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Springfield businessman tapped to lead nationwide credit counseling entity

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Mike Cherry, CEO of Consumer Credit Counseling of Springfield Inc., was elected chairman of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s operating committee at the organization’s 45th annual conference, held earlier this month in Minneapolis.

Cherry, who has served on the committee for five years, was elected vice chairman of the board of directors at the 2009 annual meeting, but he said the group’s leadership structure has changed in the last year.

“I was on the committee that reformed the governance,” he said, noting that the group now has a board of trustees made up of people outside the foundation’s membership. Among the trustees members are Jean Chatzky, journalist, author and financial editor for NBC’s “Today Show,” and Brady Deaton, chancellor at the University of Missouri.

Now, Cherry holds the foundation’s highest membership position, he said.

“The actual committee that was the board of directors is now the operating committee that does the day-to-day functions of the board of directors,” Cherry said, noting that he also is one of the few membership representatives on the board of trustees.

The foundation’s membership comprises not-for-profit credit counseling agencies nationwide. The Springfield agency joined the group in 1988 and also has offices in Branson, Joplin, West Plains, Lebanon, Fort Leonard Wood and Mountain Home, Ark.

In his new role with the group, Cherry helps to plan conventions and meetings for the group, and he automatically sits on every committee. Though his expanded role with the foundation is more time-consuming, Cherry said his leadership team in Springfield keeps the CCCS running smoothly.

Economic pressures have led to an increased demand for CCCS services, he said.

“In the last two years, we have seen almost 1,700 families that are in some stage of foreclosure,” Cherry said. CCCS also provides financial counseling that’s required before consumers can file for bankruptcy through the U.S. Office of Bankruptcy Trustees, and the Springfield agency has performed about 10,000 sessions in seven
states in the last year, Cherry said.

“We’ve seen an increase in both the number of people filing for bankruptcy and in some stage of foreclosure,” Cherry said, adding that CCCS is seeing about 3,000 families a year who are looking for help with debt or budgeting because they have trouble making ends meet.

Unemployment is a key factor in driving up the need for assistance, Cherry said, particularly when there are layoffs in rural areas with few employers.

“A lot of times … both husband and wife work for the same place, and they’ve been there for years … and we’re seeing both being laid off,” he said.

Through his work with the national foundation, Cherry said he knows there are pockets of the country that would seem to be harder hit than the Ozarks, though he’s reluctant to say so.

“When I sit across the desk from somebody here who’s having a problem, their problem is just as important and just as severe as somebody in, say, Detroit, where the car business has gone to pot, or Nevada, where the foreclosures are out of control,” Cherry said. “When we have somebody sitting across the desk, their concern is as great to me as some of these major players.”[[In-content Ad]]

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