AARP offers free African-American faith-based training

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 1, 2018

SALISBURY — More than 30 church leaders gathered Wednesday at Hood Theological Seminary for a training session on physical, spiritual and financial security.

The training, called AARP African-American/Black Faith-Based Tool Kit Training, covered ways to ensure parishioners are cared for in those three areas. The focus was the growing population of African-Americans over age 50.

According to AARP, the number of African-Americans in the United States is projected to reach 10.7 percent of the population over 50 by 2020.

The group has unique and, at times, unmet needs, which AARP hopes to mitigate through a free tool kit that was made available to worship leaders.

“Over the course of the last year and a half, AARP had developed something to help primarily African-American churches to be able to use the resources that AARP makes available to everybody,” said Dr. Yvonne A. Tracey of Soldiers Memorial AME Zion Church. “They packaged them in a way that congregations can look at and see how easy they are to use and then just run with them.”

Wednesday was an unveiling of the kit, said Michael Olender of AARP Charlotte.

“It looks at three areas that congregations and people in general have a lot of difficulty managing: health, wealth and self,” he said.

Health, said Olender, includes all aspects of physical well-being. People over 50 are aging. They may have an ailment or have suffered an accident.

A church is a great place for these people to get help, said Olender and Tracey.

Tracey recommended that church leaders encourage healthy cooking classes or supportive celebrations for those who are battling chronic illness. This, she said, could be just the boost in morale some need.

For financial help, Olender said AARP is offering noncommercial help to African-Americans over 50: teaching them ways to better manage their resources, protect themselves from fraud and save money.

Self-care, said Olender, is all about personal fulfillment: using one’s own personal time in the best way to benefit the community and the individual.

By the close of Wednesday’s meeting, participants were ready to take ideas from the tool kit back into their churches. They spoke of senior job fairs, yoga sessions and even a birthday ministry for shut-ins.

For some, the plan was to take information from the tool kit even further than individual congregations.

Tracey said participants were effectively “like tentacles,” with their reach extending increasingly outward.

The Rev. Grant Harrison Jr., presiding elder of the Salisbury District of AME Zion churches, will present the resource to 17 pastors on Saturday.

“It’s always good to see new resources that we can share with churches,” said Harrison. “This gives us opportunities we can share with them. … It doth not yet appear what we shall be.”