In a phrase so short it could've been tweeted with characters to spare, a participant in United Way's Circles Joplin program summed up the reason 14 people spent four days on bicycles in mid-June.
“Thank you so much for your commitment," an individual going through the poverty-fighting program wrote on a thank you card. "It allows people like me to fulfill mine.”
The commitment the writer referenced was a 300-mile ride through the Ozarks that raised $43,000 for the program that works to help people out of cyclical poverty. JOMO Adventures, the same group that previously staged annual fundraising rides from 2013-15, including a nearly 700-mile trip to New Orleans, presented the check to Circles Joplin on Thursday.
Teddy Steen, program director of Circles, said the amount is approximately one-third of the organization's annual budget.
"I could not have imagined," she said. "How do I express a ‘thank you’ to someone that’s done this much?"
Circles provides people with a 22-month program of educational classes and mentoring in efforts to raise them out of generational poverty, Steen said. Participants meet once a week at St. Paul's United Methodist Church, 2423 W. 26th St., for dinner along with their classes and instruction. The program is one of assistance, but participants are asked to do the bulk of the legwork — such as creating and living on budgets — themselves, Steen said.
On June 1, 14 people took off from St. Paul's on a ride through the Four-State Area. Symbolizing the name of the Circles initiative, the trip took a circular route with stops in Bentonville, Arkansas; Claremore, Oklahoma and Coffeyville, Kansas, before returning to Joplin four days later.
Each rider was asked to secure $2,500 in sponsorships ahead of the ride, JOMO Adventures board member Emily Dunavent said. The $43,000 the ride raised was equivalent to each rider exceeding that amount by more than $570.
"We’re really pleased with the riders and the corporate sponsors and just this community in general," Dunavent said. "We really do live in a great community for that kind of thing."