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.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Are you a Mentor?

One of the most important parts of the Getting Ahead curriculum is the mentoring program.  We will connect each of the graduates with a member of our community that will encourage and support their efforts while working towards individual goals.

If you would like to know more about what is involved in being a mentor and what the time commitment will be please join us for a Mentors informational meeting.  This meeting is intended to help you consider your ability and call to be a mentor.  

The meeting will be held
Thursday, August 21st
First United Methodist Church
1615 N Hwy 88 Claremore Ok.

 You will make a difference!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Our Next Steps

I haven’t posted a blog for a few weeks because I've been out of town.  I’m back now and it is full steam ahead.  We have several speaking engagements scheduled at local churches and civic groups in the next month.  If you belong to a club, civic group or church you think would be interested in knowing more about Getting Ahead and Bridges Out of Poverty please call or send me an e mail and we will get you set up.  You can check out our facebook page at Getting Ahead, Rogers County.

We are also working towards filling our first Getting Ahead class which will be held August 28th and continue every Thursday evening for 16 weeks. 

There is much to do so I better get off here and get busy doing it.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Hopeful for the future.

This evening I went to Friendship Feast at First Christian Church.  Friendship Feast is a free meal First Christian Church offers to our Claremore neighbors every Monday evening.  While I was there Pastor Charles was talking to a lovely lady that needed help with a utility bill.  While he was talking to her he mentioned the Getting Ahead classes and then introduced me to her.  We had a nice long visit during which she shared with me that she has a bachelor’s degree, a child with developmental disability and $93,000 in student loans and just can’t make ends meet.  She filled out a Getting Ahead class application and is very hopeful for the future.  I’m very hopeful for her future too!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Tammy's story 14 years later

The Center for New American Media Channel filmed an update to Tammy and her family’s life 14 years later.  I believe that Tammy could have had a much more financially secure life with the right connections and a little direction.  As it looks by the end of the film, generational poverty is a way of life for Tammy’s family.  But just think, if Matt attended the Getting Ahead in a Just Getting by World classes how that cycle could be broken.  My hope and prayer is that the Getting Ahead in a Just Getting by World curriculum and Bridges Out of Poverty initiative will help others write a different future story for their lives.

YouTube – Tammy Crabtree Update 2013

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Community Workshop was a success!

It was our pleasure to introduce Rogers County Getting Ahead & Bridges Out of Poverty in an informational workshop today to our community.  The workshop was well attended by 32 Rogers County citizens who are interested in making a difference in our community.  Our guests included Claremore’s Mayor and his wife, Claremore Public School Principals, a representative from Cherokee Nation Tribal Council, church Pastors and parishioners, area bankers, Safenet Services, DHS and many others.   Our local newspaper The Daily Progress was there as well and will have an article about the workshop and community initiative in June 18th paper. 

We once again want to thank those who attended for your time and interest.  Many of our guests showed an interest in participating in various ways.  To you in the community who were not able to attend the workshop we would be happy to speak with you personally and or to any organization you may be a member of that you think would be interested in this community wide initiative.

Rogers County Getting Ahead & Rogers County Bridges Out of Poverty is a community effort.  There are a number of ways citizens may participate.  We need people to sit on the Getting Ahead and Bridges Steering Committees, additional facilitators for the Getting Ahead classes, mentors to the Getting Ahead graduates, employers who will hire our Getting Ahead graduates, referrals of people who could benefit from Getting Ahead curriculum and of course money. 

A Getting Ahead class meets once a week for 16 to 20 weeks with 10 to 15 people in a class.  To facilitate one class of 15 people for the 16 weeks the cost will run about $7,000, which is about $466 per person.  $466 is not a lot of money when you consider your contribution could change the life of a person and their entire family.  That one more family may be off the welfare rolls and the cycle of generational poverty could be completely broken.  Any amount of donation would be greatly appreciated and is tax deductible and you will receive a statement at the end of the year.  All donations to Getting Ahead are keep in a separate dedicated fund account.

Please make check to FUMC and mail to 

First United Methodist Church
1615 N Hwy 88
Claremore Ok  74017

On memo line and include note that donation is for Getting Ahead

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tammy's Story

I invite you to watch this excerpt from the PBS documentary about a woman named Tammy who has lives in generational poverty.  Please think about these questions while you watch.

YouTube – Tammy’s Story – People Like Us

1.  Tammy has hopes and dreams of a better life, do you think she can succeed while on her current course?
2.  If Tammy had someone in her life as a child or an adult to guide her do you think she could have a different outcome?
3.  Do you think Tammy is lazy or a hard worker?
4.  Do you think something as simple as a working car could give her more time to dedicate towards improving her life and the life of her children?

5. Do you think Tammy’s oldest son’s hopes and dreams can be fulfilled with his attitude and plan for success?  

Monday, June 9, 2014

Applications that impact communities though Getting Ahead

Today was a very productive and informative day.  Laurie Ault, a member of the Getting Ahead Steering Committee and I went to Oklahoma City to participate in the Bridges and Getting Ahead statewide initiative quarterly meeting.  Salvation Army of Oklahoma started this statewide initiative to support Bridges communities and connect resources that are all working towards reducing poverty. 

We learned that the Okla Department of Corrections is working towards offering Getting Ahead to inmates that are close to release.  8,000 inmates are released each year in Okla and most if not all will enter society in poverty.  Chances are poverty is why and how many found their way in to the correctional system in the first place by selling drugs or stealing so getting them off on the right foot with a plan and a mentor after release could make all the difference in some lives. 

We also heard from the AEI (Alliance for Economic Inclusion) which a major nationwide initiative coordinated by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation).  Don’t you just love acronyms?  Anyway, AEI brings together financial institutions and other partners (Getting Ahead / Bridges) to increase the financial capability of consumers, especially low to moderate income families, to move them into the financial mainstream. 

We heard from the Regional Food Bank of Okla and how they are coordinating efforts in Bridges communities with local food banks. 

The meeting had about 28 people present from all over Okla working towards the same goal of reducing poverty.  It was exciting to hear all the different ideas and ways that Getting Ahead and Bridges are being used in our state. 

If you would like to learn more about the Rogers County Getting Ahead and Bridges Out of Poverty initiative please join me at an informational workshop next Tuesday, June 17 at First United Methodist Church, 1615 N. Highway 88, Claremore.  The workshop will be from 11am to 2pm with a light lunch served.  To RSVP please go to our facebook page Getting Ahead, Rogers County.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Stuffing Envelopes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I haven’t blogged in a few days; we've been busy, busy, busy printing letters and stuffing envelopes.  We are sending out around 800 letters introducing Getting Ahead and Bridges Out of Poverty to our community and informing them of our up coming Getting Ahead and Bridges Out of Poverty Community Informational Workshop on June 17th at First United Methodist Church.   Our mailing list includes Rogers’s county businesses, banks, civic organizations, and churches, Judges, Police and Sheriff Departments and personal friends.  Keep an eye on your mail box you just may have a letter from us.  If you don’t get a letter, you were not looked over on purpose it was just our tongues ran out of lick.  You and anyone you know who is interested in being involved in reducing the cycle of poverty are MORE than welcome. You can sign up on facebook at Getting Ahead, Rogers County or leave me a commit on this blog.

 I’m getting very excited about our workshop, I will be presenting the information and as those of you who know me I am not shy but I am a little anxious about this presentation.  Thoughts keep running through my mind like will there be anybody at the meeting, will there be a lot of people at the meeting, will I make the information interesting….. on and on.  Then I tell myself, God put you here in this work and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Getting Ahead in a just Getting by World

Getting Ahead in a Just Getting by World is a curriculum that engages people in poverty in groups of 10 or 12 with a facilitator, they investigate together the impact poverty has had on them, their families and their community. 

We discuss how people of different classes perceive and approach life, we call it the hidden rules of class.  Hidden rules touch every aspect of our lives even the most basic parts of our lives, from how we deal with time and money, to how we dress and speak, to how we approach food. It’s important to discuss hidden rules because the world, business, schools, churches and banks operate in the middle class.  If you don’t know how to function in the social arena in which you find yourself you will not have a positive experience.   

We also investigate what kinds of resources a person needs to achieve a stable life; resources such as mental, support systems, education, physical, spiritual, emotional, relationships/role models, financial and knowledge of hidden rules. 

This curriculum is not a quick shot gun approach but a 16 to 20 week process. By the end the graduate will have evaluated their personal situation, assessed their resources and developed a self directed plan to achieve economic stability, they will have complete ownership and responsibility for their success.  Our first Getting Ahead class target date is August 28 of this year.

The final piece to this puzzle is matching up the Getting Ahead graduates with middle and upper class mentors who will encourage and support the graduate throughout their efforts to achieve economic stability.  Moving from poverty to middle class will be a long and difficult journey, there is a much better chance for success with a mentor to encourage, support and guide them. This part of the process is so very important because who among us have ever achieved without the help and support of others. 

The thing I most love about this curriculum is that not only the graduate’s life is forever changed but also the future generations of the graduate, hopefully ending poverty.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What is Bridges Out of Poverty all about?

So let me tell you briefly about the Bridges Out of Poverty premise.  I do however recommend you read the book Bridges Out of Poverty by Ruby Payne to get a complete understanding of the complexities of poverty in America and through out the world where there are descent economies.  People with limited resources and by that I mean money, education, social contacts, time, actually the list goes on but I will stop with these four., struggle to “move up the ladder” due to living in the tyranny of the moment and particularly for those in generational poverty they never learned how to function with in the middle class. 

What I mean by tyranny of the moment is that if you did not know where your next meal was coming from, or how you were going to get medical attention for your sick child, or how you were going to get to work tomorrow because your car just broke down would you have time to think about going back to school or figuring out how much money you could put into savings this paycheck or where you were going to go on vacation.  People in poverty can only take care of today because tomorrow is too much to handle when today’s needs are not being met. 

What I mean by how to function in the middle class is that each class has a set of hidden rules as it were; ways that society acts that help you be accepted.  These hidden rules span things such how to speak & dress, how you work out problems with people in authority & negotiate and the list goes on. 

Bridges Out of Poverty is a community conversation between business leaders, government leaders, upper, middle and lower classes of the community about the challenges people in poverty have and figuring out solutions that help them build resources enabling them to achieve financial security.   To make that happen, members from all classes must regularly come together at a table and work though that community’s stumbling block.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about how the Getting Ahead in a Just Getting by World curriculum reaches people in poverty.

Monday, June 2, 2014

In the beginning.........

This is how it all began, sometime mid year of 2013 my Pastor, Charles Ragland, announce at church or mentioned in Sunday school or somewhere that there was a ½ a day workshop about helping people in poverty at First United Methodist Church here in Claremore.  I knew of many organizations and charities that help people with immediate needs but none that help people get out of generational poverty. To say the least, I was intrigued. Pastor Charles and I attend the Bridges Out of Poverty workshop and it all made really good sense to me and so I signed on.  A few months before the workshop I had lost my desk job and decided to start flipping houses for a while, by not having an eight to five job I would be able to put in some real time helping to get this initiative off the ground.  I really feel that God, once again, turned a not so good thing into one of the biggest blessings of my life.  

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The journey begins.

Several months ago I embarked in a new journey in my life, a desire that has been in my heart all my life but not acted upon in earnest until now. That desire is to help those who by no fault of their own struggle to make a living, have a good education and raise healthy, strong, independent children.  I have joined forces with several others to bring an initiative called Bridges Out of Poverty to the Claremore/Rogers County community. The Bridges Out of Poverty initiative attacks poverty on every level that poverty affects our society.   It draws the entire community together to solve the issues that create and sustain poverty in a community.

We are also offering a curriculum called Getting Ahead in a Just Getting by World.  The curriculum helps those in poverty study the effects of poverty in their lives and the community, gives tools to help them create a self directed plan to help them achieve economic stability and connects them with resources to help them succeed.    

This will be a long journey with many ups and downs but I can’t think of anything more rewarding in life than to make a real, substantial difference in the quality of life for human beings.  I hope you will follow along in this journey and if you feel lead to walk down this path with me you are more than welcome to join me.