The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

April 13, 2014

Our View: A hand across

JOPLIN, Mo. — Have you ever needed $20 to help you get by until payday, a ride to work when your car wouldn’t start or someone responsible to watch your children for a few hours?

Of course you have, and odds are you picked up the phone and there was someone on the other end willing to help.

But what if there wasn’t anyone to whom you could turn, and, as a result, you missed work or a job interview? The $20 wasn’t there to buy milk and a few groceries for the family, and without a baby sitter, you missed a class you needed in order to get a better job.

It’s a vicious cycle of life for far too many. It’s the way their parents lived, and it likely will be the way their children live.

It’s called generational poverty.

In Jasper County, more than 20 percent of all households do not earn enough to be financially self-sufficient.

But we suspect far more lack social capital — a connection to people who are there to offer support.

A new program, Circles, introduced itself Thursday to the community.

The program, which operates under the umbrella of the United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas, is already working with one group of families and is looking to begin another 20-week program soon.

There are 80 other communities across the nation that have adopted a Circles program, with the closest one located in Bartlesville, Okla.

Ryan Melton, director of the program, told the audience that it wasn’t so much about giving people a hand up but rather reaching a hand across.

“The approach is not to ‘fix’ people. It’s to walk alongside them,” he said.

More than 200 Joplin-area residents who turned out at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church to find out how they can get involved. It was evident that local churches are playing a role in this grass-roots effort to break a cycle that ultimately breaks the spirits of those who can’t overcome their own personal poverty.

Circles is looking for volunteers, and the needs are less about your checkbook and more about your personal playbooks and how you can share them.

We would encourage you to contact Melton through the United Way office in Joplin to find out how you can lend someone else a piece of your social capital.

It’s an investment we think will pay dividends in this community.

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