Two Community Assistance Programs, HFLA and The Change Reaction, Connect to Help Austin Residents Achieve Financial Stability
Heidi and Robbie Kandalis received support through Hebrew Free Loan of Austin to keep their business afloat. Photo courtesy of Heidi Kandalis.
Last Fall, the HFLA inbox received a fortuitous message. An administrator from the Change Reaction, a Los Angeles based organization that helps people experiencing one-time, short-term emergencies, was reaching out to lend a hand to HFLA recipients. As an organization that exists to help those in the Austin Jewish community with a hand-up, it was the perfect match. In total, The Change Reaction has ended up completely forgiving four total loans and matching the loan balance of four other loans, gifting more than $13,750 to HFLA borrowers.
The Change Reaction was started by Los Angeles residents and philanthropists Greg and Jodi Perlman to support Southern California organizations helping those in need. In the past year, the organization decided to look nationally and help Hebrew Free Loan Associations across the country. Fortunately for Austin, the group reached out the HFLA before Chanukah offering the gift of helping those seeking loans through HFLA.
A range of Austin area residents have been helped by the generosity of The Change Reaction. The recipients include a small business owner who was on the verge of shutting down, a family seeking fertility treatments, a couple dealing with health complications, and a resident experiencing financial instability due to COVID, among others.
Heidi and Robbie Kandalis were connected to HFLA through Shalom Austin Jewish Family Service several years ago when each experienced traumatic health issues that required multiple surgeries and hospital stays. HFLA worked with them to setup a payment plan given their ongoing challenges and they were in the process of paying it back when HFLA reached out again. “Debbie and Tracy said they wanted to talk and they were very sly about it,” said Heidi, “Then they told me this organization [Change Reaction] was going to pay off our remaining balance. It was such an exciting and amazing gift. It was magic, who gets a call that someone is giving them money.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown the Kandalis’ CBD business, they were able to go back to HFLA for a loan to keep them afloat. As festivals and events have started back up, the loan was able to support them through the year. “It’s beautiful that the community is there to help when you are down,” she said. “HFLA has been there for us again and again to help and support us in so many ways. I’ve sent others in the community who are struggling through job loss or health issues to HFLA, it’s been a life saver.”
Michelle (pictured) and Boris Yarovinksy received a loan forgiveness from The Change Reaction, helping them provide a proper Jewish funeral for Boris’ mother. Photo courtesy of Michelle Yarovinsky.
Another family is Michelle and Boris Yarovinsky. Michelle was referred to HFLA by Austin Natural Funerals. “I am forever grateful to both HFLA and Mitzi Chafetz [from Austin Natural Funerals]”, she said. After her mother passed away, Michelle could not afford a proper burial and was considering cremation until she was connected to HFLA. Getting the loan from HFLA allowed her family to honor her mother in the way they wanted, and then The Change Reaction stepped in. “I received the call and I could not believe it. It brought me to tears,” said Michelle upon receiving the news that The Change Reaction was forgiving her loan. “I was unable to work at the time due to medical conditions and having the loan forgiven could not come at a better time. I was able to afford my medications,” she said.
The Change Reaction paying off all or part of the loans helped the Yarovinsky family and other Austin residents towards a path to financial stability through its helping hand. “The Change Reaction gift made a tremendous impact in the lives of the chosen loan recipients. That was clear by the reaction on their faces when I had the honor of surprising them with this news,” said Tracy Solomon, Co-Founder and Board Member at HFLA. “There was a lot of smiles, laughter and even tears of joy. The return of their loan dollars into our fund gave HFLA the ability to turn it around and re-invest the funds back into the community through other loans.” The only thing that Jodi and Greg Perlman asked of the recipients of this generous program was that they each “pay it forward” in a way that was meaningful to each person.
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