Linda Risch has found her calling in working with Dove Recovery House for Women in Indianapolis.
The branch manager of Centier Bank in Fishers Crossing teaches financial wellness to women who suffer from substance abuse disorders.
“Part of what I love about Dove House is they are obviously treating the addiction, but they are also treating the trauma that has happened to a lot of these women,” said Risch, a Fishers resident and 2008 Fishers High School graduate. “A lot of them don’t know anything about finances. For instance, I had someone in one of my very first classes and we were talking about the benefits of banking services. I kind of skipped over checking accounts and what debit cards were. One of the women luckily stopped me to ask, ‘What is a debit card?’
“I was kind of blown away. I had to backtrack and go over what that was, so they have understanding.”
Risch said many women didn’t understand that a joint owner on an account wasn’t necessary.
“Some of their partners were on their accounts and taking their money,” Risch said. “It benefits them that they are getting the education to empower themselves to be financially independent, which is huge because a lot of them have never been before. They’ve always lived in someone else’s home, or they have been homeless or haven’t had a good family life.”
Wendy Noe, Dove House executive director, said Risch connects well with the women.
“Many of our women don’t have healthy relationships with money,” Noe said. “They don’t know how to manage that money. Many of them don’t have good credit histories, so having someone like Linda come in and provide financial literacy in a way they can understand and appreciate is really a gift.”
Noe said Risch adjusts her curriculum based on the needs of women in the program.
“She’s very relatable,” Noe said. “She’s just a joy. She’s funny. She’s easygoing. She is flexible and meets the women where they are. She builds a trusting relationship with them, and the women respond to that.”
Noe said the women know Risch cares about them.
“They feel safe with her, and when you feel safe, you are open to learning,” Noe said. “You don’t feel judged.”
Risch said Dove provides women the tools to be independent.
“So, when they do finally leave Dove, they are not only sober, but they are confident in their ability to take care of themselves,” Risch said. “That starts with financial independence.”
Risch said she wants the women to know how to control their finances and not be controlled by them. For example, she wants them to understand what happens when they go to cash advance establishments or take out loans. She said many didn’t understand interest rates. Now, they are able to make a more educated decision if they need a loan.
Risch said some women return during another six-week session to hear information again or have Risch look at their budgets.
“We talk about wants versus needs, which is, yes, you want the new nail polish but you need to pay your light bill,” Risch said. “It’s an amazing feeling to see how excited they get about the things they have learned, because finances, obviously, isn’t the most exciting thing.”
Six women attended Risch’s first session at Dove.
“Word got around, and in my next class I had like 20,” she said. “It just kept growing. The average is 15 to 20. It varies in numbers, but even if I just had one, that would be OK, because that one needs just as much help as 20. I don’t get hung up on class size, I get hung up more if they are understanding what they are learning from class.”
Risch said meeting the women at Dove House has helped her better understand addiction.
“When you hear these women’s stories, you understand what a slippery slope it is,” said Risch, who is married with two young children. “Addiction is actually an illness. They are sick. They have gone through something traumatic. They have had some tough lives. Then you put yourself in their shoes. Now, I’m just in awe of all of them because they’ve all gone through something, and they are all fighting really hard to get out of that. I’ve learned as much from them as they have from me. They’ve humbled me in a lot of ways.
“I have a great life and I’m grateful for that life. There is a level of judgment that I had previously that I don’t anymore.”
Commitment to giving back
Linda Risch, who has been the Fishers Crossing Centier Bank branch manager for 2 1/2 years, said the bank has provided financial wellness education for several years.
“We look for all sorts of organizations or businesses that will benefit from us coming in and teaching these financial wellness classes,” Risch said. “So, it could be anywhere from a dentist office to an organization like Dove (Recovery House) to manufacturing. We will do it for anyone that wants a free financial education. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a low-income organization.”
Risch conducts a six-week program at Dove House for one hour, once each week, then takes four weeks off before teaching the program again. She began teaching it earlier this year.
“There is no end date, so I’ll be doing this, hopefully, forever,” she said.