Empowering Stephanie Powell

$1,140 of $10,500 goal

Raised by 12 people in 6 months

This fundraiser was created to help Stephanie directly (who I met via he Fountain Fund charity), but also to bring awareness to the millions who find themselves in a similar situation across our nation. The goal is to empower these individuals and provide them with a second opportunity in order to improve their lives and allow them to become  more productive members of their communities. The sooner we meet the stated goal, the sooner Stephanie will be able to obtain a full-time job and take advantage of new opportunities.

I've worked directly with Stephanie to assist her with his Fundraiser, and I've obtained the list of her debts from the Fountain Fund, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization, who is currently assisting Stephanie locally. The Fountain Fund provides assistance to community members by managing their debt and providing individuals with low-interest loans. However, the loan is primarily to consolidate her debt rather than overcome the full brunt of accruing interest and court fees. All funds raised will go to charitable efforts net of the standard GoFundMe transactional fees. Please see additional information on the Fountain Fund near the end of this page.

Ms. Howell's Story and the Issue of Revoking  Driver's Licenses

Stephanie Powell of Ruckersville, Virginia, was recently featured in a segment on Vice News Tonight (a nightly news show owned and presented by HBO; her episode aired on April 4th, 2018).

Stephanie is caught in a Catch-22: She's desperately seeking a full-time job to supplement her current minimum wage part-time job at Sam's Club, in order to pay off thousands of dollars in debt. However, she can't easily find full-time work without the ability to drive. She currently relies on her great uncle, who graciously provides her with transportation to and from work during the 40-minute round trip.

A judge revoked Powell's license more than decade ago for a drug conviction. She's one of millions of adult Americans who have lost their drivers' licenses — not from insurance problems or driving infractions, but because they’re unable to pay off piling court debts.

Without full-time jobs, such individuals can't easily tackle those fines and regain their ability to drive. In 12 states, judges can revoke licenses as punishment for drug convictions, and in 43 states and Washington, D.C., they can revoke them over any money owed to the court.

Powell’s last conviction was in 2006, but more than a decade later, she still owes over ten thousand dollars to five different courts in Virginia. Her part-time job sharing samples at Sam's Club is hardly enough to cover living expenses, let alone pay off her mounting fees and interest. Her wages are already garnished significantly, but the accrual of interest and penalties significantly hampers her ability to reduce the principal owed.

​In the 1980s and 1990s, lawmakers enthusiastic about crime and punishment developed the idea to tie the ability to drive to convictions and court fees. It’s a system that disproportionately harms poor communities, where formerly incarcerated people find that even after they’ve served their time, they’re crushed under debt and weighed down by circumstances and stigmas that make it hard to find and drive to new jobs.

Both conservative and progressive policymakers alike have begun to agree that these laws aren't working. One out of every six drivers in the state of Virginia, or nearly one million people, have lost their licenses due to court fees.

How the Donations Will be Used

- $10,000: Funds raised will be withdrawn from the GoFundMe account, personal checks will be written payable directly to the respective courts and debt holders, and finally the checks will be mailed to the Fountain Fund for local hand delivery; receipts will be provided to both Ms. Powell to verify payment on her debt. When a debt is paid via check, the payment receipt will be  displayed as an update on this GoFundMe page. This process is designed to ensure the donations will directly be used to get Stephanie's license reinstated.
- Approximately $500: To cover the GoFundMe payment processing fees of 2.9% plus $0.30 per donation. This amount assumes meeting 100% of the goal.
- Any potential net excess donations above the stated goal will go directly to the Fountain Fund charitable organization, in order to empower other individuals who find themselves in a similar situation.

About the Fountain Fund ( https://www.fountainfund.org/)

The Fountain Fund is a 501(c)(3) non-profit lender that provides microloans, financial education, and community support to formerly incarcerated people. Loan funds can be used to pay court-imposed debt, job related expenses, or to start a business.

When released from incarceration, many individuals face overwhelming criminal justice-related obligations, such as court costs, fines, fees, restitution, or child support, along with accrued interest. These costs can be especially burdensome for low-income individuals, many of whom do not qualify for traditional lending. If unable to pay, they can lose their driver’s license – making them unable to drive to work and earn the income necessary to pay their debts – or face probation revocation, leading to more time in prison. Some individuals will return to criminal behavior to make enough money, often resulting in re-incarceration and more debt to society. The Fountain Fund disrupts these cycles by empowering its clients with financial education, credit building, community referrals, and mission-based lending.

Clients report improved employment circumstances, higher wages, graduation from drug court and probation programs, improved confidence in their personal finances, and feeling supported by their community. The Fountain Fund helps clients to regain their driving privileges, which can open additional opportunities for them to thrive. Importantly, 100% of loan payments are in good standing – these payments will be reinvested into the loan fund, paving the way for future clients to receive assistance.

Further Details

The YouTube video shown above is a copyrighted property of HBO and Vice News. Permission to use this copyrighted material was obtained by Antonia Hylton, the Vice News correspondent featured in the segment.

None of the funds donated will be used for any purpose other than those previously stated, which is to pay-off Stephanie's legal debts, cover the GoFundMe transactional fees, and contribute to the Found Fund charity.

The Fountain Fund has assisted in providing logistical details to me (with Ms. Powell's permission), in order to facilitate this charitable fundraiser. However, this fundraising effort was not initiated by the Fountain Fund, Ms. Howell, HBO, or Vice News.
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We just received the first receipt from the Charlottesville Circuit Court in the amount of $1,045.96, which is the total donated net of GoFundMe fees.

Thank you to everyone for your assistance, and I hope we can slowly chip away at the remainder.
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The first check to Ms. Powell's debtors is due to be sent on 5/21. I'll post another update once the check is in the mail.
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A local NBC news affiliate in Virginia has reached out to Stephanie fo an interview. She has spoken to the news correspondent and they're looking to bring attention to the burdens created by our current criminal justice system.
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$1,140 of $10,500 goal

Raised by 12 people in 6 months
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LaToya Brackett
1 month ago
KC Knight
3 months ago
4 months ago
Sydney Jenkins
5 months ago
Warren Whitaker
5 months ago
Diane Hoover
6 months ago
Maria Hylton
6 months ago
Kyle Mcintee
6 months ago
Joanie Kim
6 months ago
Florian Koenigsberger
6 months ago
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