27 September 2010

Doing something about poverty

David Rusk, in his original report to the community back in 1996, listed the concentrated poverty in York as one of the main threats to the health of the entire county.

Fifteen years later, we have made little progress to reduce poverty. It remains an acute problem in the city, and the nation's economic recession has made poverty more widespread across the rest of the county. But there might be reason for hope.

Three major community organizations - Lutheran Social Services of South Central Pennsylvania, the United Way of York County and Community Progress Council - are collaborating on an effort that could finally make a difference. The effort is called York County Circles, and it connects community leaders with a national poverty-fighting organization called Move the Mountain. Scott Miller, CEO of Move the Mountain Leadership Center, came to York about a year ago to introduce the Circles Campaign.

The Circles model works like this: Families living in poverty are matched up with a handful of volunteers who serve as a sounding board. The volunteers, known as family allies, provide a mix of financial advice, career counseling and emotional support. The idea is that poor people have an array of complex issues that need to be dealt with if they are going to successfully pull themselves out of poverty.

York County Circles will hold a community meeting tomorrow night, Sept. 28, at the Salvation Army Community Room, 50 E. King St., York. "What It's Like in York County: A Community Discussion on Resources for Low-Income Families" will give an overview of the effort and seek more volunteers to act as family allies. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. with dinner, followed by the presentation and discussion.

This effort has enormous potential. Move the Mountain has had success bringing Circles to other communities. Scott Miller has spent more than 20 years developing strategies to end poverty. The three organizations leading this locally have been serving York County's poor for years.

You want to know how you can help? Come to the meeting.

- Dan Fink