Seventh annual ‘Building Hope Fundraising Banquet Aug. 21


Special to the
Opelika Observer

On Aug. 21, men and women from across Lee County gathered at Auburn United Methodist Church in the Epworth Center to help build hope in the lives of women of Lee County. The Christian Women’s Job Corps® of Lee County held their seventh annual “Building Hope Fundraising Banquet” to build support for the local ministry dedicated to helping women in need in Lee County achieve self-sufficiency.
The welcome was given by CWJC Board member Dr. Dennis Marple, followed by the invocation given by Dr. Cory Smith of AUMC and music was provided by Tom Gassaway as dinner was served by Auburn University Women’s National Champion Equestrian Team. Guests were treated to a video of the championship season of Auburn’s Equestrians. Following dinner, CWJC made a special presentation to Equestrian Team Coach Greg Williams.
Executive Director of Christian Women’s Job Corps of Lee County, Neeley Caldwell, gave an overview of the ministry which has completed 22 sessions graduating 137 women and impacting the lives of nearly 200 children in the community. Caldwell described each session’s 10 weeks of courses provided to the women free of charge.
Participants desiring a serious life change make application, complete an interview process, and once accepted, begin an intense five day a week, nine week schedule of classes such as Leadership, Communications, Budgeting, Family Relations, Computer Skills, Life Skills, Health and Wholeness and Bible Study. During week 10, participants are placed in a four day internship with a local business to apply newly acquired job skills.
On the final day of the 10th week, participants graduate from the Christian Women’s Job Corps in a pinning ceremony where they speak individually to the audience on how CWJC has changed their lives. Caldwell recounted stories of success of past participants who have gained skills, confidence, self-esteem and employment in Lee County after their participation in CWJC.
One CWJC graduate, who is due to complete the Auburn Housing Authority Family Self-Sufficiency Program, will be able to purchase her own home for the first time. This summer, as Caldwell co-led a National Training Workshop of CWJC coordinators, she heard stories of participants who admitted they had never had anyone “cheer” for them. Caldwell explained how “our local CWJC will become our ladies’ biggest fan club, from instructors, to mentors, to all the various volunteers and supporters.”
The audience was treated to a Q&A with Kristi Malzahn, wife of Auburn University Head Football Coach Gus Malzahn, led by Auburn’s own Andy Burcham.
Kristi stressed the commitment of the Malzahns to the “family” of student athletes.
Kristi recalled riding in the back of the ambulance carrying an injured Auburn player.
“His mama wasn’t there, but I was. I have also sat with a player who was ejected from the game.” Kristi firmly believes that God brought her family to Auburn and is still using them. “The team gives me life.”
At the conclusion of the evening, Dr. Denny Marple, CWJC Board Chair, challenged the audience to support the Christian Women’s Job Corps with their finances, time, and prayer. Assistant Pastor Josh Yates from First Presbyterian Church of Opelika gave the benediction and dismissed the audience.
The next session of Christian Women’s Job Corps® of Lee County will begin Sept. 10 and conclude with a pinning ceremony on Nov. 16. Applications for participating are now being accepted and interviews are being scheduled. Volunteer opportunities are needed in areas of meal preparation and service, instruction and assisting instruction, and administrative tasks. For more information on being a participant or volunteer in the upcoming fall session, contact or 334-524-5529 or 334-821-0591.


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