A Story of Financial Resilience: SaveYourRefund Grand-Prize Winner Ebony Brown-Parks

Ebony Brown-Parks and her family have regularly dealt with managing and overcoming financial volatility. Over the last ten years, Ebony’s income and expenses have not always aligned. Periods of unemployment have impacted her ability to repay her student debt, manage everyday expenses, and weather financial shocks; however, her grit and steadfast determination are the definition of financial resilience. Despite financial uncertainty, Ebony has committed to saving a portion of her tax refund for the last four years. Now, she has won the $25,000 SaveYourRefund Grand Prize and is one step closer to her dreams of financial stability—homeownership, maintaining a viable retirement account, and having sufficient funds for emergencies.

Doorways to Dreams (D2D) Fund established the SaveYourRefund campaign during the 2013 tax season. SaveYourRefund is an innovative tax-time savings promotion that incentivizes savings by leveraging the moment in which many tax-filers receive their largest single check of the year.

Ebony first learned about the promotion at Northwest Indiana Community Action—where she opened an Individual Development Account (IDA)—and has entered every year since its inception.

The Gary, IN native was the first in her family to graduate from college in 2008; however, the recession impacted her ability to find and keep jobs relevant to her degree.

Over time, Ebony willingly took any position that would allow her to provide for her family, even if it meant being underemployed. With an unsteady income, Ebony took on debt to finance her life’s milestones such as her wedding and preparations for her first child. By 2012, she was overwhelmed with the stresses caused by her financial life.

“I began to count the pennies on my dresser” Ebony says, recalling those trying times. After experiencing the struggle of budgeting when money was tight, she made it a point to be fully committed to saving and doing all that she could to prepare for unforeseen circumstances.

In October 2015, Ebony had to withstand yet another unanticipated financial blow: losing her job. Her husband Jeremy became the sole breadwinner for the family of four. In order to cut expenses, Ebony decided to begin homeschooling her daughter. Moreover, she is using this moment as a teaching point for her children, instilling the value that, “We can fall down but we have to find our way back to our passion.”

This tax season, after using part of her refund to pay outstanding bills, Ebony purchased a U.S. Savings Bond as a gift for her daughter and saved the remaining money in her Roth IRA. She plans on putting the grand prize winnings towards buying a home for her growing family, contributing to her retirement account, and building an emergency fund.

“The $25,000 will be a big help to me and my family,” she says. “You never think this stuff will happen to you. It feels good to win because I try to do the right thing. Income goes up and down – especially with my layoff – and one of the things I really care about is being financially secure.”

Ebony made a deal with herself by saving small and, from that commitment, she won big!