After nearly 20 years of sitting at a desk crunching numbers on a computer screen, accountant Christie Livengood was ready for a change.
So in 2015, Livengood entered the deep-rooted world of Lancaster County nonprofits.
“I just really wanted to find a career that I knew at the end of every day, I could say I made a difference in someone’s life,” she said.
Now, almost three years later, the 42-year-old has been hired as the executive director of Lancaster Dollars for Higher Learning.
Founded in 1961 as the Citizens’ Scholarship Fund, the nonprofit gives out interest-free loans to full-time college students in need of financial aid. Well over 10,000 Lancaster County students have benefited from the program, according to the Lancaster Dollars website.
A total of 489 loans of $1,700 were given out this year, Livengood said. Checks are sent directly to each student’s school for up to four years, as long as the student remains full-time. That’s $831,000 in financial aid this year – and potentially more than $3 million in four years.
Eligible students must be Lancaster County residents and show financial need.
“It’s a pretty simple equation, and I like that,” Livengood said. “That way, it allows the organization to solely focus on the goal of providing for as many students as possible.”
That “simple equation” has helped the nonprofit expand its reach. In its early days, loans of about $500 would go out to 20 to 30 students each year.
Livengood said she hopes to spread its reach even further. Her first objective: raising awareness.
Lancaster Dollars is also now in talks to start assisting students who pursue certificate programs at schools such as Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, Lancaster County Career & Technology Center and Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences.
Those students are currently ineligible.
None of the nonprofit’s success would be possible if it wasn’t for donations from the community, Livengood said. A large chunk of donations comes this time of year, as Friday’s Extraordinary Give — Lancaster’s largest day of giving — draws near.