SOUTH BEND — Desperate for money to keep the lights on and provide her daughter with a few gifts last Christmas, Patricia Patterson turned to short-term lending.
She had been there before. Patterson, 42, a South Bend native, took out a payday loan to make ends meet a few years ago when she lived in Nashville, Tenn., she said. That didn’t end well for her.
“It hurt my credit when they sent it to collections,” Patterson said, still upset from the experience of falling behind on payments to a payday lender.
Her second time around with a short-term loan was much different. Patterson took out the loan last December in South Bend from a lender she calls the “JIFFI boys.”
“The JIFFI boys didn’t do anything like that," she said, mentioning the low interest rates and lack of "harassing phone calls" that marked her first experience.
JIFFI is the Jubilee Initiative for Financial Inclusion, a nonprofit started in 2013 by Notre Dame finance student Peter Woo as a way to combat what he saw as predatory lending in South Bend.
The JIFFI boys Patterson talks of are Jack Markwalter, JIFFI CEO, and company. All of JIFFI’s employees, some of whom are women, are students at the University of Notre Dame or Saint Mary’s College. Patterson happened to have worked only with men from the organization, hence, "JIFFI boys."
“I didn’t know we had that nickname,” Markwalter said. “That really speaks to the personal relationship we have with our clients that differentiates us from traditional payday lenders.”
JIFFI offers an alternative to services such as the one Patterson dealt with in Nashville. That’s the biggest component of its mission, “to create a financially inclusive environment in the South Bend community,” Markwalter said.
What that looks like currently is offering short-term loans with low interest and flexible payments, and financial literacy education. Now in its third year, Markwalter said he wants to see JIFFI expand to take on new clients and bring in more money to lend.