What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. James 2:14-17
Moravians have taken this passage to heart since the very beginnings of the Unity. Today Moravians still look to this passage as they do the work of Christ at Sunnyside Ministry. Since 1978, Sunnyside Ministry has provided financial assistance, a food pantry and a clothing closet to those in need in southern Winston-Salem and Forsyth County in N.C.
In recent years that assistance has begun to look different. We have started to help those in poverty move to self-sufficiency. We do this through an education program named “Gaining Control.” As the title implies, when you are struggling in poverty, you are out of control. This class helps students gain control of their finances through budgeting, savings and 12 weeks of classroom training, with homework.
The class was developed by a committee in 2013 and is led by Charles Forrest, a member of Calvary Moravian in Winston-Salem. The class has pulled together resources from many different places, and is unique to Sunnyside Ministry. The idea is simple and easy to understand: students develop a budget that they can realistically follow, they set goals for saving money that they can actually accomplish and they learn the skills to make wise saving and spending decisions. The class ends with a lesson on giving back—how clients contribute to their Church or other agencies to help others experience the positive gifts they have received.
One recent graduate had what she described as a mountain of debt; she is 61 years old and thought that retirement was only a dream. Through the class she developed a plan to pay off her debt in six years and will be able to retire when she is 67.
A young single mom, who after graduating a year earlier, told us: “I am continuing to budget although it’s really tough to stick to it. I am still saving and I make sure I have at least $1000 in savings at all times. I have a really good job now so I was able to get a new car with a really good interest rate. I am in the process of buying a home through a program called NACA (Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America) where I pay no down payment and no closing cost at 3.25 percent interest. I am really grateful for the program. It really set me on track. Finally, I paid down most of my debt and my credit score has gone up almost 100 points! I can’t express my gratitude more.”
In 2017, Angelica Regalado, a seminary student and a member of Friedland Moravian, will conduct the class for the first time in Spanish. This is exciting because 25 percent of the clients coming to Sunnyside Ministry speak Spanish as their primary language.
The results from this class are better than were ever imagined with 128 students graduating since the class began. 98.4 percent of those graduates have not needed to return for assistance from Sunnyside Ministry. They average $400.00 in savings for an emergency. Sunnyside Ministry has seen them develop the confidence to find better jobs, make wise purchases and avoid the financial pitfalls where many in poverty find themselves trapped.
To learn more about this important program, visit the Sunnyside website at www.sunnysideministry.org.
David Holston is director of Sunnyside Ministry in Winston-Salem, N.C. In photo above: Charles Forrest leads a session of “Gaining Control”.