Meet Stacie, SaverLife’s Grand Prize Winner of the Johnstown Story Contest

Stacie was the Grand Prize Winner of our Johnstown Story Contest. While we weren’t able to congratulate her in person this year due to travel advisories, we scheduled a Zoom call to meet her!

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I moved back here after college to be closer to family.

What do you like about Johnstown?

Johnstown is a pretty small community. I went to St. Francis College, where I earned my baccalaureate degree in nursing. What I like about Johnstown is that it’s a much smaller community and everybody knows everybody.

Do you still know a lot of people there from when you grew up?

Yeah, surprisingly. A lot of people moved away, but many people moved back like I did.

Who’s in your family?

It’s just me and my daughter, Chaya. She’s going to be a sophomore in high school next year and she’s looking forward to driving. She just turned 15 in May, so next year is the big sweet sixteen.

What does going back to school look like for your daughter?

All the students are planning to go back. Of course, there’ll be a couple of modifications, but they are going to go back to learn in the brick and mortar buildings. That will be good for them because this is the age where building those close friendships is really important.

Are you currently employed?

I was a nurse, but now I’m retired. I can’t work because of my medical conditions, so I’m on disability right now. It was a huge blessing to be able to win the $5,000 from the Johnstown Story Contest. I’ll be able to start a nice little nest egg for my daughter’s college fund because now is when we’re getting ready to apply for all the grants and the scholarships available.

Have you guys been impacted by COVID-19?

Our cost of living has increased. I really relied on school meals for her when she was going to school in-person. I counted on them for breakfast and lunch to help us pull through. Her school ended up having summer programs to keep the students fed, but still the prices of things increased. We felt the price increase a little bit, but it wasn’t as much as what other people probably experienced.

Did you have any savings to help you get through these uncertain times?

Actually, no. We pretty much just live paycheck to paycheck right now, so we can’t plan for emergencies. That’s why I started with SaverLife back in January. After I joined SaverLife, I wanted to try and start saving money. Then COVID-19 happened, so things got crazy. I never had a dedicated savings account before this year, and it was my first time attempting to save for my daughter’s college.

What was it like finding out on TV that you had won $5,000 from the Johnstown Story Contest?

I think the news people were trying to keep it a secret. I kept thinking there were going to be other finalists coming, so that threw me off. In my mind, I thought that there were going to be at least two other finalists coming. I’ve never really won anything before, so I had no clue how these things work.

How has your family and friends reacted?

Oh, everybody was really surprised, supportive, and happy for me. They kept saying, “Oh my gosh, you deserve it so much!”

I went through a lot with losing my father four years ago. He had prostate cancer, and prior to that my mom was actually diagnosed with a terminal illness. That’s why I had to move back to Johnstown. I came back here to take care of both of my parents who were simultaneously dying from terminal illnesses, so everybody was just really happy that I had something positive happen to me.

What are you planning to do with the money?

I’m going to put it in the savings fund that I opened up for Chaya’s college education. Winning this money means that Chaya can have a chance at actually starting college and securing her future. When I opened the account, I had to call it something, so I named it “Chaya’s College Fund.” I’m excited to see her college fund grow.

What did you learn about money when you were a kid?

We were a middle class family and lived pretty modestly. My dad was a businessman and owned three different businesses. He was a steeplejack, and he also invented this pigeon control called Cat Claw. It was a stainless steel pigeon that was as sharp as knives. You put it on the end of church buildings so pigeons couldn’t roost there.

My dad taught me about integrity, saving, spending, and donating. He was very thrifty, too. We probably had money to do all kinds of things, but we just didn’t live above our means. I’ve always really known the value of a dollar and the importance of a good education. One of the first things my dad instilled in me was that it was really important that I went to college. I think that’s why it’s really important to me that Chaya has that chance, too.

Have you had ups and downs with money into your life?

Oh, yes. I’ve had, and I’ve had not. I have a very strong faith in God, so I’ve always let Him get me through the hard times. When we’re weak, he’s strong. When the times weren’t so good, I relied on family, church, and friends. And when times were good, I tried to give back with tithes—whether it’s for my family or the community.

Other than Chaya’s college fund, what are your savings or financial goals?

I want to get her to where she’s financially stable so she can get married and have kids or whatnot. She’s been my main priority for the last 18 years. My financial goals are to support her and help her with what she needs in life.

What’s your favorite thing about SaverLife?

That you get paid for saving money. SaverLife encourages you to keep saving, and the website has all kinds of activities you can do. Plus, it’s a great website to learn about how to spend and invest your money. I also enjoy the free financial coaching that’s offered because I was able to talk to someone and have them answer my specific money questions.

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