If you want to get Julie Kalkowski riled, bring up the topic of predatory lending. But you better do it from a distance.
Kalkowski has dedicated her career to helping people work themselves out of poverty and into fiscal independence. She has served as executive director of Financial Hope Collaborative, housed in Creighton University’s Heider College of Business, since 2010. The Collaborative helps low- to-middle income families, many of which are single mothers and their children, find economic stability through educational programming like the Financial Success Program.
It’s been a busy, productive year for Kalkowski. In April 2017, she and a group of faculty from Creighton University received a $399,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to study the health outcomes of women who participate in the Financial Success Program. Says Kalkowski: “If this study replicates previous findings, it could pave the way for a comprehensive approach to poverty alleviation between health care and social service systems in the future, benefiting millions of families in our country.”
In July, she was appointed to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Consumer Advisory Board, which takes action against companies that violate laws and regulations and educates the public so consumers can make informed financial decisions.
This kind of tireless advocacy has earned her Jim Wolf Equal Justice Award from Nebraska Appleseed, a nonprofit organization that fights for justice and opportunity for all Nebraskans. Kalkowski was honored at the 2017 Good Apple Awards ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 19 at Omaha’s Livestock Exchange Building. She hopes this recognition will increase Financial Hope Collaborative’s visibility.
The Jim Wolf Equal Justice Award is named after founding Appleseed board member, Jim Wolf, and recognizes Nebraskans who have made significant and sustained contributions to justice for others during their careers. Like the award’s namesake, recipients must devote themselves to promoting the common good, without thought of personal gain and often in difficult circumstances.
Kalkowski has years of experience of connecting low- and middle-income families to the financial mainstream as well as an encyclopedic knowledge of public policy as it pertains to such topics as payday lending and consumer fraud. And she is deeply committed on a personal level to her participants at Financial Hope Collaborative.
“She can absorb a person’s struggle and get it on a very intuitive level,” says Katie Pitts, director of public policy at Nebraska Appleseed. “She has a unique gift for conveying what those real struggles are and how a person’s story connects to the greater problem.”
Kalkowski has worked with Nebraska Appleseed since the organization’s inception, joining forces to reduce the length of the food stamp application, battle payday lending and demand welfare reform.
“This award feels like it validates my work on trying to provide access to the American Dream,” Kalkowski states. “Far too many people in this country live paycheck to paycheck and that is not good for those individuals, our communities or our economy. This award will motivate me to keep on fighting the good fight to continue providing access.”