The Pathway to Success: Otis Pryor, United Way & The Financial Empowerment Center
Welcome home. We’ve spoken it, heard it or even seen it before and probably never thought much about this commonly used phrase. America’s servicemen and women, as well as military families across the country have a deep appreciation for what it means to be home. Army veteran Otis Pryor can’t wait for his impending homecoming.
“I know I’m going to be a homeowner again,” says Pryor. He’ll close on his new house later this month, a reality that seemed nearly impossible a little over a year ago.
“Knowing that you’re a fighter for the best country in the world and you can’t even get your own home really hurts,” he says.
When Pryor’s service time ended, he was having a hard time finding a place to call home. “I wanted to get a house that was for rent,” he recalls. “They wouldn’t rent it to me because my credit was so bad.”
Pryor was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time and was introduced to one of United Way of Metropolitan Nashville’s 63 partner agencies, Operation Stand Down Tennessee. Operation Stand Down Tennessee provides a wide range of supportive services for honorably discharged veterans and their families throughout Tennessee, all at no cost to them.
He knew he needed help getting his finances in order, so Pryor attended classes held at Operation Stand Down Tennessee. They introduced him to the Nashville Financial Empowerment Center, a program of Mayor Megan Barry’s office in partnership with United Way of Metropolitan Nashville that provides free one-on-one financial counseling to any Davidson County resident and focuses on reducing debt, building credit and increasing savings.
A coach at the Financial Empowerment Center helped Pryor come to terms with his reality: he was thousands of dollars in debt. “She pulled my credit report and we found out that my ex-wife had gotten our house foreclosed. I wasn’t even living there,” says Pryor. “On top of that, we found all kinds of security and payday loans she obtained on my report. I’m on social security and a disabled veteran; that’s how I get my income.”
The free financial counseling Pryor received through the Financial Empowerment Center inspired him to take those first steps on a pathway to financial stability.
“They are the boxing gloves for the boxer. If I didn’t go through the Financial Empowerment Center, I’d probably still be struggling. I look forward now and I head into this fight headstrong.”
Pryor is one of 3,700 Davidson County residents that have used the Financial Empowerment Center to achieve a combined debt reduction of $2.9 million and increase in savings by more than $500,000 from 2013-2015. That free counseling left him feeling financially empowered.
“There were items on my credit report that were hidden or that had already been paid off and my coach got those items removed from my report because they weren’t beneficial to me. Each time I got paid, I’d try to pay something off or work on a plan to pay something down. I used the Financial Empowerment Center throughout the entire process and I asked questions so that they could help me determine my next best step.”
Pryor’s credit score gradually improved and he was eligible to start receiving his Veterans Affairs loan again. That development moved him even closer to a happy homecoming.
“I’m supposed to close on my home on October 30,” says Pryor. “To know that a person can mess up and have a second chance or opportunity to clean things up is truly a blessing. I got tired of being turned down and I just didn’t want to get turned down anymore.”
Pryor’s remarkable turnaround includes continuing his education. He’s currently taking classes at Nashville State Community College and is excited about the possibility of a stable financial future, thanks to the Financial Empowerment Center.
“I always thought that United Way was only there when somebody had a flood and they would come and help that individual out with clothes. United Way is about so much more than that. I thank God for the Financial Empowerment Center because it gives you the courage to stand up and fight for what you believe in. You can do it if you just believe.”
Pryor is a strong believer in the Financial Empowerment Center program and United Way. They’ve helped him reach the doorstep of his new home and also financial stability. Welcome home Otis.