Financial Counselor of the Year Award
This award goes to a financial counselor who has contributed outstanding work in financial counseling.
This individual has a high level of outreach, strong evidence of outcomes and approaches their work with an innovative approach. Nominee must also be an AFCPE certified counselor in good standing.
The winner of this award receives $500.
2021 Mary Ellen Edmondson Educator of the Year, Donna “Dee” Gardner, AFC®
2021: Donna “Dee” Gardner, AFC®
Dee Gardner, AFC® has served as an AFC for more than 12 years. She has reached more than 12,500 active duty Service members and their families through one-on-one counseling, unit briefings, and classroom presentations, to provide financial education, assistance with identification of goals, and strategies to overcome debt issues. Her consistent efforts in outreach activities at Camp Lejeune, which successfully increased awareness and service requests, resulted in a need to expand location staffing to meet the demand. Her collaborative efforts in establishing a virtual peer support network served to strengthen the abilities of the individual counselors, resulting in an increased ability to meet client needs and promote the sharing of resources among professionals. Mrs. Gardner’s exceptional professionalism, commitment, compassion, and tactful delivery of hard truth is a testament to the AFCPE® Standards of Personal Finance Education, Networking, Information Sharing, Professionalism, and Best Practices.
2021 Award Nominees
Morgan Reid, AFC®
Christina Harper, AFC®
2020: Adrienne Ross, AFC®
At the heart of AFCPE®’s mission is the idea that Accredited Financial Counselors® meet clients where they are and join them on their financial journey. AFCPE® members set the standard through continual education and pursuit of professional excellence. We set the standard through reaching out to communities and clients. We set the standard through reaching out to our fellow AFC®s.
Adrienne Ross has consistently reached out to coworkers, colleagues and clients to ensure her financial counseling services reach the greatest number of people possible. Her efforts have resulted in 1189 service members and families making more effective financial choices in car buying, saving, spending, home buying, renting, debt repayment and more. Adrienne has set the standard by reaching out to support fellow AFC®s through mentorship at AFCPE® symposiums and through supporting other counselors, like Andrea Clark, Martina Simpson, Michele Godfrey and Mikki Venekamp. Adrienne has set the standard through continual learning and achieving multiple designations, from AFC®, FFC®, ChFC to Certified Financial Planner® professional.
Adrienne believes the power to change the world lies within financial counseling and planning. She is committed to using her knowledge, skills, and experience to bring lasting change to the world, one client at a time.
2019: April Berggren-Batts, AFC®
April Berggren-Batts, AFC® is a financial advocate for over 7000 clients’ needs and goals. She’s conducted training on an array of financial topics to audiences totaling over 15,000. April has moved around the state of ND 15 times to ensure all 70 plus military units and squadrons could have easier access to a financial counselor. She works almost every weekend to ensure that service members can be worked with during their drill weekend, yellow ribbon, or family event. April not only informs her clients of new financial topics, but also her network of peers inside and outside of the financial community to ensure more resources and education reaches clients. She has taught two classes to peers to increase resources for clients across the world. Providing new resources to clients and asking non-intimidating financial questions is always been part of the many innovations April has developed to increase connections to clients. April’s empathy and patience have proven to be of great value when she has worked with family members of service members killed in action or from suicide. Leadership recommends and utilizes April’s services during each stage of a service member’s career.
2018: Lori Mann, AFC®, FFC®
Lori Mann AFC®, FFC® has been serving as a financial coach with Tek-Source/AFSC/CFP, providing financial coaching services to veterans in Canton, Ohio. In that capacity, she has teamed with Stark County Veterans Honor Court, Summit County Veterans Valor Court, and the Summit County Veterans Service Commission. Lori provides one-on-one coaching to help veterans maintain financial goals, identify and change financial habits and attitudes leading to improved financial management, especially in the transition to post-military life. She also serves on a treatment team as ‘Veteran Financial Coach.’ She maintains a high level of contact with team members and veterans between court sessions. In Ms. Mann’s involvement in veterans treatment court, she assists low-income veterans on probation to manage payments of their courts costs and daily living expenses, and teaches them to build their savings. Ms. Mann makes an effort to accommodate her clients by meeting in convenient locations such as a public library, the county Veterans Service office or local employment offices. The impact Lori has made as a financial counselor has truly changed the lives of thousands of veterans and their families for the better. Most importantly, she is helping people build new lives filled with pride and dignity.
2017: Rachel Grimes, AFC®
Rachel Grimes, MA, AFC® is the Assistant Director-Financial Readiness for the University of North Texas Student Money Management Center. Rachel joined the center in 2010, and has since expanded the center’s outreach programs resulting in increased student engagement and a greater number of collaborations with departments and programs both on-campus and in the community. “One of the biggest challenges teaching financial literacy/wellness to college students is that they are in a transitional period,” Rachel explains. “They are not in a position to make a lot of money due to the demands of being a student. Therefore, students are faced with more financial challenges.” To overcome these challenges, Rachel and her team use relevant activities and practical, hands-on engagement strategies in all workshops, presentations and outreach events. She practices good finance in her own life by reevaluating her own personal financial goals on a monthly – and sometimes daily – basis. Prior to her current position, Rachel worked within higher education in career services.
2016: Martina Simpson
Martina Simpson is an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC®), a 2008 FINRA Military Spouse Fellow and Military Spouse of 31+ years. She has more than 20 years of experience as a Manager/Trainer for tax related issues and is an Owner of Affiliate Real Estate Broker. Since 2010 she has been worked as a military Personal Financial Counselor.
In 2010, Martina earned the AFC® certification and since then has helped thousands of military service members and their families achieve financial stability through education and workshops. Her passion to change financial lives has taken her all over the world, including a year assisting military servicemembers who supported Operation Enduring Freedom in East Africa. Martina’s passion to teach and mentor others to achieve financial freedom is tireless. She enjoys volunteering with military Veterans and Survivors in her community, and has earned the Commander’s Award for Public Service by the Department of the Army, the Commanding General’s “Helping Hand” Award at Ft. Jackson, SC and a Certificate of Appreciation for Patriotic Civilian Service.
Martina lives in South Carolina with her husband, daughter, son, and daughter-in-law and is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the first grandchild in December.
2015: Patsy Collins
As the Director of the Student Money Management Center at Sam Houston State University, Patsy firmly believes that graduates shouldn’t live from paycheck to paycheck. She strives to help people and their families develop the skill sets to aggregate wealth and be “for-profit” entities!
Patsy provides coaching/counseling for students, alumni and employees of Sam Houston State and conducts presentations in both workshops and the classroom. Of the surveys completed for coaching, 100% of the clients indicated a new level of learning and understanding regarding financial wellness.
As many financial education professionals know, a major concern is always how to get students to attend non-mandatory workshops. Over the past two years, workshop attendance at Sam Houston has increased by 90% and this year by over 200%. This increase is due to several factors, but the overwhelming reason is that the importance of financial wellness has begun to resonate with the students of Sam Houston.
The State of Texas now requires financial wellness training for K-12 students. Patsy worked with the College of Education to develop curriculum to train the college’s student teachers in the required areas. In pre and post test, students’ levels of knowledge increased by 83%. Patsy is working with Institutional Research to determine methodologies to capture long-term effects such as student retention, graduation, reduction of loan default rates and even alumni that become donors to the University.
2014: Madeleine Greene
Madeleine Greene is an award-winning educator, speaker, author, TV and radio show host and value-oriented penny pincher at heart. In 2014, she added AFCPE® Financial Counselor of the Year to her list of accolades. As a longtime active member of AFCPE®, Madeleine has played an instrumental role in AFCPE®’s history and growth, but this past year she was honored by the professionals in our membership for the incredible work that she does as an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC®).
Madeleine retired as a tenured member of the faculty of the University of Maryland-College Park in 2007, but continues to work tirelessly as a military consumer financial services consultant and money counselor. “Madeleine has a passion for helping individuals understand the importance of their actions today and the impact that these actions have on the stability of their financial futures,” said a nominator. “She helps clients establish a budget, track their spending, understand the impact of credit use and create a savings plan using available resources to track and reach their financial goals.”
Her clients are diverse – ranging from service members returning from Afghanistan with significant savings and no understanding of how to build wealth to a young widow having to make financial decisions in order to provide for herself and her child. She also does pro bono work with senior citizens, helping them apply for property tax credit, file income taxes, qualify for Medicaid, conserve their resources and avoid scams.
In addition to one-on-one financial counseling, Madeleine has been highly involved in curriculum development and educational programs. She was part of a team that developed the personal finance curriculum used by the military life consultants, and she has presented more than 100 service member seminars to groups of all sizes. Since 2008, her educational presentations have reached more than 50,000 individuals a year. Madeleine is also currently serving as the Chair of the AFCPE® Certification Council.
Her passion for the field and for consumers is evident in her work as a Maryland Financial Literacy Coalition Member. She recently testified before the Maryland Legislature in support of legislation requiring a personal finance class as a graduation requirement and she worked with the Fredrick County Commission for Women to develop the MD Women’s Conference, providing knowledge and skills that positively impact the financial future and quality of life of women and families in Maryland.
Colleagues and clients alike value Madeleine’s unique approach to counseling and education. She takes financial topics that can seem overwhelming or complicated and makes them understandable. Life savers, Payday, 100 Grand bars, larger than life currency, shredded money and flashing dollar signs are just a few of the tools she uses when teaching basic money concepts to groups. Madeleine understands her audience and uses real life events as the basis of her financial lessons.
Madeleine educates, counsels and mentors with a level of commitment felt by all whom she serves. Her level of expertise in a variety of areas has allowed her to affect positive change in many different ways within the field. Madeleine’s legacy is the tremendous impact she has had on our organization and on the field of financial counseling and education.