PARKERSBURG - A local site is now available in the Mid-Ohio Valley for the Circles Campaign, a national program with the goal of eradicating poverty one family at a time.
Move the Mountain Leadership Center launched the Circles Campaign in January 2007. The program grew out of a 10-year effort that began as a discussion group between welfare recipients and social workers. Early results demonstrate for every $1 spent on the program, $2 in welfare and food stamp subsidies were returned to the state, and $4 to the community as new earned income, according to campaign officials.
The national campaign has 70 member communities across 24 states. The mission of the campaign is to empower people from every economic class to solve poverty in their communities through individual transformation and community change. For more information on the local group, call 304-488-7760.
Photo by Pamela Brust
Dina Andrews, Circles Campaign of the Mid-Ohio Valley local agency director, and John Ruehl, program coordinator, are shown holding a sign for the program that began offering services locally in September.
The program kicked off here in September with the first group of five circle leaders beginning their training. Those participants will graduate Jan. 3.
"We receive referrals through area social service agencies, churches and other organizations for individuals to join the classes. We are targeting those in generational poverty. We try to raise awareness. Different income brackets tend to think certain ways. For example, those with wealth tend to look at the world differently than the middle class and those in poverty. Folks thinking in a poverty mindset find it difficult to find and maintain a job. The class participants identify their personal and family goals and dreams and the practical means to accomplish those goals," said John Ruehl, program coordinator. Once they graduate with their training, they are paired with "allies" from the community who provide support. They remain in the program for 18 months.
Dina Andrews, Circles Campaign of the Mid-Ohio Valley local agency director, said the program includes only Wood County, but officials hope to expand into neighboring West Virginia counties and Ohio.
Go to www.circlescampaign.org. For information on the local group, call 304-488-7760.
Andrews said the classes meet weekly on Thursdays at Stephenson United Methodist Church in Parkersburg, and the group is recruiting a new training class now for January.
"We are different than most other agencies, we don't provide financial assistance. Our model recognizes people in poverty, particularly generational poverty also need social capital, friends and family who can be role models," Andrews said.
"Those in the community working with the families in the program also learn to see the world from the perspective of the individual in poverty. They also work together to tackle issues within the system that prevent people from getting out of poverty, government regulations, transportation issues, and go to community or governmental leaders who have influence over those issues to get them addressed. They become advocates for needed change," Andrews said.
The local Circles program has a fiscal agent and board of directors and is in the process of getting its nonprofit tax status.
Anyone interested is welcome to attend the weekly dinner at 6 p.m. Thursday at Stephenson United Methodist Church prior to the class. They can also attend the weekly meeting to get more information on the program, the class is held afterward. To be enrolled in the training class, individuals complete an in-take interview. The next training session for volunteers interested in becoming an ally in the program is scheduled for this Saturday at 9 a.m. at Good Shepherd Church on Charles Street. There will be ongoing training classes offered.
Program leaders said they are also looking for groups to donate food for the dinners and provide a child care program during the classes. Individuals involved with the child care program would be required to have a background check.