The United Way, through several different programs, is helping Abilene residents who want to become more financially self-sufficient. One man tells of his previous struggles and how the program ultimately transformed his life.
Michael Brooks is a welder at Smith Pipe. He's been here for about three months and even has plans in the near future to open up his own business. However, not too long ago, Brooks was down on his luck. He was incarcerated for nearly ten years. When he was finally released, he knew he had a bigger purpose in life. That's when he found help.
"It's a second chance. It gives you a lot of hope. It increased my faith, shows how prayer does work and how God can touch people's hearts," he says.
He was released from prison in 2009 and just a short time later, enrolled in the United Way's Individual Development Account program.
It allows those who qualify to take a series of financial education workshops and begin saving for a goal of one thousand dollars, which will be matched four to one.
"Participants can use those funds to purchase education, a first-time home, or even start or expand an exisiting business," says Jamie Jimenez, the director of the program.
Brooks chose to receive an education at Cisco where he became a certified welder.
"Hopefully one day, I could be on the end of giving the blessing instead of recieving it, become hope for others and just keep the ripple going, moving forth," says Brooks.
Jimenez, the director of the program says she clearly remembers Brooks's sincere gratitude and caring heart through the process.
His gratitude still remains. "Just to rub shoulders with her, just enhanced it, just made your faith and you can see your prayers tangible and in the flesh. It's amazing," he says.