CASS LAKE (MN) – When Leech Lake Financial Services first offered its two hour “Credit Building on the Rez” training, Robin Williams was the first to sign up.  Robin was sick of paying rent.  Year after year she bought into the mentality that home ownership can’t be achieved by Reservation Indians.  Mortgages were too hard to get.  “You’ll probably get denied anyway,” was the prevailing advice for those dreaming of home ownership.

But, in 2013, Robin learned the fundamentals and basics of credit from Credit Building on the Rez class.  Robin became inspired.  Simple basics of credit taught her that she could own a home – someday, after just a little work and some small changes.

Then, Robin signed up for and attended “Building Native Communities: Financial Skills for Families,” at LLFS.  The two day class taught her budgeting, saving, and basic banking skills.  “We role played a loan officer which taught me what loan officers look for to approve loans,” said Robin.  She went to work, applying the skills she learned in class.  Robin continued to work hard in her job for the Leech Lake Reservation Building Maintenance Division.

As an LLFS client, her small loans with LLFS reported excellent payment history to the major credit bureaus.  Relatively quickly, her credit score increased.  Then, Robin was able to buy a reliable car with a low interest auto loan.   She didn’t miss a single payment, bolstering her credit score even more.

Then, with a little saving, and some small changes in her spending habits – it happened.  Robin found a home she wanted.  In less than 24 months of taking her first credit class, and because of her newly acquired strong credit, Robin was approved to buy the home.  She happily lives there today.

Without the skills and knowledge she learned in class, Robin would still be renting today.  Robin learned and persevered.  “My family and I are living in a home I bought.  I never thought it was possible, but it is possible because I am living proof,” she said.  “Small changes made a huge difference.”

Leech Lake Financial Services is an emerging Native CDFI located on the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Reservation.  Since, 2012, LLFS has made over $1M worth of consumer loans, and reports positive credit history for approximately 250 Leech Lake Community members every month.  LLFS began offering commercial loans in 2015.  It has trained over 300 Leech Lake Community members like Robin, and offers training sessions monthly.

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