(CBS News) ROSWELL, Ga. - While the American job market is improving, long-term unemployment continues to be a big problem especially in Georgia, where more than half of the unemployed have been out of work for a year or more.
That has led churches to ordain so-called "money missionaries," like Kevin Cross, to help families make tough decisions about family finances. CBS correspondent Byron Pitts reports.
Kevin Cross looks and acts like a math teacher and many would say he is.
He is one of the staff ministers at Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia, teaching financial fitness to families who have hit hard times.How are the long-term unemployed fairing?
"I tell them give the house up, especially if they are upside down," said Cross.
He also tells people to sell their car if they cannot afford it but people do not always listen.
Cross is a certified public accountant. His own financial salvation took place 25 years ago. At age 19, he stole $300,000 working as a bookkeeper for the Broward County Sherriff's Department in Florida, stealing bits of money from several accounts, some as little as $4, that he thought went unnoticed.
Cross says he discovered his true calling after spending three months in a prison cell. He pleaded guilty to felony fraud, and repaid the money.
Today, he is married with two children and heads up a panel that decides exactly how money from an emergency fund should be used to help neighbors in need.
"I used to love money, and use people. Now I love people, and use money," said Cross.
That family emergency fund has helped people keep their cars, get out of debt and stay in their homes.
Nicki O'Keefe and her husband John fell four months behind on their mortgage after John lost his job and Nicki became ill.
They were about to lose their home when the church paid off their $17,000 mortgage.
"I don't know what to say," an emotional O'Keefe told Cross. "Thank you so much."
Rachel Cole, an unemployed single mother, has been out of work for much of the last three years. Her car was repossessed a few months ago, making her job search even tougher. Cross was able to give her a new car.
"Many people right now need to know there's hope. And I found it RIGHT here," explained Cross.
Since last year, the church has helped more than 300 families. The church's generosity fund now exceeds $300,000.
The proverbs said the thief must repay seven fold. Kevin Cross has done that for those who have suffered in the great recession and redeemed himself in the bargain.