Program Helps Residents Graduate to Life without Government Assistance

December 16, 2003 -- Posted at 11:00pm

TRUMANN, AR - This day at the hair salon is about more than just new styles and make-up tips, it's about lives getting a make over.

"I got a new born baby, and his best benefits is my concern right now," said David Brown, a graduate from the New Hope Mentoring Program. It's a program design by Trumann native Tracy Cobbs and is supposed to get federal assistance recipients back to work. At one point in her life, Cobbs was also on welfare.

10 Trumann residents going through the program will soon be or recently stopped receiving federal money through the federal Transitional Employment Assistance (TEA) program. Over the last 16 weeks, members of the group have been attending class once a week to learn better life skills: being a better parent, sticking to a budget, and learning about God.

Kenneth Green, pastor of Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Trumann (the only church currently helping with the program), added, "This program is so much more than just a hand out, it's a hand up. They don't want to be where they are, but they don't know how to be anywhere else."

While organizers feel this class has been a success, they know with only 10 people graduating every four months, they're not reaching the amount of people they need to.

"A great deal of the TEA case load does come from the town of Trumann. Probably more like 60% to 70%," explained Janice Griffin, Poinsett County Administrator for Arkansas' Department of Human Services.

Tracy Cobbs' goal is to continue to shrink those numbers, but that can only happen if she gets help.

"If we have at least 10 churches get involved to teach these classes, we can hit more families. The more people you get off of welfare here, the more businesses are gonna come back in here," added Cobbs.

As more jobs become available, the better-qualified candidates will be ready to accept them, helping them to continue to regain their independence.

"I plan on getting off of the assistance, and I plan on getting my daughter into daycare and taking care of my other two children. I don't like being on the TEA program," said graduate Tammy Birdsell.

"This can be done. It's just gonna take everyone pulling together," said Cobbs.

Leaders of the First United Methodist Church in Trumann have already expressed interest in supporting a class at their church. They will meet with Cobbs in early January to discuss details.