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Families in search of food assistance or financial peace can find help at a local church in Connelly Springs.

Abernathy Memorial United Methodist Church offers two programs to people in the community. One is Wright’s Pantry and the other program is Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University.”

The food pantry is open from 7 a.m. to noon one Saturday each month, including Aug. 31, Sept. 28 and Oct. 26.

Wright’s Pantry first opened in the church basement in 2006, in memory of Jerry Wright, said Joan Benfield, co-chair of the pantry.

“Jerry was a kind-hearted Christian, who cared for and loved his fellow man, and dreamed of feeding the masses,” Benfield said.

The pantry is currently providing food to 275 to 300 families in the district each month, Benfield said. They are also providing food assistance to more than 20 students at Heritage Middle School and Draughn High School. Individuals and families must meet certain income requirements to receive assistance.

“Everyone must show an ID providing residence location to sign up,” Benfield said. “Our residence requirement is to live in the school districts of Draughn, Heritage, Drexel and Valdese. Also, (we) have income guidelines, (the) same as (East Burke) Christian Ministries.”

Each qualified family receives boxes of various canned, boxed, frozen and refrigerated foods, Benfield said.

“Also we provide feminine and family hygiene products, adult bladder pads and diapers and over-the-counter medicine,” Benfield said.

This program is supported by food drives through the Burke County School system, various clubs at schools, and mail carriers, as well as organizations, including America’s Second Harvest Food Bank/Feed America, Benfield said. Donations also are made through the church marked “food pantry.”

“Our school superintendent, Mr. Larry Putnam, designates (that) the food from our area, in the school food drives, come to us,” Benfield said. “Mail carriers did a fabulous job bringing the food to us. Often we come to the food pantry to work and find a box of canned foods sitting there on the bench.”

Wright’s Pantry relies on donations and volunteers, Benfield said.

“This takes many hours of work by a few volunteers, but we are all dedicated to helping,” Benfield said. “Some of our volunteers are church members. Others are friends who always show up to help. We are (also) blessed to have community-leaders volunteer on a regular basis.”

The other program the church offers is Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University,” taught by Zachary Cagle, secretary at Abernathy Memorial UMC.

“Just about everyone is in debt, be it credit cards, student loans, medical bills, car or house payments,” Cagle said. “How to manage finance or being out of debt hasn’t been taught in schools like it should be. Kids learn finance mostly from parents. If the parents are bouncing checks, behind in bills or trying to decide which credit card to use that is not maxed out, then the cycle continues.”

Each class lasts two hours. The following topics will be discussed.

» Lesson 1: Build a starter emergency fund and learn how to budget

» Lesson 2: Pay off all debt

» Lesson 3: Save a fully funded emergency fund

» Lesson 4: Invest for the future and build wealth

» Lesson 5: Buyer beware

» Lesson 6: The role of insurance

» Lesson 7: Retirement planning

» Lesson 8: Real estate and mortgages

» Lesson 9: Living and giving like no one else

Cagle took the class himself to learn how to get out of debt and decided to teach it to others.

“I am still paying off my debt, but it is going down,” Cagle said. “It is a process. It is not an overnight out-of-debt thing. You have to work on this for the rest of your life. You can be 18 to 100 years old and start this class and what you learn will help you. You can teach your children and grandchildren and it will help them. One of the sayings that Dave Ramsey has is that ‘As long as you’re breathing it is never too late to get started.’”

Attendees will meet one day a week for nine weeks. Each class is limited to 10 couples. The cost is $129.99 per couple. Private one-on-one sessions are also available. Businesses interested in offering the training to employees can also sign up.

“The price for the class is for materials,” Cagle said. “I do not get paid anything to do this. I usually try to work with people once they have signed up to determine a time on Monday, Wednesday or Thursday at 6 or 7, or maybe as late as 8 p.m.”

For more information, call 828-879-8894, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The church is located at 960 Malcolm Blvd. in Connelly Springs.

Barbara Jolly-Deakle is a News Herald correspondent and a member of the Morganton Writers’ Group. She can be reached at BabbyWrites@CompasCable.net.

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