Posted June 13, 2017
By Carolina Thompson, reprinted from InterCom
Top Photo: Heather McCue helps children in her Growing Savers program make paper crafts. Photo provided by Diana Keane.
Heather McCue believes that children begin to form ideas about money and spending well before their parents teach them about finances. She created the Growing Savers program to help the youngest Richland Library visitors gain a head start on their financial stability.
“I want to make everybody’s life as good as it can be while coming into contact with me, the library or out in the community,” said McCue.
McCue, who received her Master of Library and Information Science degree at USC, is a librarian of the Children’s Room at Richland Library. Growing Savers, which has reached more than 2,000 children and parents during the past four years, aims to make financial education easy and fun.
“I think real change happens when we start with children,” said McCue.
Working closely with the children and families of Columbia, McCue quickly began to see even bigger problems in the community and wanted to find ways that her program could help.
“When you start to dive into families who have a lot of challenges, you realize just teaching them about money is not enough,” said McCue.
Through the program, McCue, her interns and her colleagues began to help people in the community individually with financial-based issues such as homelessness, medical care and even paying their bills. After learning their specific needs, McCue’s team is able to connect people to the government assistance and community support programs they need.
McCue says they see people with “survival-type needs, such as food, clothing and shelter,” as well as people who have been evicted or need help paying their mortgages.
“We are able to provide people with resources they might otherwise not have known about, at a place that [they] might not have thought could help them,” said Nicole Robinson, Family Services intern.
McCue believes that Growing Savers “meets people where they are,” while providing practical and applicable financial tips and lessons. The program teaches children songs about money, offers financial games, and provides workshops where children are given a “budget” and have to prioritize what to buy using pipe cleaners and other toy objects. “Children need a lot of practice making choices,” said McCue.
With a family-oriented approach similar to the School of Library and Information Science’s Cocky’s Reading Express, Growing Savers teaches parents how to start a financial dialogue with their children as early as possible to equip them for successful financial futures.
Along with Growing Savers, McCue has been able to impact the community in many other ways. She also played a role in the End Child Hunger SC movement and hosted children’s free lunch at the library last summer.
“It was beautiful because we got to see families of all backgrounds and socioeconomic areas sitting together eating lunch,” said McCue.
Along with hosting free lunch, the Richland Library also presented a viewing of “A Place at the Table,” a film on child hunger, and brought in panelists to provide a theme for group discussion.
“Growing Savers was just a big launch pad to all of this,” McCue said. “I’ve been able to really connect to the community in a meaningful way and provide things for them that they know they need and, sometimes, don’t know they need.”