Winner of the 2024 Community Courage Award

Community Spotlight: Bless Krieger
Posted on Category General, Stories

“Community Action Marin is so welcoming, nonjudgmental, and patient. They treat me like a human being. They know how to work with people like me who may be depressed or overwhelmed. They just slowly move forward with you at your level and pace. That gave me trust from day one.” – Bless Krieger, 2024 Community Courage Award Recipient

Bless Krieger has been working with Community Action Marin more than 12 years. When Bless first came to CAM, he was homeless and didn’t have a penny to spare. He first learned about CAM’s services while standing in line next to another man at a soup kitchen. He learned that the agency provided free access to some beneficial resources, including financial coaching and credit coaching.   

Bless says that he was skeptical but decided to take a chance. After a few visits, he enrolled in Community Action Marin’s Economic Justice programs. His goal? Bless wanted to build his credit score and learn how to manage money. He says it was the pandemic though that was a turning point because it gave him the “gift of desperation.”  

“I woke up to my patterns and realized I needed to change the way I thought about money,” Bless shares.  

Community Action Marin’s financial coaches and staff all lead with trust. It’s a compassionate approach that helps people take their first steps to overcome difficult challenges. “When someone comes to us, we don’t pass judgment or give opinions,” says Debbie Brown, Credit Coach. “We focus on moving those we serve away from their past and help them to move forward to a better future.”  

CAM’s Success Coaches, like Debbie, build from people’s strengths. “I helped Bless identify his goals and the milestones to hit,” recalls Debbie. Bless shares that Debbie gave him accurate information, connected him to resources, and then he felt confident to take the next step forward. This took courage, but Bless did the rest and the rest is history!  

This year, Bless was awarded the Community Courage Award. This annual award lifts up the experience of someone receiving agency services that exemplify Community Action Marin’s values of relationship, unity, service, and inclusivity.  

As Debbie explains, “Bless now sees a bright future for himself and a second chance at life. I think he would say that he attributes his success to his hard work, determination, and perseverance, as well as the ongoing coaching and encouragement he receives from Community Action Marin’s Financial Coaches.”   

How Bless Achieved a Credit Score of 817! 

Bless has a system he uses. He gets his social security check, takes it right to the bank, and then pays all his bills. The only purchases he allows himself are a clipper card and groceries. Once or twice a year he buys other supplies like paper products. Debbie shared, “Bless is very regimented and will often go without something so he can stay on track. He’ll then wait until his next payday and budget out what he wants to get.” Currently, Bless wants to improve his housing and possibly move to the San Bruno area, so he’s saving for that. 

An important part of Bless’ journey to build his credit score was getting a customized step-by-step plan based on his situation. “Community Action Marin doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all plan,” noted Heather Bettini, Assistant Vice President of Programs. “It’s tailored to everyone based on the unique needs of those we serve at any moment.”  

Bless lives on a fixed income of about $1,100 a month in social security. Using just that income, he has budgeted and saved for four years and now has a savings account and a credit score of 817. “It took Bless a little over six years to achieve his credit score goal”, stated Debbie.  

Bless likes to pay it forward and shares his story often. He has even traveled to other places like Brazil, Hawaii, and Europe to share his success. He loves to tell people about all the amazing financial services the agency has to offer. 

“Community Action Marin helped me figure out what my financial goals should be, like paying off my bills first. When I accomplish each goal, I get this great, natural high. There’s nothing like it. It feels great. I now call myself a multi miracle-anaire” exclaimed Bless. Added Debbie, “Now Bless knows how to stretch every dollar. He knows how to find the best deals for all his needs, from food to fun. He sticks to his budget and keeps all his bills at zero balance. He knows that money is just a tool, a very important tool, for a better life. And he always, always, saves.” 

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