These are strange and difficult times but in spite of that, Circles of Jackson is working diligently to make sure that its Circle Leaders (those working their way out of poverty) are doing well.

However, our new Circle Leaders were just beginning the process of rising out of poverty. They had worked so hard to reach the point of having a job, a safe place to live and a sense of hope. All of these are at risk because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Sierra Womack, client services coordinator, is making multiple weekly contacts with all our Circle Leaders to assess needs and provide help in navigating federal and state COVID guidelines, unemployment (as several of our Circles Leaders have been furloughed), the Cares Act, etc.

Gift cards are provided when needed for food and necessities using our emergency funds. Dawn Heatherly, executive director of Circles, has been busy writing grants that will provide emergency funds, and other things needed by Circles.

Because of the shelter-in-place order, Circles had continued its monthly board meetings via Zoom, and Circles continues to hold its weekly meetings via Zoom. It has also continued its training programs. 

The next training opportunity will be provided by Roger Bacon, who will teach folks how to hold Zoom meetings.

As many of you know, our one big yearly fundraiser for Circles was our May 6, $100-a-plate luncheon.

But because of the COVID-19 pandemic it had to be canceled. However, our needs cannot be canceled.

Therefore, we are asking folks who accepted an invitation to the luncheon to please be willing to donate to our cause now, knowing that at soon as possible, we will honor you with a luncheon for which you will have already paid.

Circles was founded to support people determined to rise out of poverty and we will not waver in our mission to make that possible.

When we began this program seven years ago, there were 9,000 people living in poverty in the county.

We wonder if the pandemic will not add to that number. We pray that if you are in a position to help us by giving a donation to Circles of Jackson County today, we would deeply appreciate it.

Ann Melton is founder, Circles of Hope Jackson. The Circles address is P.O. Box 501, Sylva, NC 28779; phone, 342-4627.