Consumer Credit Counseling Services, which has offered debt counseling on a limited basis in Lawrence since 1988, will open a full-time office Monday.
Eldon Gill, who has been providing debt counseling two days a week in Lawrence, will run the full-time office, which will be at 1012 Mass., Suite 219. CCCS previously maintained its part-time Lawrence office in donated space, most recntly at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 15th and Iowa.
Carrie Magill, assistant director of the Topeka-based not-for-profit agency, said the need for debt management assistance in Lawrence prompted CCCS to offer the services full time.
Last year, CCCS saw 194 clients in Lawrence. Magill said that during the first quarter of this year alone, the agency booked appointments for more than 200 people.
CCCS SERVICES are designed to be an alternative to bankruptcy for debt-strapped consumers. However, Magill said some clients just need budget counseling while others are placed on debt-repayment plans.
Under such an arrangement, the CCCS counselor reviews the client's budget, and the client agrees to give all his income but the amount needed for living expenses to the agency, which then uses those funds to make prorated payments to the client's creditors.
Through debt-repayment plans last year, Magill said, CCCS returned $95,000 to the creditors of Douglas County clients. That amount might have been lost if those clients had filed bankruptcy instead.
The agency gets its funding for counseling services from several sources. Clients are charged a one-time fee of $20, although Magill said the agency may waive the fee if the client is unable to pay.
THE MAJORITY of CCS' funding comes from creditors. Magill said creditors usually rebate to the agency a percentage of the money paid to them through the plans. Still others provide ongoing support through contributions to the agency.
CCCS also received funding this year from the United Way of Douglas County. However, Magill said that money is earmarked for community education projects and will be used to make speakers available to discuss credit issues in local schools and with local organizations.
The agency also is considering expanding its local services to include "money control workshops," which currently are being offered to Topeka clients as a condition of their being on debt-repayment plans. Those workshops, which are offered in a series of four two-hour sessions, give clients guidance on budgeting and spending.