Community Stories, Eden Updates, Volunteer of the Month

Volunteers of the Month: Howard Cohen

July 1, 2021

Financial Coach with Eden Savers; Sara Conner Court

Why did you choose to volunteer with Eden Housing?

Since my retirement (software development management), I continually seek out volunteer opportunities. Believing that I have been extremely blessed, I view volunteering as a form of “paying it forward”. My volunteering efforts have included (i) assisting in a high school woodshop, (ii) various church activities and leadership, (iii) mathematics tutoring, and (iv) helping at an immigration service non-profit. Even more so than what I did as an occupation, volunteering is vocational and, consequently, an opportunity to be authentic as a person and to choose things that are most meaningful. What I discovered, firstly, is that I really enjoy working one on one with people. Perhaps, and somewhat selfishly, it is extremely rewarding to participate in the success or accomplishment of another person – the rewards are quite tangible. Secondly, I find that I most enjoy helping where I have specific skills that can be applied.

For me, the Eden Financial coaching program matches up extremely well with those preferences for volunteer opportunities.

What have you done as a volunteer? Please describe your role and what you have worked on.

I volunteer as a financial coach in the Eden Savers Program. This is a 6-month program where I assist an Eden resident(s) with financial matters (budgets, credit, debt). Finances (Money!) can be a difficult topic for some. Hence, I believe it is critical to developing a trusting relationship with the Eden resident. Only then am I able to assist the resident in (i) reading and discussing basic financial tenets (ii) developing realistic goals, and (iii) sometimes asking challenging questions. Once specific goals are established, I assist the resident in achieving those goals by nudging, encouraging, and doing research on their behalf as necessary. I also think the role of coach includes a fair amount of cheerleading – recognizing accomplishments (no matter how large or small).

What have you learned through your volunteer experience? Have there been any surprises?

No significant surprises come to mind, but it has been gratifying to see an Eden resident want and get more from the program. Instead, there is a genuine desire to learn and improve financial practices.

What do you like best about volunteering with Eden Housing?

Among the factors that I appreciate regarding the Eden Housing program are the following:

• The resident successes are immediately visible.
• In my case at least, the resident partner is very committed to getting as much as possible out of the program
• The Program duration is realistic and not overly ambitious
• The Eden staff is wonderfully supportive and excited about the program– this, above all else, makes volunteering a great experience.

Are there any tips that you would share for someone else who is considering volunteering?

I can only speak to tips that have been relevant for me. Having a strong financial background, it was important for me to listen and understand what the resident knows and does not know. It can be too easy to assume otherwise. I also think it is very important for the volunteer to be open and transparent regarding our skillset and background; what we can and cannot do on behalf of the resident. And, perhaps most importantly, do not rush – allow time for the resident to arrive at the goals that are important to them.

Tell us something we may not know about you. Any interesting facts you’d like to share about your life?

Hmmm…not sure if these are interesting facts but:

• Growing up I had the benefit of living overseas – in Lima, Peru; Kingston, Jamaica, and Calcutta (now Kolkata), India.
• My hobbies include Tennis and woodworking, but primarily, woodturning
• I have two adult children and 3 granddaughters.