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 ...
Nov 25, 2013

Joys and Challenges

Wow - the end of October brought us news that the Heinz Endowments agreed to a grant for expansion of Circles into a nearby community of McKeesport. We had a meeting of all the possible supporters at Bethany House Academy near Crawford Village, which included the Mayor's office, people from the education, health care, businesss and social service sectors. There was a great deal of syergy with what these officials are trying to do within the schools and what Circles does with adults and their families. Things are moving ahead and we have already begun our work there!

The beginning of November brought some challenges to our Pitcairn site when the Center Avenue United Methodist Church building was declared unsafe for occupancy. This happened on November 6th, a Wednesday, the day of the week for our normal meeting. We went to work, and the Pitcairn Borough made the Park Building available on short notice for our meeting. Our Circles folks helped us move our office to a room made available at the Pitcairn Assembly of God. The town pulling together have made a challenging situation much more pleasant, though still challenging.

Our work to combat poverty continues and expands even in the midst of adversity.

This Christmas, would you consider making a donation in honor or in memory of a loved one as a Christmas gift? It is a gift that keeps on giving as our folks achieve such things as getting jobs, completing their GEDs, entering college, settling debts with the IRS, keeping payment schedules for fines, staying with a budget, etc. We continue to see hope springing up in their lives as they work toward their goals.

Thanks for your support in the past, and for considering your continuing support.

Blessings!

Sep 9, 2013

Some New Faces at Circles

Hi Folks.

There are some new faces and new things going on at Circles.

First, the Circles Coach who helped launch our initiative in Pitcairn has moved on to another job. In her place, we have Rose Alexander Staples, who is a bright, warm, and energetic presence in our midst. People seem to be warming up to her nicely and after just 3 months on the job, she seems to have gained a good hand on the Circles process already. Rose is good at being firm, but kind and caring - an essential quality in our initiative.

Second, Circles has now developed its own curriculum instead of using the materials from another company. Because of this, we don't have to pay for materials! We download and copy for ourselves. I am hoping this is a permanent condition because it will save us hundreds of dollars each year.

Third, the Pitcairn Circles Initiative has drafted a plan, has gathered partners, and has gotten funding for expansion into McKeesport. McKeesport was once a BIG booming city, full of industry hustle and bustle. It is no longer. With partners like Bethany House Healthy Villages, Beulah Park United Methodist Church, Highland Grove United Methodist Church, the YMCA of Crawford Village, and the Heinz Endowments, we anticipate forming our McKeesport board this fall and beginning our first cohort of Circle Leaders in training in February 2014. Keino Fitzpatrick will be our McKeesport Circles Coach. He is well tied in with the McKeesport community, having worked with the city officials to successfully obtain a Kaboom Playground grant most recently. Please keep us in prayer as we move forward and expand!

Fourth, in Pitcairn, we just started our sixth class of Circle Leaders. It is a really big class with 13 people! Many of our folks have gotten jobs, learned to budget, gotten better housing, and made better choices about people, places and things that have previously gotten them in trouble. Along the way a few of them get discouraged and stop coming. Part of our job is to try to keep them engaged and full of hope, because hopelessness is destructive in this stabilization process.

Getting out of poverty is very, very hard for our folks. It is about transformation in the midst of creating new opportunities and networks, which takes a lot of time, perseverance, and motivation. Sometimes it feels like one step forward and two steps back. Sometimes the effort put forth feels like wasted time or spinning wheels. Circles is essential in this process as we empower, support, equip, and encourage people in their journeys.

Thank you for your continued interest and support!

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!

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