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Credit Counselling Society Celebrates 25 Years of Helping Canadians with Their Debt

What have 850,000 Canadians discovered in the past 25 years? From tangible financial strategies to helping people turn their hopes and dreams into reality – the Credit Counselling Society (CCS) has helped improve the lives of Canadians in more ways than they can measure.

Today marks 25 years since CCS, the award-winning, non-profit credit counselling organization, began helping Canadians manage their money and debt better. From its inception in 1996 with one small debt counselling office based in New Westminster, BC to currently operating in five provinces and three territories, it truly is a community-based success story, brought about by one request for help at a time.

“From our humble beginnings, our clients have now repaid over a staggering $600 million of debt,” explains President & CEO Scott Hannah. “And the impact that has had on their lives isn’t something any of us can fully appreciate. Clients have even reported that our help has saved their life or the life of a loved one.”

Seed money from various members of the credit granting community helped open its doors, but it has taken years of dedicated service by a team of committed employees and partners to take CCS to where it is today. Debt doesn’t discriminate. CCS currently serves Canadians from all walks of life in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and the Yukon. Despite being tapped to replace government services in more than one province, credit counselling from a non-profit organization is still one of Canada’s best kept debt relief secrets. It’s a challenge the nation-wide team of financial educators at CCS takes on every day.

“There are weeks it’s hard to keep up with the requests,” explains Anne Arbour, Education Manager. “Where employers, financial institutions and community organizations used to have us bring information to their groups through in-person events, the resources to reach out virtually have exploded. Now we’re able to share our information online and help a much broader audience.”

Promoting Financial Literacy

CCS is a recognized leader in the financial literacy landscape. Tailor-made and often publicly available workshops and webinars help clients resolve their financial challenges. Many were specifically designed to help those repaying their debts through a repayment plan stay the course. “It is much easier to get into debt than out of it,” confirms Isaiah Chan, VP – Programs & Services. “We like to say that no payment is easy, but each one is one less that you need to make. And clients continually re-affirm that our information and guidance not only helped them successfully deal with their debts, but that they wished they had asked us for help sooner.” The organization’s Debt Management Program is a hallmark of how CCS helps Canadians regain their financial stability. “When someone is behind with their payments, one of the last things they want to do is communicate with their creditors. So that is where we step in. Working collaboratively with their creditors, we have a proven track record of helping our clients get back on track,” explains Louise Smith, Director of Client & Creditor Relations. “Building strong, arms-length relationships with creditors of all sizes has allowed clients avoid legal consequences due to their debts.”

Making a Lasting Difference

The appreciation of the Credit Counselling Society’s clients shines through in their online reviews, testimonials and formal accolades. CCS has earned over 80 awards, but none are more meaningful than the changed lives of the people it serves. “It’s why we come to work everyday,” states one of CCS’s long-time employees. “We take pride in helping our clients from the first time they contact us to whenever their journey with us ends.”

In her client satisfaction survey, Tia from Winnipeg comments that “they [CCS] are there to help you understand all the options and choose the one that fits your goals and situation the best. I left feeling empowered financially. It is reassuring to know there are places that are there to help and not to take advantage of you when you’re down.”

Comments like that motivate CCS to set an example of accountability and trust in the industry. “The Society’s clients report when surveyed that they would recommend CCS to their friends and family over 97 per cent of the time,” states Stephen Rotstein, Chair of the volunteer Board of Directors. “Strong operational support and guidance has been key to achieving this standard of excellence.”

Through ongoing engagement with clients, attendees of presentations, and consumers at large, CCS keeps its finger on the pulse of what Canadians need and want with regards to financial literacy initiatives and credit and debt counselling. This allows various members of the leadership team to actively participate in the shaping of public policy at both the provincial and federal levels. In addition, seasoned credit counsellors and educators are sought after by the media to provide up-to-date insights about personal money management and credit-related topics.

Looking Ahead to the Future

“I’m personally very proud of what CCS has achieved, and what it will achieve in its next 25 years,” Hannah reflects. “Our vision is to inspire people to build a better future by guiding them through life’s financial challenges. Given the unprecedented times we are all anxious to leave behind, nothing seems more important.”

This sense of hope, coupled with objective counselling and debt repayment alternatives, will continue to be how the Credit Counselling Society helps everyday Canadians do just that. But it’s time to let everyone in on the secret.

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