Center Avenue United Methodist Circles (TM) Initiative

The Circles Initiative is designed to help low-income people in the Pittsburgh, PA area to learn skills and form empowering relationships to increase their economic stability and ability for future achievement. The primary target area is the "steel valley" where the collapse of the steel and railroad industries bottomed out the economy. The primary tool used will be the national Circles Campaign which has a proven track record for helping people move out of poverty (CirclesCampaign.org). Results to date have shown that for every dollar invested in this program, $2 is returned in the form of unused entitlement payments. In addition, there is an increase in community assets as these ...
May 6, 2013

Circles Brings Hope - edited

I must confess, I am writing this the morning I have returned from vacation. I also confess that I could write more frequent reports about progress - I often get caught up in the moment and forget about writing reports.

If I had written more regularly, I would have told you about 21-year-old Maggie who walked three miles for a job at a local grocery store. She was increasingly frustrated about the inconsistency of her scheduled hours, making budgeting exceptionally difficult.

About a month ago, Maggie received a call from a company that takes calls from doctors and insurance companies about coverage. She seized the nearly full-time opportunity, went through their on-site training, and began working. Her hours are more regular, so she can begin to budget better. She also is able to catch a bus instead of walking, approximately a one-hour ride with only one transfer. Due to your contributions, we are able to help her with bus pass funding for her first month to give her the opportunity to work the cost of a pass into her budget.

Before leaving for vacation, Nicole shared that she was ready to take another GED practice test. When she began, she was reading at just a 3rd grade level. She was estimated to be in the 6th or 7th grade range when I left. Social Studies continues to be difficult for her and we are attempting to develop a regular tutoring program for the four individuals who are working toward their GEDs.

If you have not yet decided on a gift for Mother's Day on Sunday, perhaps she would appreciate a gift that keeps on giving. Consider making a gift of a donation which can help to change the life of a person working to get out of poverty. This gift requires no dusting and has a lasting impact.

We are always available to answer any questions you may have or provide greater detail. Also, if you would like someone to come speak for an event about the ways Circles addresses poverty in a material way, please contact us. We often bring one of our participants when we speak.

May all of you be blessed this Mother's Day as you consider the gifts of language and learning that you received from your own mother!

Feb 4, 2013

Lives are Changing!

Anyone who has ever tried to change something about their life knows how hard real change can be. All of our low-income participants of Circles have the same challenges with change.

Given the difficulty of change and life transformation, I hope all who read this report can appreciate the effort and the value of these accomplishments.

This is the briefest of summaries, followed by more details for each of their stories: Giles got a job and is providing for his family, Charlene got a job despite her felony history, Will got a job, Maggie got a job, Nicole entered her GED program, and Mary got registered for her GED program.

During the month of December, Giles finally got a job and is now working at Burger King. He is so excited to be providing for his family even though they will still struggle with such a meager income. Fortunately, a special Christmas gift provided a bus pass for the month of January, so Giles didn't have to walk the mile to and from work. I hear that his managers really like him and his pleasant, hard-working personality. Giles comes from a family who spent a great deal of time and money on alchohol. For a long time, he fell into that pattern too, but in the last year he has decided that is not part of who he is. He has become the one in the family who reminds his significant other to stick to their budget.

Charlene is a recovering addict, a participant of Circles since Feb. 1 last year, who was dispairing of ever getting a job due to a previous felony. WIth the natural supports provided by Circles, and the support she receives from those who help her with her sobriety, she has begun to dream of working again. Last week, she called a previous employer who had written on her file, "Would hire again". After finishing a competency test, she was hired and began work the next day. Due to funding from several foundations earmarked for transportation and other barriers to self-sufficiency, we were able to provide Charlene with a bus pass and scrubs so she could get to work and have appropriate clothing to do so. She is so delighted to be working!

Will and Maggie just had their intake interviews with us about two weeks ago. Both have already interviewed and received new jobs. Nicole is excited about her good marks in her GED classes, even though she gets tired of the loads of homework required. Nicole does not know yet what her end goal for education is. Mary is a young mom who comes from a family of addicts. She is the first one in her family to break out of addiction. Despite her busy mommy schedule, she has found time to get registered for her GED classes. Mary has dreams of becoming a nurse.

These are just the major changes happening in people's lives due to your dollars. The more subtle changes, like the rebirth of hope, occur regularly even though they are harder to measure in visible ways.

Thanks for being a part of helping people move from poverty to self-sufficiency! Together we can make a difference!

Oct 28, 2012

New Class is "Getting Ahead"

Hello to all who have donated to the Circles Initiative in Pitcairn! I am excited to share with you some achievements of participants in the Circles program. Your dollars allowed us to help our participants learn how to budget, job hunt, achieve educational goals, and work together to address issues that make it more difficult to get out of poverty. Read the rest of this report and know that your donations have made a difference in the lives of these people.

Wednesday, August 1, 15 new low-income participants began the "Getting Ahead" phase of our Circles Initiative. They brought with them 12 new children, making Center Avenue United Methodist Church on Wednesday evenings a very busy place indeed!

At the same time, we have eight Circle Leaders who continue to work toward achieving their long-term goals of self-sufficiency. Here are some of their stories, much success which has come from the support Circles provides:

Chelsea, a young, single mother to 4-year-old, Braydon, has begun attending community college to study nursing while continuing to work nearly full-time.  She is doing well and demonstrates great motivation and persistance. She says the support she gets from Circles keeps her motivated as she faces daily challenges and occasional frustrations.

Teresa has just begun a part-time job using some of the computer skills she acquired through recent education. She will be helping with presentations, grant-writing, and other office tasks. This job will end her long streak of unemployment, add to her resume, and prepare her for more substantial employment in the future.

Aldo is currently enrolled in the same computer class that Teresa recently completed. Previously, he was computer illiterate and nervous about learning the computer. Each week he shares his victories as he learns how to use the Microsoft Office products. He feels good about himself and his goal is employment when he completes his training. Aldo recently celebrated two years clean and sober.

Diane has gained part-time employment. Her confidence has increased and the only government subsidy she still receives is medical disability insurance. She is hopeful that her job will increase to full-time and include access to benefits so she can afford to let go of the medical insurance and be fully self-sufficient.

Charlene, another recovering addict, had a job interview a few weeks ago. She has been offered seasonal employment which she is hopeful will increase to offer year-round employment. She would like to go to college and is intelligent enough to do so. At this time, she has a higher need for income, so that goal is taking a lower priority at the moment.

Dawn is recently divorced and has begun a new business in town, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry for a number of senior citizens. She is not certain yet if this is her long-term goal, but while she explores options, she is able to make enough money to make ends meet.

Two former teachers have offered to help recovering addict, Nicole, prepare for her upcoming G.E.D. Nicole just learned to read two years ago, and although reading is still somewhat of a struggle for her, she plans to enter college when she achieves her G.E.D.

Each of our Circle Leaders thank you for believing in them as they work toward their goals. Your dollars are changing lives! All of us at the Pitcairn Circles Initiative are truly grateful!

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