Lunch participants learn about anti-poverty ‘Circles’

February 23, 2012 by

An anti-poverty initiative that brings together struggling families and community mentors might be a way to help people in Concordia, those attending Thursday’s “working lunch” at the Nazareth Motherhouse learned.

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Jennifer Stull, who works in the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Initiatives office, has been researching the national Circles Campaign, which to date has programs in 62 communities across 23 states. In Kansas, Stull said, there are Circles operating in Newton, Hutchinson and McPherson.

“This idea connects everything we’ve been talking about today,” Stull told the nearly 40 people attending the lunch, which was the 17th session in the Community Needs Forum, a process that started in the fall of 2008. The idea from the very first has been to bring together people from throughout Concordia to identify what participants see as the greatest needs in the community and then work to seek solutions.

From the start poverty has been a major concern. But, noted Sister Jean Rosemarynoski, attempts to tackle the issues surrounding poverty in Concordia have “sputtered” despite continued concern for people living in poverty.

Stull said that the Circles campaign is designed to recruit “people who are tired of living in poverty” and who are willing to “take a very tough look at their lives” in the intensive program. Those people are the Circle Leaders, who are then joined by Circle Allies — volunteers from middle-classes or higher-income families who mentor and support the Leaders as they set goals and work toward them.

Stull said one of the strengths of the Circles design is that while it recognizes the importance of the “safety net” of social services that exists for families living in poverty, the long-term goal is for families to no longer need those services.

Speaking to representatives from social service agencies attending the lunch, she said, “Your services are there to help people facing tough times, and the Circles help them change their lives so the times aren’t as tough.”

Stull said that the Sisters of St. Joseph are researching how the Circles work, especially in Newton, Kan., which has had the program in place for about two years. A contingent of sisters from Concordia plan a trip to Newton in the next week or so to learn more.

Stull said there are still many questions to be answered about how the program works, how participants are recruited and how it’s all funded.

She will present a more detailed report at the next working lunch on May 16.

There were also a variety of updates and announcements at Thursday’s lunch:

  •  Signature sheets for the 2012 Civility Pledge will be circulated beginning today. In each of the past two years, the Concordia Year of Peace Committee has collected signatures on the pledge for “civility in public discourse,” and has then published those signatures in space donated by the Concordia Blade-Empire. The deadline for turning in signatures is March 30, and the signature sheets are also available to download as a PDF. CLICK HERE to go to that site.
  •  On March 12, at 7 p.m., there will be free public presentation titled “Social Hosting 101,” which will look at the law and potential consequences of hosting parties where alcohol is served to underage drinkers. This is the first in a series titled “Alcohol and Drug Information 101,” which will be on the second Monday of each month and will cover a variety of topics about drug and alcohol use and abuse. Jim Kerr, a member of the Cloud County Chemical Dependency Committee that’s sponsoring the series, encouraged parents and young people to come and learn more. The free presentation will be at Cook Theatre at Cloud County Community College.
  •  There are still three plots available in the Concordia Community Garden of Hope, according to coordinator Cecilia Thrash, who works at Manna House of Prayer. The garden is on the northeast corner of the Motherhouse property and plots cost $13 to rent for the entire growing season. Weather permitting, the garden will open this year on March 15, Thrash said. For information or to sign up for a plot, call Manna House at 243-4428.
  •  The county extension office is again encouraging Concordians to take part in Walk Kansas, an eight-week team fitness program that begins March 18. Information is available at the extension office in the Cloud County Courthouse.
  •  The annual Nazareth Motherhouse Spaghetti Dinner is set for Sunday, March 25. Dinner will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., plus there will be prize drawings, live musical entertainment, grab bags, a bake sale and guided tours of the historic building. Tickets in advance are $8 for adults and $4 for children 5 to 12. (Kids 4 and younger eat free.) To reserve your tickets, call or email the sisters’ Development Office: eweddle@csjkansas.org or 243-2113, ext. 1223.
  •  There’s a Cancer Support Group that meets on the third Tuesday of each month at the Motherhouse, and Jane Wahlmeier encouraged those attending the working lunch to spread the word about the group. It’s open to any cancer patients and cancer survivors, their family members and their caregivers. For information on the group, call Wahlmeier at 243-2113, ext. 1101.

 

 

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