SLAC Today logo

SLAC Employees Help Each Other Navigate Tough Financial Times

SERA volunteers John Escudero and Stephanie Carlson. (Photo by Lauren Schenkman. Click for larger image.)

In hard times like these, families are more vulnerable than ever to sudden changes of fortune. That's why now is an especially important time for SERA, the SLAC Emergency Relief Association.

SERA is a non-profit, cooperative loan house run by and for SLAC employees. Founded more than 40 years ago, it acts as a kind of SLAC family pot. Becoming a member requires a monthly donation, as little as one dollar a month, which can be automatically deducted from an employee's paycheck. The association's governing board—volunteers from within the SLAC staff—then uses the resulting fund to provide small loans, and, in special cases, grants, to members in urgent economic need.

"We are the last resort, for when people are in critical emergencies, really drastic situations," explained Stephanie Carlson, SERA's treasurer for more than 12 years. "They've gone to everyone else first—they've gone to the bank, they've gone to their relatives, they've gone to their church—and then they come to us. We review their application and we can respond immediately."

The loan is interest-free and is paid back monthly by an agreed amount that allows borrowers get back on their feet. But beyond that, SERA's application process is strictly confidential and, Co-director John Escudero said, "very respectful."

"The things people go through are very personal, and it's hard for them to come forward," Escudero said. "Someone's pride can be easily hurt. You have to be aware of these things so you can handle them appropriately. It's a difficult time, but everyone at SERA is very nice and good at keeping it down to a personal level."

Escudero, who has worked at SLAC for almost 27 years, once benefited from a SERA loan. These days he volunteers his time as one of SERA's three directors and donates a portion of his paycheck to the fund. "SLAC's been really good to me, and I want to give back," he said. "It's an extended family."

"It's very rewarding," agreed Carlson. "In these tough times it's nice to have [this fund]."

SERA's board includes directors John Schmerge, Daphne Mitchell, and Escudero, Treasurer Carlson, and Secretary Debbie Nicholson. SERA is always looking for more members to keep the fund strong; for more information visit the Employee Activity Groups page.

—Lauren Schenkman
SLAC Today, January 15, 2009