Members of community program hope to provide better services for people in poverty

Kelly Petryszyn

Community members looking to find a solution to poverty can attend the Bridges Out of Poverty training on April 1 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Riverwood Community Chapel in Room 101.

The training is offered to employees and organizations to produce an understanding of poverty in hopes of providing better services for people in poverty. Bridges Out of Poverty is based in part on Dr. Ruby Payne’s “A Framework for understanding poverty.” It is developed by aha! Process, Inc. The first training took place on March 17.

This initiative works in a blended model with the Circles and Getting Ahead campaign, developed by the Move the Mountain Leadership Center.

Getting ahead workshops are offered for those in poverty to describe how to move toward the middle class and the challenges of transitioning classes. These workshops will most likely be offered in May.

The Circles campaign partners middle-class allies with the graduates of Getting Ahead to establish helpful relationships for the future. This will start in the summer.

This initiative has been taken up by Empower Portage, a group of people from public and private sectors of the community that works to end poverty in Portage County.

According to American Community Survey estimates from the 2008 census, 12 percent of people in Portage County are below the Federal Poverty Threshold, a 2 percent increase from 2007.

“It’s very heartening that groups of citizens on their own are getting together and are worried about these conditions,” said Renee Johnson, assistant political science professor at Kent State and member of the Bridges Out of Poverty steering committee. “They are sort of trying to find out, ‘what kinds of things do we have the power to do by ourselves?’”

The initiative is funded by an $111,000 grant from the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. This funding will help Empower Portage to implement every aspect of that model.

—Kelly Petryszyn