I am amazed to be blogging about my 100th new experience since January 1 of this year. I know I’m not quite one third of the way through the year yet, however, doing the 100th first today marks a milestone. It has been an exciting and rewarding 100 days. And it seems very fitting that for my first today, I attended a meeting about an amazing organization that is new to Joplin.
My good friend, Garen, posted an invite on his facebook page this past week about tonight’s informative event. My sister Linda saw it and told me about it and Garen emailed me to invite me as well. It seemed a perfect first for today. I had heard only a little bit about this organization and was eager to learn more.
Circles is a national initiative in which people from different social-economic groups cross barriers in the fight to end poverty in their communities. I loved that poverty was defined as not being about lack of money, but about lack of relationships and education. It’s not about people fixing other people, but rather about walking with another during a particular time in their lives. It’s about the journey and building relationships. Circles is not a hand out, or a hand up, but a hand reaching across to another person.
Ryan Melton, Joplin’s Circles Director, shared with us tonight about the launching of Circles in Joplin. Our community has learned much about coming together and helping each other to rebuild Joplin after the tornado of May 2011. This is a natural continuation of community growth and outreach that will equip families to resolve poverty and thrive. According to their website, Circles has the following objectives:
· Mobilizing families to achieve economic stability through the long-term and consistent support of peers and volunteers from the community
· Developing the leadership of people moving out of poverty to inform community-wide solutions to addressing poverty
· Addressing the community and program barriers faced by families trying to move out of poverty
Local classes meet weekly for 20 weeks. Participants get in touch with their dreams and set goals to reach those dreams. Allies are a crucial part of the program. These volunteers are available to meet weekly with Circles Leaders (those who are participating in the group) to help them meet their goals. They continue as allies after the classes end. There are also Teams that assist with everything from setting up the meeting room and providing meals to discussing ways to work through barriers that keep people stuck where they are.
I was very moved by the quality of this initiative and thrilled that it is here in Joplin. There was an excellent video with local people sharing how they have been encouraged and helped by Circles. I signed up to receive information about becoming an Ally. I’m all about journeying alongside others, for a long time, for a short time, and offering our best to each other. On our placemats at dinner tonight was the quote, “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” As a community, we will grow and become stronger as we reach out to those in need, and journey with them as allies. We will all be warmed by the light of our efforts.
Learn more about Circles here: