When asked what brought her to the housing counseling industry in the first place, Cora describes losing a friend and realizing she needed to make a change in her own life. She left her job at a financial institution working in collections and started working at a local consumer credit counseling service, glad to find that her banking background allowed her to help more consumers because she knew the credit laws and regulations that protect individuals. “I love the counseling industry,” says Cora. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had. This job has given me just an array of topics that I can explore.”
Bibian Cristino, Housing Action Illinois; Cora Fulmore, Diversified Resource Network; and Emily Stahl, Housing Action Illinois
In the ever-changing housing industry, it takes a lot of dedication and expertise to stay up-to-date and make sure you’re sharing relevant information. That’s why Cora Fulmore is so good at what she does. With over 30 years of experience in the counseling industry, she knows how to keep up with trends, determine what updates will be most useful, and how she can provide the most current and useful information for housing counselors to excel in helping their clients. Because of her passion for supporting counselors with accessible information, Cora created Diversified Resource Network (DRN), as an online resource for housing and credit professionals. For the past 3 years, DRN has worked with Housing Action Illinois to provide more than 10 trainings per year to participants from across the country.
Housing counselors must be knowledgeable on many aspects of housing, including tenancy, financial literacy and management, and foreclosure. They need to be continual learners, seeking out relevant and current updates, and that’s where Cora finds her niche. While working at a national organization that provides training to counselors, she noticed that they did not regularly update their curriculum to provide the most accurate information. This was only further exacerbated by the foreclosure crisis that began in 2007, when Cora found, to her dismay , that counselors without access to updated materials helped spread misinformation.
This led her to begin The Counselor’s Corner, an online resource for the counseling community to obtain trainings for free, in 2014. As The Counselor’s Corner’s membership grew to more than 5,000 members, Cora realized more than just counselors were in need of her resources–local and state officials, real estate professionals, and lenders were among those taking her trainings. Realizing the range of people who could benefit from her educational resources, she decided it was time to rebrand. “Because my group is diversified, we changed the name to Diversified Resource Network,” Cora explains.
Nearly a decade later, Cora’s focus on adapting to the needs of her community has not wavered. “I can’t just present last week’s news when this week’s news is totally different,” she shares. “It is like I’m the reporter of housing counseling.” She is always gathering the most current information and changing her presentations, even up to the day of a training session. At DRN, Cora can make decisions based directly on surveys from members, not having to report to anyone else. This also gives her the freedom to create new courses whenever she sees a need for it.
DRN’s partnership with Housing Action Illinois started in early 2020, when Capacity Building Specialist and Housing Counseling Trainer Bibian Cristino reached out to DRN. As they began providing their training together, DRN and Housing Action also began to develop new classes together. Cora describes these new courses as often “ahead of the curve,” created to support counselors when changes occur in the industry and the state of housing. Reflecting on the past few years, Cora says, “This partnership has been wonderful…Housing Action Illinois gets me.”
Looking to the future, Cora urges housing counselors to learn as much as they can on credit and foreclosures, warning of a further increase in foreclosures across the country. She says, “If we are prepared, we will be the sought after industry, but we have to tell our story. We can’t be afraid to tell our story, and we’ve got to tell our story with a strong conviction of who we are, because our impact is overwhelming.”