According to statistics from the 2010 Census Bureau, 34,559 people, or 18.2 percent of the population, in Muscogee County live below the federal poverty level (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/13/13215.html).
The Circles in Columbus initiative is part of a national movement to end poverty. The National Circles® Campaign is a high-impact community strategy to end poverty one family at a time through intentional relationships built across economic class lines. Columbus is the second site in Georgia to participate in this national movement. Rather than targeting specific needs of low-income people in our community such as housing or job training, Circles in Columbus seeks to expand social capital by fostering and providing a structure for relationships across economic class lines. Circles in Columbus is designed to assist families in creating their own personal paths out of poverty while at the same time expanding opportunities and connections and eliminating barriers in our community that make it difficult for families to thrive.
Circles in Columbus aims to move 10 percent of the current population living in poverty into economic self-sufficiency in 10 years, thus reaching a tipping point toward eradicating poverty in our community. The National Circles model must be implemented on a small scale in a community first and then naturally grow and expand to include a variety of community partners who facilitate Circle Leader Training and feed into Circles in Columbus. The Circles in Columbus team understands that permanent change takes time, and is committed to working with families through the process in order to ensure lasting change. From Provo, Utah to South Central, Indiana, from Boulder, Colorado to Albany, Georgia, Circles is making a profound impact in addressing poverty one community at a time, across our nation.
Open Door Community House, a vital United Way partner in Columbus and the Valley, has taken the leadership role in launching the Circles Program. Meg Olive is the gifted coordinator overseeing this essential effort. On Thursday, Sept.r 13 at Columbus State University's Elizabeth Bradley Turner Center, the Circles transformational initiative to end poverty will formally launch. On that day, anyone in the community can register to learn more about Circles in Columbus, hear from national expert Scott Miller, CEO of Move the Mountain and author of Until It's Gone: Ending Poverty in our Nation, in our Lifetime. That day begins at 10 a.m. with a most important "Life in Poverty Simulation" and concludes at 4 p.m. following the comprehensive orientation.
Central to the Circles model is the principle that low-income families, called Circle Leaders, set the direction for activities and actions that will build their resources and enable their transition out of poverty. Each family begins with a 15-week Circle Leader Training, using a curriculum designed to develop leadership skills. During the training, participants asses their current relationships, resources and reasons or purpose for making the necessary changes to transition out of poverty permanently. It is during this time that intentional volunteers from the community, called Allies, (my wife Lauren and I are pleased to join so very many committed Allies volunteers) also are attending training sessions that increase awareness of poverty issues within the families with which they will be matched, as well as issues that affect the community as a whole. Weekly Community Meetings gather Circle Leaders, Circle Allies, and other interested community members to provide support and networking opportunities. Big View Meetings are held once per month and feature a discussion of the causes of poverty in the community and how to remove systemic barriers that perpetuate poverty.
Circles in Columbus is a true community initiative including the business community, faith community, social service community, local government, healthcare community and education community.
For more information on Circles in Columbus and/or to register for this life-changing initiative go to http://opendoorcommunityhouse.org/#/circles-in-columbus, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 706-323-5518.
Tim Mescon, president of Columbus State University; email@example.com.