Rev. Dr. Alan Rice and Crystal Imes spoke at a NETworX informational meeting on Feb. 18 at First United Methodist Church, Wadesboro. Rice is executive director of the Rural Faith Development Community Development Corporation (RFD CDC) and founding director of NETworX USA, an initiative of RFD CDC. Imes wrote the children’s curriculum for the program and leads the children’s program for NETworX Kids.
The Rev. Norma Villagrana, administrator of Anson NETworX, greeted the assembly and said that NETworX’s goal is bringing individuals and community together to build bridges of love. “Change comes when good people come together,” she said.
Rice explained the difference between NETworX and Circles. Wadesboro organized the first Circles site in North Carolina in 2007, starting as Bridges Out of Poverty, a part of the aha! Process. “Anson County was a showpiece,” Rice said. “By 2014 there were 15 sites in NC and 60 across the United States.”
In 2015, Circles was sold, then regained by the original founder, who asked members to cease and desist using the Circles name if they continued to follow a faith-based approach.
People from 10 different states asked for a new program, Rice said, and NETworX USA was organized with its base in Yadkinville.
The name is an acronym of Nurture, Education, and Transformation. The X is the Greek letter Chi, the first letter in Christ’s name.
Some differences are readily apparent. Participants are called Champions of Change, not Circle Leaders. They and their allies take the 12-15 week class together, not just the Champions as previously. And, children study a child-friendly version of the adult workbook.
Although many sites are secular, the program follows the Wesleyan tradition, which didn’t begin in a church but with poor miners, farmers, and others in poverty. John Wesley believed that education was a key component to escaping poverty and started “Sunday Schools” to teach children who worked six days a week to read and write. Illiterate adults soon followed. Wesley provided not only schools, but medicine, clothing, and coal, and most importantly, a ladder of opportunity.
Rice said the NETworX model includes rethinking poverty, reframing solutions, reshaping community, and restoring abundance.
Rice touched on the cost. Former Circles sites pay one-half of the $5,000 annual fee that includes training, coaches, library resources, and outcome tracking. He also discussed some fundraising methods and was impressed with the Anson Circles fundraiser, “Dancing with the Stars.”
Imes shared her story as a Circles graduate. Her husband lost his job just after they relocated with their four children. Circles helped her as a stranger to the community to meet people and make connections. Speaking of the weekly meal and childcare offered, Imes said, “The best way to break down barriers is to break bread together.”
The NETworX program is adaptable to each site, Imes said. “We can change the curriculum to meet the need.”
To be eligible to join the program, an applicant must have stable housing, a commitment to sobriety, be committed to change, and if having mental health issues, must be in treatment.
For more information about the Anson NETworX, call Norma Villagrana at 816-351-4232.