James M. Thompson

Volunteer Team Award

James M. Thompson, Rick Fingerman, Kristin Pena and The FPA of Massachusetts
Charity | Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Company | FPA of Massachusetts
Broker/Dealer | LPL Financial (Village Financial Partners)

“I never knew we were tapping such a deep vein of compassion,” Jim Thompson, pro bono chairman of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts, said of the volunteer response to the FPA Pro Bono Financial Coaching Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Since the program began in 2007, 55 advisors have provided free financial planning services to 114 cancer patients and their care givers. “We’ve had no trouble finding advisors – no trouble at all,” said Mr. Thompson, a certified financial planner with The Village Bank in Auburndale, Mass.

Volunteer advisors serve as financial lifeguards for patients devastated by medical bills, unemployment, or excessive debt. The team helps with urgent tasks – finding bankruptcy attorneys, determining whether life insurance policies can be paid out before death, helping clients apply for subsidized housing when they can no longer work full time, assisting clients with complex Social Security disability paperwork, and working with mortgage lenders to help clients avoid foreclosures.

The program is going to get larger, as Dana-Farber rolls it out throughout the rest of its system. No problem, said Mr. Thompson. “We have the capacity to keep growing. Each volunteer can handle two to three clients – and we can easily get another 50 volunteers from the membership.”

“You try to stay strong in the face of your illness, but you also have to worry about your finances,” he said. “We consider ourselves part of the healing team.”