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INDEPENDENCE — The Twin County community recently welcomed Family and Consumer Sciences Agent Demi Sexton, an employee of the Virginia Cooperative Extension who will provide financial planning services for Grayson and Carroll Counties and the city of Galax through a newly created position for the area.
The position was created through a partnership between the Extension and United Way of Southwest Virginia. Sexton began the job in January.
She will provide a special focus for community members in need of help with financial stability and financial literacy through free services, ranging from educational seminars, to one-on-one meetings with clients. Sexton has an office at the G.A.T.E. Center in Independence, the Carroll Extension office in Hillsville, and the Galax Municipal building; and can schedule meetings with clients in any of the three localities to make their travel time more convenient.
While Sexton’s schedule is in the early stages of planning, her tentative plan is to spend two days in Hillsville, two days in Independence, and one day in Galax per week.
Sexton is originally from Pulaski County. She graduated from Virginia Tech last May, and moved to Elk Creek with her husband last year when she heard about the job opportunity. Her husband, whom she married last August, is from the area; and they recently bought a home together in the Dugspur community in Carroll County.
In an interview with the Declaration, she spoke highly of the community she will be working with, saying, “I’m still new to this area, but everyone has been so great. I’ve been meeting with businesses and organizations, and everyone has been friendly and helpful.”
While she eases into her new title, Sexton said she can be flexible about meeting people with needs closer to their area. She also stressed that all meetings are confidential. “Finances are very personal, and some people have a hard time talking about them. So, I want this to be a safe place where people can come and talk,” she said.
Services the new position will offer include assisting families and individuals with planning short- and long-term financial goals, as well as connecting them with organizations that can assist with dire needs, such as an overdue light bill.
“Our services are also about education and helping people understand their finances and how to manage them,” she added, before giving an example. “Let’s say there was a situation where a client, for whatever reason, is ‘unbankable,’ and can’t get a checking account. In situations like that, we can work with these individuals by offering them financial education, and then meeting [with the bank, alongside the client] to discuss their options.”
Because finances are such a difficult topic for many people, Sexton hopes to make meetings with her clients as comfortable as possible. “The important thing is to find out their needs, what their short- and long-term goals are, and celebrate the little things. If you’re saving $10 a week from not eating lunch out, or saving money by learning ways to save at the grocery store, that’s something to be proud of,” she said.
Clients will also be supplied with helpful information from Virginia Tech, so they have additional references to look back on after their plans are developed.
On the topic of financial stability, Sexton discussed the obstacles associated with living in rural communities. “There just aren’t as many big businesses in rural areas; so people are having to go elsewhere for jobs, or find what they can where they are,” she said. “If they choose to stay in their area, part of making that work is learning how to manage finances.”
At any level of financial stability, Sexton noted that everyone can benefit from more financial education. “This is just a resource for the community for that education,” she said.
To introduce herself and the services offered through this partnership, Sexton has hosted two welcome seminars, with a focus on the topic of creating a spending plan. She used these meetings to introduce herself to citizens, and highlight services that are now available.
Another seminar will be scheduled in Galax at a later date. Details were not available at press time, but will be published in a future edition of the Declaration when they become available.
“Being able to share this information and help others is such a great opportunity. I love this, and it’s something that I really believe in; so I’m excited to have this opportunity,” Sexton said.
To learn more about financial planning and other free services for learning how to manage money, contact Sexton to schedule an appointment by email: email@example.com, or by phone: (276) 773-2491.