NCUF Grantee Helps Families Save Money & Reduce Debt with Savings Challenge

Christopher Morris
608-231-4374 |

Albuquerque, N.M. – – Several New Mexico families who belong to their local credit unions now have better awareness and knowledge of good financial habits after participating in the 11-month “Savings Challenge New Mexico” and one lucky family is now $10,000 richer. The Challenge goals were basic stepping stones that provided each family with the skills to achieve better financial well-being. The three goals were: reduce debt, build savings and improve their credit score.

The Savings Challenge was made possible by a grant from the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) to the Credit Union Association of New Mexico, which provided management, educational resources and financial support to the five New Mexico credit unions that participated.

Shawn and Tina-Marie Schiller, members of High Plains Federal Credit Union (HPFCU) in Clovis, were the top winners, walking away with $10,000 after meeting the three Challenge goals. The couple was coached by High Plains Federal Credit Union coach Tammy Lewis.

Going into the Challenge, Tina-Marie owned up to a lot of unnecessary shopping with department store credit cards. Shawn said it was important to the couple to have good financial habits and save money to give their sons as good a life as their parents had given them.

“We understand the importance of a good credit history and score and we’re current on all our bills and obligations but are living paycheck to paycheck getting nowhere,” said Shawn and Tina-Marie Schiller upon entering the challenge. “We need to learn some financial skills and learn to live within our means. Our goal is to be debt-free, except for the mortgage, of course, and set some money aside for our sons’ college and medical insurance for our family.”

The couple was able to reduce their debt approximately 10 percent, significantly build their savings and improve their credit score more than 5 percent.

Shawn and Tina-Marie Schiller made a number of changes and adjustments in their lifestyle during the Challenge and plan to continue those changes in the future. The prize money will go into a savings account for their sons’ college.

The savers worked with coaches from the credit unions, who were supported in their role by Savings Challenge New Mexico consultant Kathy Darwin. They focused on educating individuals in money management, budgeting and personal finances.

A total of $22,750 was awarded to the Savings Challenge participants. Aside from the Schiller family, other winners in the Challenge were:

•          David Pratesi, a disabled veteran and his wife, Denice, a home health care provider. With help from Silver City Chino Federal Credit Union coach Bill Stites, the couple reduced their debt a whopping 64.73% and won $2,500.

•          Another $2,500 winner was Guadalupe Credit Union’s Athena Beshur in Santa Fe, coached by Diane Sandoval. The owner of a local landscape company, she completely got rid of her debt, built her savings more than 600%, and improved her credit score.

•          Reyes and Isabel Gonzales, members of Everyone’s Federal Credit Union in Tucumcari, were coached by CEO Andi Baum and won $2,500. The couple reduced their debt almost by half, increased their credit score and multiplied their savings by more than 900%.

•          $2,500 winner Sharla Frazier is an Albuquerque police dispatcher and the single mother of three girls. Coached by Rio Grande Credit Union staffer Stephanie Szpunar, her debt remained level but she was able to build her savings and raise her credit score.

•          Brandi Jo Thomas was another winner from High Plains Federal Credit Union in Clovis. She was coached by Kathy Allenberg. Brandi was able to slightly reduce her debt, increased her savings by almost 500% and improved her credit score. She received $2,500.

•          Deeanza Duran of Guadalupe Credit Union of Santa Fe was coached by Annette Hernandez. This single mother of a daughter was not able to meet the Challenge goals but received a new awareness of the importance of healthy financial habits and $250 for finishing the Challenge.

“The statewide Savings Challenge was an overwhelming success and reinforced the credit union philosophy of ‘people helping people,’” said Credit Union Association of New Mexico President/CEO Sylvia Lyon. “We are extremely proud of the participants and the credit union staff who gave so unselfishly of their time and talent. Financial education is so important today and there are no socioeconomic boundaries. These winners will be able to take the skills they learned and apply them in their lives and the lives of their children to prepare them for their financial future.”

A Foundation Grant at Work

NCUF grants are made possible by supporters of the Foundation and the Community Investment Fund (CIF), an award-winning system of investments that help credit unions earn dividends while donating to national and state community development programs.


This “Grant at Work” is part of a series highlighting NCUF grantees making a positive impact in their community and empowering consumers to achieve financial independence through credit unions.

*Note to editors: a high resolution version of the picture in this release can be downloaded here:


About the National Credit Union Foundation (

The National Credit Union Foundation is the US credit union movement’s primary national philanthropic program provider, fundraiser and grant-maker. Through NCUF grants and programs, credit unions provide widespread financial education, create greater access to affordable financial services, and empower more consumers to save, build assets, and own homes.

NCUF is funded primarily by investments in the award-winning Community Investment Fund (CIF) and by generous Supporters led by the Credit Union National Association and CUNA Mutual.  All NCUF donors provide support that empowers NCUF and state credit union foundations to make a real impact in the credit union community.

The National Credit Union Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization. NCUF continues to earn the Better Business Bureau seal of approval as an “Accredited Charity” for meeting all 20 BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards for national charities.  


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