It was my privilege to welcome the House Majority Policy Committee to my district in Lebanon County as House members search for the best practices in place combatting poverty across the Commonwealth and to determine what legislative remedies may be necessary and appropriate to assist in this policy initiative.
The House Majority Policy Committee selected Palmyra Circles of Lebanon County as the first stop in its statewide tour for the Empowering Opportunities initiative. Circles, a program designed to bring volunteers and community leaders together to help families intent on breaking out of poverty, was recognized by the committee for its effectiveness and the potential to replicate its practices elsewhere in the state.
The Lebanon County Circles group currently has 13 individuals committed to moving themselves and their families out of their “near poverty” circumstances. As participants, they are called Circle Leaders. Each family has a middle class “ally” who assists the leaders in achieving their goal.
As the committee members spoke informally with the participants, we were reminded that the working poor face immeasurable obstacles. By definition, their wages, in low-paying jobs, are insufficient to provide basic necessities such as paying for housing, utilities, food, child care and transportation. Health care looms large as most have no insurance coverage. One unexpected bill can knock them financially off balance. They have significant trouble finding and keeping a job or managing to save money. Numerous factors can set people back. They identified obstacles such as criminal records/spending time in jail and parole, loss of employment, caring for children and medical/health issues. They are caught in a cycle that makes it almost impossible to maintain a healthy sense of self-worth.
As members of the Circle program, the participants have a sense of support they have never felt before. Allies and Circles Leaders teach each other, based on life experiences and successes. Education is the key and sometimes that means being educated on making commonsense decisions or basic rules of running a household and the financial planning and responsibilities that come along with it. Allies are the people next door and become real everyday life coaches to help to create the pathway out of poverty. It was amazing to witness and hear the enthusiasm of the participants. One comment that exemplifies the outcome of the Circles program is this quote from a Circle Leader: “It’s refreshing to see where we were and where we are now. And we owe a lot to this place (Palmyra Circles).”
The sense of self worth shined on their faces—FINALLY!
-Rep. Mauree Gingrich (R-Lebanon)
Check out Palmyra Circles of Lebanon County’s Website too!