2021 Network Awards: Outstanding Ally–Circles Troup County, GA

Another outstanding Ally is from Circles Troup County, GA Ally: Calvin Neely

From their coordinator, Sherri Brown, “Calvin Neely has been a Circles volunteer and Ally since we began. He has been an Ally for three families, but more than that, he’s been an Ally to the Circles community. Calvin spent most of his career in management, but several years ago retired from that and began his own business with Kona Ice.

His work has grown with several trucks, working at events, schools and fundraisers. In Circles, he uses his experience to help Circles Leaders prepare for job interviews and job success. He also has hired Circle Leaders who are getting back into the workforce. He has high expectations for all his employees, and all that have worked for him have gone on to successful permanent jobs.

He’s also compassionate. We had a Circles volunteer who is a kindergarten teacher ask for an adult to eat lunch with one of her students. It’s customary for students on their birthday to have a parent eat with them at a special table, but one student was going to be alone on her birthday. Calvin volunteered to have lunch with her and showed up in his Kona Ice shirt with bookmarks, magnets, and stickers for the birthday girl. It was a big deal because, as her teacher commented later, “In kindergarten, the Kona Ice man is equivalent to a rockstar.”

Two years ago, Calvin reached a breaking point with the exploitation he saw again and again in predatory lenders. He started researching on his own ways to combat the high interest loans that are often the only option for low-income families in our area. He found another Georgia organization that partnered with a financial institution to make low-interest secured loans to people who wanted to pay off their high interest loans. He called and got the details and was so impressed with what they did he loaded staff and volunteers in his car, drove them all 2.5 hours away to spend the day talking with leaders in this organization.

It took several months, but eventually Circles Troup County was fully approved by a local bank to make secured loans to our Circle Leaders. We purchased a CD at the bank, and are now able to take applications from our Circle Leaders to pay off their high interest loans (400% APR) at 3% interest. The bank will also report to credit agencies, improving credit scores for Circle Leaders. With Calvin’s tenacity, intellect and passion, we are now able to help Circle Leaders reduce debt quickly, increase credit scores, and make future financially sound decisions.

We think Calvin is not only a kindergarten rockstar, but also a Circles rockstar.”

Congratulations to Calvin Neely and Circles Troup County, GA.