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 ...
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!

Jun 26, 2012

Five NEW "Getting Ahead" Grads

On Wednesday, June 13, five new participants graduated from their "Getting Ahead" portion of the Circles Initiative. Three of them were not comfortable being videotaped, but I will be posting the videos from the other two when I have them downloaded from the camera.

In her graduation speech, Nicole said, "Circles helped me to realize what I needed to do as far as my goals." Nicole is a joy-filled addict in recovery. She regularly attends N.A. meetings held at the church to keep herself clean and sober. She has to take five buses to get her from Whitaker to Pitcairn, which takes at least 2 hours, but she has not missed one session! Nicole learned to read, as an adult, about 2 years ago and still struggles with some of her words. She has persevered and her primary goal at this moment is to complete her G.E.D. and pursue other education. She has several herniated disks in her back, so she is looking for employment that does not include lifting and carrying, which requires further education. She is hopeful as she begins this next phase of Circles.

In the next phase of Circles, Nicole will work with middle- and upper-income Allies who will encourage her and help her to navigate the unfamiliar complexities of the middle-class system used in education and employment. Her goals will likely take more than a year to complete, but she is committed and has a vision for where she is going. The hope she has in herself and her future will be her intrinsic motivation that helps her keep moving forward in the difficult days when she is struggling. In that journey, her Allies and other members of the Circles Initiative will be her support and cheering section.

Nicole completed her speech by saying, "This church saved my life." With its Circles and N.A. programs together, we have become a place of healing and hope for her life.

I will highlight the stories of our other graduates, Diane, Dawn, Aldo, and Charlene, in my next reports.

Thank you, again, for your support of the Circles Initiative in Pitcairn! With your support and our work on the ground here, we are beginning to change lives! What you do makes a difference!

Blessings!

Apr 23, 2012

A Permanent Place Has Been Secured And You Helped!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

All of you who donated, we made it! Together, we have secured a permanent spot on the GlobalGiving fundraising website AND you have helped to boost the morale of all the Circles participants! It was incredible to have our folks checking in and reporting to me how many donors we had, sharing information with their friends, talking about the project with anyone and everyone who would listen. It has been very exciting around here! Just like any mission trip, your presence and participation told these folks that you care and that they are worth your time and resources!

Most importantly, we have already raised more than double the minimum monetary requirement needed to secure this spot. One of our first needs is transportation to get to jobs and school for many of our folks. Part of your donation will be put to work to ensure that the transportation barrier is greatly reduced for our low-income participants. We also plan to purchase curriculum for our next group, and confirm our fall leadership retreat to foster leadership development in our participants.

In addition to those activities, one of our initiatives has been to foster cooperation and partnership between Gateway School District and Circles as they work with most of the children of our low-income participants as well as other under-resourced students. Last year we sponsored a teacher in service day which focused on best techniques for supporting under-resourced learners. This year we will be consulting with the school district to discuss further directions for this partnership. These are just a few of the highlights of the good work that can be done because of your generosity!

As a permanent part of GlobalGiving, we are expected to produced regular reports about our activities and needs. I believe you will get these updates automatically as a donor. If you do not wish to receive them, I think there will be a way to opt out. However, it is my hope that you will continue to be interested in this initiative and perhaps think about taking steps to form some kind of anti-poverty initiative in your own areas.

Again, thank you from all of us at the Pitcairn Circles Initiative for your participation, support, and prayers!

Blessings! Cyndi Bloise

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