Help Inspires Hope at 'Show Me the Money Day'

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Melissa Ryan thought she was down on her luck. That was before she won a total of $200 in two separate raffles Saturday, an amount she says will take care of a couple bills.

"I think God knew I had extra bills to pay and I am stressing over it," she said. "I have a four year old and I just want to provide the best I can for him."

But perhaps Ryan's luck is starting to change. The St. Johns resident who gets about $700 a month from social security is trying to move out of her trailer and into a new home. She left the annual Show Me the Money Day feeling relieved and full of hope.

"[People] explained to me that there are other steps to get me to my goal, that I'm not at a standstill," she said."There is help and it for sure helps me keep smiling."

It's exactly the kind of story the director of the event-sponsoring Asset Independence Coalition loves to hear.

"So Show Me the Money Day is a chance really for the community to be exposed to all the different financial resources that are available," said Director Tiffany Lemieux-McKissic. "A lot of times people don't know what's out there. You don't see it everyday, you don't hear about it, so we try to put it all together in one place and we try to make it really fun so people can know there's a lot of opportunity in Lansing for financial resource help."

Show Me the Money Day is a statewide event coordinated by the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan. Visitors could make their way to more than 20 tables set up by banks, utilities, credit unions and everyone in between. Workshops and financial counseling were also part of the program.

Consumers Energy wanted to get the word out about its assistance programs.

"It's been a very challenging winter and the higher bill payments are going to be coming soon," said Spokesman Chris Thelen. "We wanted to get the word out about all the resources that are available here."

People are increasingly concerned with their energy use and costly bills this winter, Thelen said, but the event can do a lot to put people at ease.

"I think what we have here is a real show of cooperation from all the assistance agencies providing one-stop shopping for families that need assistance," said Thelen. "They can go around here in an hour and get a good example of the ways they can get through the tough financial times."

Tax and FAFSA assistance was also provided for free. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero got a glimpse of the help offered and called it "gratifying."

"They're getting a hold of their future," he said. "That is real change. When you give people tools that they can take control of their lives."

A financially healthy citizenry can only spell good things for the city, Bernero said.

"We're looking at the long-term in terms of economic development and building jobs," he said, "but we're also trying to help people right now with the assets they have, leverage the assets they have and the dollars they have to gain control of their personal finances."

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