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COLUMBIA - Five Columbia banks have joined together to launch a fund to provide no-interest loans to those trying to repay high-interest payday loans.

First State Community Bank, Callaway Bank, Central Bank, Landmark Bank, Providence Bank each pledged $2,000 to begin the fund. This pledge led to additional funds totaling $10,000 from Greg Deline of Total Lending Concepts and two local physicians. Hawthorne Bank will also be a bank adding to the fund.
First State Community Bank President Joe Miller was inspired by the work of local non-profit Love INC that provides money management coaching for financially-strapped individuals. 
Connie Jenkins is a Love INC client who fell victim to payday loans.
"If you can do without it, do it because you're going to hurt yourself in the end," she said.
Within a week, Jenkins learned that she had breast cancer, Type II Diabetes and an irreparable car.
"It's hard trying to get assistance and everyone closes the door in your face, so the only people that would me was payday loans," Jenkins said.
In Missouri, over one million payday loans with an average interest rate of 462 percent were made during the one-year period from October 2015 through September 2016.
Love INC Extra Mile Coordinator Kelli Van Doren said the goal is to see people filled with joy and peace.
"It's devastating because the people that come in here are working full time and they're working hard, but they just can't meet their expenses," she said. 
Candy Richerson of First State Community Bank became Jenkin's coach in the Extra Mile money management program. She saw that Connie was doing everything she could to improve her financial situation but could not reduce her payday loan debt.
Richerson approached Miller, who funded a no-interest loan through Love INC that enabled Jenkins to get out of the vicious payday loan cycle. The loan so helped Jenkins that Miller and Richerson wanted to make it possible for others to have the same relief. 
"Don't be too proud to get help because that may be just what you need is somebody to show you something you didn't know. We don't know it all," Jenkins said.
Extra Mile loans are now available through Love INC to individuals who are participating in their 16-week intensive, money management program.