Time flies. That was Michael Barbini’s reaction to realizing he had sold himself short on the amount of time he had been involved with The Lake County Haven (the Haven). Michael, who serves as vice president of business banking at Libertyville Bank & Trust (LBT), has had a relationship with the organization since November of 2015 (not 2017 as he originally reported). He came to the realization when looking back at the number of Money Smart financial literacy workshops he’s led for the Haven. In total, an impressive 192. More than double the “it’s probably safe to say I’ve done 80 classes” he had first estimated.
The Haven is a social services agency dedicated to serving the needs of homeless women and children through its 10-bed shelter located in Libertyville, within walking distance to LBT. The agency takes a holistic approach and through education, employment, and life-skills training, empowers women to move from homelessness to independence. The agency is currently working on doubling its services by opening a second 10-bed shelter, an especially impressive feat considering several homeless shelters in Lake County have had to close because of funding. Currently, 84% of Haven residents achieve independent living.
Every Monday, Michael goes to the shelter to teach a financial literacy class. He generally has anywhere from two to 15 participants, and then meets with the women individually to work on financial recovery. He helps them look at their credit reports, navigate and analyze their debt, prioritize what to pay first, and create a budget. Michael also serves on the board as treasurer.
At the bank level, the Haven is an example of an organization that is supported across charters. LBT and Lake Forest Bank & Trust both provide a corporate contribution. In December, LBT also participates in Adopt-aNight, and pays $250 a night to sponsor the shelter for five days in a row. The bank has even done a couple gift card drives so the shelter, which doesn’t have a warehouse to store donations, can purchase supplies as needed. The one in 2019 brought in 39 gift cards totaling more than $1,700. But, it’s also the specialized services the bank provides that make a big impact.
Many of the women at the shelter count on the bank’s second chance accounts to help them get back on their feet. The Money Smart savings, checking, and CDs help them build better credit in a healthy way and give alternatives to some of the more predatory resources out there, like payday loans. The women—who often don’t have cars—can walk over, have a cup of coffee, and learn about the tools the bank offers.
The Haven has banked with LBT since 2005 and, according to Michael, the relationship is full-service. The agency is the shelter in town, supporting these women through some of the worst times in their lives. LBT is the community bank and willing to see them as more than just a number, to truly offer a higher level of support when they need it most. The partnership is a natural one.
So, why does Michael go above and beyond to stay so involved with the Haven? Although there are days when he walks away with a heavy heart, according to Michael, it’s simple: “Once you see these women and they open up and they trust you, you root for them.”