WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – There’s help for local families seeking to rise from poverty. A free program is providing welfare recipients and low-income individuals a serious “hand up”. Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller explains how the program works.

It’s considered a golden opportunity for low income families to get their financial footing. But before Amy Rawls found out about Advantage Credit Counseling Services of NEPA’s Financial Counseling and Debt Rehabilitation Program, she had some serious questions. “What can I do? How can I get forward?,” said the Hanover Township woman.

Certified credit counselors help clients get a handle on their debt. “It could be that they lost their job. It could just be an accumulation over the years. Some people never really had a handle on the budgeting process,” said Advantage Credit Counseling Services of NEPA Certified Credit Counselor Terri Stocki.

“I really did appreciate the things that they did for me,” said Linze Barabas-Henry of Ashley. Clients like the 23-year-old single mom are schooled on how to become financially stable. Ms. Stocki said, “We’ll create a budget for them, help them see if they can make any reductions in their spending to see if they can make that budget balance a little better.”

Advantage Credit Counseling Services sets up a payment plan to help clients dig themselves out of a financial hole. Part of Linze’s solution was landing steady employment. “I have a job now and my income is a lot better than what it was,” she said.

The program and a productive job search have Amy, a mother of four, feeling hopeful. “I have three interviews coming in the next three days so hopefully we’ll get something. When asked if she is optimistic she answered, “Oh yeah. Oh yeah, I know I’m going to find something.”

220 families were helped last year through the Advantage Credit Counseling Services program yet organizers of it say they believe the program is underutilized. United Way of Wyoming Valley funds the Advantage Credit Counseling Services of NEPA program to provide struggling families tools of change. United Way of Wyoming Valley. “Hope returns to their lives and to their family and to their children and that’s what it’s all about.”