Circle leaders are ready for the next journey

By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | Feb 10, 2014
Photo by: Shelby Harrell George Michal poses for photo while talking to Haley Marie Lanning during his Circles of Hope training graduation.

With the Circles of Hope training under their belt, three participants shared their plans for life changes that would lift them out of  poverty.

Through the Circles of Hope program, George Michal, Tonya Cagle and Ricky Auler are learning skills to help them get completely out of poverty. After completing their initial training, each of them are planning to attend Haywood Community College in the near future to make a better life for themselves.

Sweethearts Ricky Auler and Cathy Rollings are participating in the Circles of Hope program together. Auler is currently engaged to Rollings and has assumed a full-time role as being a stepfather to her 11-year-old daughter, MaKayla.

After the Circles of Hope training graduation last week, Auler was all smiles as he talked about his new car he’s leased — a 2014 Chevrolet Spark hatchback.

“I got it by doing things I learned here — by getting on a budget and getting all my old bills paid off,” Auler said when asked how he could afford a new car.

But the vehicle is not all that’s new for Auler — he’s planning to attend HCC in the fall to continue his electrical engineering degree. Rollings is currently enrolled in HCC full time and works at Walmart.

Auler said he isn’t worried about succeeding in school because he knew he could count on Circles of Hope for support.

“I’m looking forward for all this to continue,” Auler said about Circles of Hope. “With our class I’ve got a good support team. We support each other the best we can. I feel like the battle will get harder, but I know I’ve got people I can talk to.”

Selling sawblades

George Michal is not the same person he was when he first began the Circles of Hope program in September. The former homeless Haywood County native is now glowing and happy, hugging friends and shaking hands everywhere he goes.

“Everything has been great,” Michal said after graduating from his Circles of Hope training class. “All my bills are paid.”

Michal is not yet employed, but he earns money by painting designs on saw blades and selling them for profit, ranging anywhere from $25 to $150, depending on size. He also receives food stamps and a disability check for his knee injuries.

If someone brings Michal a photo, he will paint the design on a saw blade, he said. But his real passion, he’s found, is helping others.

“I thought I had it bad, but now I’m seeing people who had it worse than me,” Michal said, referring to the friends he’s made through Circles. “I’m trying to make their life better and it’s making my life better.”

One of Michal’s goals in the future is to become a Circles of Hope ally — a volunteer who has been trained to help others overcome poverty. Once he completes the Circles program, he said he plans to share his story and his newfound knowledge with others who are trying to become self-sufficient.

“I’m just going to  help people — I’m going dead on,” Michal said with a laugh. “Millie (Hershenson) is not going to like me because I’m going to take her job.”

Motivated mom

Tonya Cagle, 23, is a mother of two daughters — an infant and a 3-year-old. Needless to say, she has her hands full. But with the help from Circles of Hope, she is still reaching for more.

After receiving her GED and completing the Circles of Hope training, Cagle is ready to celebrate. She is planning to spend the next few months looking for a job and will start college at HCC this summer. Her Circles of Hope ally will likely help her care for her children.

She’s very interested in criminal justice, and has applied for a job in telecommunications at the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, in addition to several retail jobs. She is still waiting to hear back, but is staying positive that things will work out.

“My main concern is giving my girls a life they never had and getting my criminal justice degree,” Cagle said.

Cagle was beaming with pride at her Circles of Hope training graduation while everyone crowded around her to see her infant daughter, Maddalyn.

Since Cagle never finished high school, she said the Circles of Hope training graduation was a big deal for her — a way for her to finally be recognized for doing something good.

“It’s such a big accomplishment for me,” Cagle said. “The hard part is getting there and staying motivated, but I know I can do it.”