United Way of Morrow County is beginning a project in collaboration with several area businesses, churches and agencies called “Morrow Getting Ahead.” The stated purpose and mission of the eight week program is to “empower people to succeed individually with family and in the community.”
The new program is the result of several community seminars led by Morrow County native, Phil Devol who wrote the book “Bridges out of Poverty” with Ruby Payne and Terie Smith. In the seminars, those attending looked closely through the lens of poverty to eliminate some prejudices about people who survive in poverty.
Whether it is a natural disaster like fire, the tyranny of a pay day loan, or the closing of a factory, poverty can put people into a world of survival that few middle class or wealthy people can comprehend. Devol took the seminar attendees into that world for a few hours as he pictured for them a homeless family, using government subsidies for food stamps, Medicaid cards and cash assistance.
Those families may have unreliable transportation and have a job that pays less than $8 minimum hourly wages. Emergencies and crisis situations can keep some in a perpetual cycle that keeps them from climbing out to a secure lifestyle. In some families alcohol, drugs or mental illness may be the barrier that keeps them from having stability in their lives, not to mention, improving their circumstances.
United Way of Morrow County’s Director, Jodi Hayes talked about the next step the group will be taking as they collaborate in the program “Morrow Getting Ahead.” They will take a close look at the problems of poverty in the Morrow County community for families and individuals. This will be an eight week seminar with 8-12 in the group with two facilitators. Group participants will be paid $25 for attending each class.
Steering committee member, Ashley Glass said they hope to have a diverse group. They will be “investigators,” looking at what stressors or barriers are keeping them from getting ahead. It is the hope that they can learn from each other to build relationships and a social network. Along with being paid for their attendance, they will have dinner and childcare if needed. Costs for the project will be paid by United Way sponsorship.
Barriers to getting ahead might be financial, education, drug or alcohol addiction or family dynamics. Physical and mental health might also play a part in what might be keeping a family from having success. Glass looks forward to working with the group as they identify their strengths as well as problems. There will be opportunities for sharing their experiences and learning from others. It will be a community effort of creative and critical thinking as they plan for the future.
Hayes said she “always wanted to do the Bridges out of Poverty study.” Her interest was especially sparked last year as she befriended a homeless man in Morrow County who called United Way. Unfortunately, he committed suicide several months after they became acquainted.
“All I ever wanted was a mint, said that homeless man. “And I don’t even have that.”
Now Hayes makes sure there are mints – yes peppermint candy at every table in every meeting that United Way sponsors. For more information you can call United Way of Morrow at 419-946-2053, or Ashley Glass at 419-946-2009 Extension 661.
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