How Norwalk Group helps people in need build savings

NORWALK – A flat tire can quickly snowball into a financial crisis for someone without emergency savings. A new program at Open Doors is helping people avoid such pitfalls and save more money now.

“We can see how something small can escalate into something big. We want to eliminate that first step,” Michele Conderino, executive director of Open Doors, said Friday during a celebration for the first 11 customers to complete the Open Doors Savings Match program.

The Savings Matching Program aims to instill better financial habits in the community, such as budgeting, increasing savings, building credit, and eliminating debt. The program launched in January and offers rolling enrollment.

Each client works with financial coach Eddy Agyeman to learn better money management skills, how to leverage the Open Doors match, and other financial goals. Another 11 clients are completing the program and more places are available.

Agyeman helped each participant create a plan with their budget to save at least $400 over six months. The minimum savings per month to reach the goal was $67, but customers could choose to save more to reach the goal faster.

“The biggest challenge was having that consistency. People had to make sure they could save every month and record that with me,” Agyeman said. “It really tells you that it’s about the mentality of the people and not the numbers. I can have a plan and work out the numbers for you, but if you don’t have the perseverance and the determination it will end up failing .

The program encourages people to save for future expenses.

“Savings is a very rare topic to discuss in today’s society because a lot of people want to spend, don’t want to create more of themselves in the future,” Agyeman said.

Open Doors originally planned to match every dollar saved, but with rising inflation, the nonprofit increased its matching to 1.5 for every dollar saved. The top 11 graduates saved a total of $4,400 and Open Doors tied with $6,600.

Rahsan Fisher was congratulated by local and national officials on Friday when he received his match cheque. The other 10 graduates will receive their checks shortly.

“The program really helped me take a step back from all the fun things I probably could have done with my money, and I think I saw the bigger picture. One day, I want my money is working for me,” said Fisher, who is studying business in college.

To participate in the program, individuals must be registered with the Open Doors Financial Opportunity Center. They must be 18 or older, have proof of income, earn 30% of median income, and have less than $1,000 in a savings account at an FDIC depository institution.

Those interested in the program do not need to be referred. In addition to the program, Open Doors hopes to connect clients with financial coaching, employment services, income support advice and basic computer courses.

To learn more about the Matched Savings Program and the Financial Opportunities Center, visit the Open Doors website at or call 203-866-1057.

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