Thursday, October 16, 2014

What we as a community can do to reduce poverty.

By not blaming the individual or the whole system we can begin working together to solve real problems for our community.  As we begin to build a Bridge the Gap Rogers County Steering Committee we will be addressing our community root problems that may be causing or contributing to poverty in Rogers County.  The bigger the Bridges initiative in our community is and the more sectors (such as business, government, health, colleges, and schools) that are involved, the more momentum there will be for fighting poverty.

What kind of solutions are we talking about?

Individual – Participate in Getting Ahead Classes, choose to go back to school, choose to never use a pay day lender again, each individual will have to evaluate their personal choices.

Community Condition – Does the community offer literacy classes, have enough living wage jobs or have a public transportation system.

Exploitation or predator businesses – Banks and Credit Unions offer small medium rate loans to people trying to build or repair credit.  Financial institutions could also offer investment, checking and money management classes. 

Political/Economic Structure – Discuss government policy and economic difficulties with a Getting Ahead graduate and learn what some of the barriers they encounter daily.  Most living in upper- and middle-class do not know what problems exist for people living in poverty.  Through associations and connections, organizations can influence people in positions of power.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Weeks four and five - Researching the causes of poverty.

During weeks four and five, we study the rich/poor gap and research the causes of poverty. For the participants this may seem like a useless study—they know they lack funds while others have abundance, and what caused this doesn’t seem important; they just want to get ahead. But studying the gap and its causes is proving to be of great benefit. 

 Generally speaking, people tend to sit in one of two camps: conservatives at the “individual choice” end of the continuum and liberals at “the system” end. Getting Ahead steps away from the politics of poverty in the US and looks at society as a whole. Instead of either/or, we say both/and. There are four main causes of poverty: Individual choice, behavior, and circumstance; community conditions; exploitation (predators); and political/economic structure.

 I’ll give a brief breakdown of the four causes and later I will discuss what we as a community can do to knock down barriers and build a more stable, stronger community in which we all live well. 

Individual choice, behavior, and circumstance – This seems like a simple enough idea, but often one poor choice can lead to a lifetime of struggle and future bad choices, especially if the choice was made in our youth. 

Community conditions – Do community organizations, businesses, and city leaders actively seek ways to manage or eliminate poverty?

Exploitation or predator businesses – If you are subject to the “tyranny of the moment” and have to have a concrete solution to a pressing problem today, you may consider going to a “predator business” to solve your problem. We discuss how using payday loans, rent-to-own, or pay-by-the-week car purchases only worsen your situation. 

Political/economic structure – Are the government policies designed to help the poor really working? Are there living wage jobs for all citizens?

The bottom line is that a community must recognize and work on all causes of poverty to achieve a lower poverty level. 


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Week three studies the Theory of Change

During week three we discussed the Theory of Change from Getting Ahead.  People with limited resources often live in the concrete “this moment in time” also refereed to as the Tyranny of the Moment.  When you have limited resources your daily life is consumed with taking care of problems such as how to get to work if your car is broken, how to pay the utility bills, how to feed your family.  All this problem solving leaves little time for abstract thinking like detachment from problems that will in able you to think about new ideas, analysis of situation, education, plans and support.  Our Getting Ahead classes give the participants three hours a week to focus on their situation and make a better plan.

Friday, September 26, 2014

What we are studying.

I’d like to share with you what we have been studying in our Getting Ahead classes so far. It is difficult to plan a journey if you do not have a starting point, so during the first two weeks participants reflected on where they are now and how they got there. Many shared their life experiences, and we found that no two people out of the twenty had exactly the same story of financial difficulty and/or poverty. Some grew up in generational poverty, while others’ financial downturn happened because of an illness, divorce, or death in the family. The discussion helped our class realize that personal choices are not the only reason people are poor and that many types of resources are necessary for a person to be financially stable.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What's happening now!

Now that classes are underway, there is much for our community to do to successfully transition to being a Bridges community, working together to support and strengthen its citizens and businesses to create prosperity for all.

Our next step is to develop a Bridge the Gap Rogers County steering committee. This committee will identify the obstacles in our community that either contribute to or create poverty.  Many of the obstacles will be identified by the participants of the Getting Ahead class as they investigate our community, while others will be ideas that the steering committee members may have had on their minds for years but were not in a position to act on to promote change. Some changes will be real challenges, while others may be easily implemented. Most of all, I am certain that the work will be greatly rewarding to those who effect change and see the results in our community and its members doing better.

If you would like to help someone get ahead, there are a number of ways you can get involved.

Join the multi-sector coalition that is forming to guide the development of the Rogers County Bridges initiative.

Invest in a person’s future story by funding a full Getting Ahead scholarship of $500.
Your donation, in any amount, will go directly to helping someone get ahead.  Tax deductible checks may be written to FUMC, 1615 N Highway 88, Claremore, Ok  74017.  Please write Getting Ahead on the memo line.  

As a Getting Ahead sponsor, you may offer some or all of the following:
Recruit prospective Getting Ahead participants.
Host Getting Ahead in your facility.
Remove obstacles to participation. (Transportation, childcare, etc.)

Graduates get ahead when a circle of allies encourage their journey. Be part of their network of mentors, friends, and advocates.

Bridge the Gap Rogers County is focused on our specific community. We do not provide direct aid to those in need; rather, we facilitate collaboration among individuals, businesses, and government with the aim of eliminating poverty. The benefits of reducing poverty in our community are vast—reduced crime, a prosperous and stable local economy, health and well-being of citizens, low unemployment, and reduced drug use, to name just a few.

If you want to join forces with Bridge the Gap Rogers County, need more information, or would like a presentation at your office, club, or civic group, please e mail me at

Friday, August 29, 2014

Last night was our first class.

I was going to write a post about our first class but my colleague, Laurie, said it perfectly on our fb page so I copied her post and will simply say ditto.   

Good Morning, What a beautiful day it is! As I sit down today to write this post I am so excited. We had our introduction class for Getting Ahead last night and it was such a wonderful experience. I wanted to make a post last night but made myself wait because I would have just gushed with emotion from the excitement! This post will still be filled with emotion and excitement. 
Our group gathered for a meal with the Bridge community at FUMC Claremore prior to our class and we started getting to know one another. 
As we moved to the classroom and started more detailed introductions, we found some of our group were already aquatinted while others were new to everyone. We shared names, our favorite types of music and how we all came to be in the Getting Ahead group. Within just a very short time conversations were started and we began the first steps to building a support system for each other. We discovered that two of our members had been on American Band Stand many years ago. Already we are discovering so many shared experiences. As we finished up and started to leave, I was overwhelmed at how many of the group shared that they couldn't wait to come back next week and dig into Module 1. Please be in prayer for us as we look at this first session, "My Life Now". Our Investigators will have their work cut out for them on this first session. 
Blessings to All, 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

We've met the most wonderful people

For the past three days, we have been interviewing candidates for the first Getting Ahead class.  Laurie, Frankie, and I have been filled with joy as each person has generously shared his or her story with us.  As we discuss with each candidate what the curriculum is going to cover, the mentors who will be available to stand with them after graduation, and the community involvement they can expect in the days, weeks, months and years to come, their excitement is just as apparent as ours.  We have selected 15 participants and now have a waiting list for the next class.  We look forward to joining these 15 people and are hopeful for their future and ours.