!

Some Way-Cool Success Statistics:

In Fiscal Year 2020, 54 graduates increased their emergency savings accounts by at least $300.  As a result they each received a check for the $150 Savings Match Incentive from the Personal Finance Center of Polk County.

In Fiscal Year 2020, the Personal Finance Center of Polk County graduated 224 people from the Financial Stability classes! 

The Personal Finance Center of Polk County currently has 17 people nominated for $2,000 Savings for Asset Matching Grants.  Nine are saving for their first house, five for reliable transportation, two for education, and one is undecided but will be ready for whatever is needed - -- either a house, reliable transportation, education, or to start a small business - when they've saved their $2,000 .

In Fiscal Year 2018, the Personal Finance Center of Polk County presented $300 Job Credentialing Scholarships to seven people who graduated from a local healthcare institute.

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