County group provides resources to overcome poverty
Pam Byer works with Circles of Marion County to fight poverty by fostering leaders within its own group.
One such leader is Kendra Henry, head cook at Hillsboro Senior Center, who has been paired with Byer for four years.
“Now she has a full-time job, healthcare, and stable income,” she said. “She’s come so far. It’s pretty amazing.”
Leaders take a class for 15 to 20 weeks to examine what it means to be poor or middle class, said coordinator Mark Rogers, who began working with Circles in 2012.
“It’s an opportunity for people to tell their stories and listen to what other stories are,” he said.
The group defines poverty as the extent to which an individual, family, or even a town, gets by with limited resources, Rogers said.
“Most people think of poverty as a financial matter, as having less,” he said.
One of the benefits of the group is having the opportunity to associate with people from different backgrounds, Rogers said.
“I enjoy working with people,” he said. “I enjoy getting to know different stories and learning how people solve problems in their own lives.”
As a group, it is advantageous to have reach across the county, from Florence, west to Goessel, north to Tampa, and even to Burdick, Rogers said.
“It’s tying our county together,” he said. “I like diversity. Different parts of the county bring different problems, situations, and solutions.”
To make it easier for people who don’t live in Marion, Circles has started setting up meetings outside the city. Other cities include Peabody, and possibly in Goessel.
Byer and Henry have established a history, but maintaining contact with leaders isn’t easy, Byer said.
“They’ll move for one reason or another, and you lose touch with them,” she said. “Your really don’t know how much they benefit, but you have to think that it touched their lives.”
Byer has been with the organization since its inception seven years ago, and enjoys seeing the impact.
“It’s like dropping a stone in the water and seeing the ripples going out,” she said. “I never would have met all the people involved.”
What sets the group apart is that it focuses on those relationships, Rogers said.
“New information and new relationships help people make changes in their lives,” he said. “Whether you’re an addict want to break a habit or someone in the middle-class who wants to reach a new goal.”
While other groups provide financial or food support, Rogers said he likes that Circles takes a different approach.
“I enjoy helping people out financially, but it’s just a Band-Aid,” he said. “I want something more I can do.”