Circles Campaign hopes to engage community in ending poverty

Friday, April 16, 2010
Torrrington Register Citizen
Torrington, CT

The Circles Campaign was initiated by Move the Mountain Leadership Center to provide leaders a structure to engage the community in ending poverty.

New Opportunities is leading this initiative in Torrington, Waterbury and Meriden.

According to the New Opportunities Website, Circles is an intentional way for people to build relationships across class and race lines to end poverty in their communities.

Connecticut has the highest per capita income in the United States and a median household income that far exceeds many states. Despite this, there continues to exist a gap between wealth and poverty within the state.

Circles seeks to change the mind-set of a community and wants to end poverty. The program also empowers people in poverty to help solve community problems while transitioning out of poverty themselves.

“This meeting is for anyone who is interested in the poverty problem in Torrington,” Rachel Ashak, Circles coach said.

Ashak said that statistics on the program have been excellent when showing a decline in assistance and an increase in people getting out of poverty.

“We are off to a great start,” Ashak said. “We have over 40 people who are involved in the program from places like FISH, the Salvation Army, postal workers and Charlotte Hungerford Hospital.”

The meeting featured guest speaker, Michelle Clark. Clark is the Director of Training and Development for MTM and earned her doctorate in Counseling Psychology from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

She has worked as the Director of the Nebraska Evaluation and Research Center, the Associate Director of the Student Counseling Service at Iowa State University.

Clark is licensed as a psychologist and maintains an organizational consulting practice and occasionally teaches graduate-level courses at Iowa State University.

Clark’s areas of expertise are organizational assessment and development, leadership assessment using personality inventories, leadership coaching, and research/program evaluation.

She oversees training center development and the community of practice.

The Circles program needs community support to function however, and is seeking allies.

Circle Allies are community members who want to be in a “supportive, intentional, befriending relationship” with an individual or family working to get out of poverty, according to Ashak.

Allies work with the Circle Leader to figure out how to accomplish a plan and do what makes sense and brings joy to the relationship.

The Allies are trained in Bridges out of Poverty as a way to work with Circle Leaders in supporting their plans to get out of poverty

Circle Allies are committed to meet with their circle at least once a month and attend 1 community meeting per month for a minimum of 18 months.

“Hopefully people in Torrington will become aware of the Circles program, it can really be a positive experience,” Ashak said.



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