June 12, 2003
Posted at: 10:25 p.m. CDT
TRUMANN, Ark. -- A Region 8 Welfare-to-work program has been so successful in Greene County, another county is being added to the client list.
Paragould resident Tracy Cobbs started the Real Hope Mentoring Program in May after getting off of Welfare herself, and going on to obtain a college degree.
Knowing what Welfare recipients are going through, Cobbs is returning to her hometown of Trumann to help those who are in the same situation she was in, not long ago.
A little over one year ago, Michael Sullinger was in part of Cobbs' program. He learned how to compose a better resume, and how to get off of the Welfare rolls. Now, Sullinger is attending college.
"I had two years of mechanics, and high school-tech," Sullinger said. "(I) thought that was it for the rest of my life."
Sullinger is one of more than 150 people in Greene County who went off the Transitional Employment Assistance, or TEA, program in the last year.
"It's probably the biggest drop that we've had since the program started," said H.C. Lemmons, Greene County TEA administrator.
Cobbs is the person responsible for the success in Green County. She left her hometown of Trumann with her two kids, her car, and not much else.
"We've had several people go through the TEA program," she said. "Most of which are going to college or working."
Real Hope Mentoring not only teaches ways to improve interviewing skills for prospective employment, but life skills as well.
"Helping them prepare a monthly budget," Cobbs said of what she teaches in her program. "Helping them buy groceries, planning meals."
Currently, about 130 people are enrolled in TEA in Trumann, a Poinsett County town of nearly 7,000. Concerned residents are hoping Cobbs' work will be just as successful there, as it was in Paragould.
"That's the only way we're ever gonna turn a city like Trumann around from being a poverty-minded mentality to one of a self-help mentality." said Kenneth Green, pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Trumann.
Cobb's classes in Trumann will be held in Green's church. New students are expected to be in their seats by the second week of July.
"I'm from Poinsett County," Cobbs said. "I realize how hard hit with Welfare that it is. My heart had always went back to Trumann as far as giving back."
Cobbs gives adults in need of education guidance they can use. But most of all, she gives "real hope," and she is great at that.
"I have one little girl that calls me every week and tells me she loves me," Cobbs said of a former student. "So, I've become a mother to a lot of people, and I just want it to grow and God to continue to bless me the way he has."