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Walmart Foundation grant will provide financial counseling

| Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

A $500,000 grant from The Walmart Foundation to Circles USA could help Connellsville-area residents find jobs and receive financial counseling.

Money from the grant has gone to develop resources such as computer programs and items such as sign-up and progress forms.

The local Circles organization will meet on Tuesday to solidify the program, getting ready to split into teams to begin the grassroots program to rehabilitate those who want to break the cycle of poverty.

The Circles program has proven successful nationally, said Chip Rowan, executive director of Connellsville Area Community Ministries.

For every dollar spent, two dollars goes back to the local economy. After 18 months, families in the program had a 27 percent increase in income, a 27 percent decrease in public assistance and an 80 percent increase in family assets, Rowan said.

Rowan said many of the people needing help are those who have lost jobs and are unemployed or are in low-paying jobs that do not meet the needs of their families.

Rowan said his group, Holy Trinity Conference of St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Connellsville Salvation Army Service Center, will not be getting funding directly from the grant.

”But we do benefit,” said Rowan, who noted the program began when the three groups joined in February.

Dave Priemer, Circles coordinator for Connellsville, said the program will work by identifying potential Circles candidates from the clients of the three agencies, then matching them with two to four “allies,” or community volunteers trained as mentors to provide counseling on skills such as how to budget and save money.

The group will be headed by two co-chairmen, who will work together to develop the local program, Rowan said. From there, teams will be set up with a co-chairs for each to develop and train the “allies.”

Rowan and Mary McKnight of the Salvation Army and Linda Galiardi of St. Vincent de Paul went to Colorado in May for a week of training. Dave Priemer, Circles coordinator, and his wife will go to Dayton, Ohio, at the end of August for training.

They, in turn, will train the local volunteer allies, who will work with each of the families.

Children from the families receiving help may also come to the sessions as special programs will be held for the children, Rowan said.

Those interested in the Circle program can call Priemer at the Connellsville Area Community Ministries, 724-626-1120. Those interested in jobs or help with applying for jobs, can contact Cris McDonough, also at 724-626-1120 or by email at cris@connmin.org.

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kpolacek@tribweb.com or 724-626-3538.

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