Poverty increases in southern Chester County school districts

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has”

—Margaret Mead

“The Southern Chester County Opportunity Network (SCCON) is a community-wide initiative, made up of a growing group of people who want to see poverty addressed in comprehensive, collaborative ways in our community.

SCCON's work is based on the Bridges Out of Poverty model - a framework for understanding poverty through the lens of economic class and addressing it in a comprehensive way. It asks all sectors of the community - business, nonprofit, education, local governments, etc. - to come to the table and engage those in poverty as problem solvers.”

The above was taken from the SCCON web page that gives more detail about this growing grassroots effort.

Being in public health for many years, I see the value and effectiveness of this systemic and collective impact approach in creating a healthy community. Although we need all the services that are provided for those in poverty in our community, without a group trying to address all the pieces and offering a way out, it feels like putting one’s finger in a dyke.

Kennett Area Community Services under the direction of Melanie Weiler brought the Bridges Out of Poverty model to Southern Chester County.Shortly thereafter, KACS began inviting other community stakeholders to the table, and the SCCON Planning Team was born. That team now provides leadership for the initiative, which has brought together hundreds of community members from across the region.

I personally have attended the Bridges Out of Poverty half-day training, which is offered to any resident or group in the SCC area. (Consider signing up.) I have served those in poverty for many years, yet found this training a wake-up call to stay out of the “them” and “us” mindset and see how each economic group comes from a unique set of values. With this deeper understanding we each can provide the right and good support for building bridges out of poverty.

Another arm of the model is the Getting Ahead program, a 16-week workshop designed for those experiencing poverty. Through facilitated roundtable discussions, participants explore the causes of poverty in their own lives and in the community and make plans to build resources to move out of poverty.

Community meetings is the third arm of the model which brings together the graduates from the Getting Ahead program with community members, who are committed to supporting them. They discuss barriers and opportunities moving out of poverty in our community.

Community Meetings are open to all community members and take place quarterly (January-April-July-October), always on the third Tuesday from 6:00-7:30pm.

The next community meeting will take place on Tuesday, January 21st from 6:00-7:30pm at West Grove United Methodist Church. You may just show up as starters.

In between the Community Meetings is where the ongoing work takes place, through each of theDiscovery Groupsor action teams that were formed to address the issues the Getting Ahead graduates have identified as crucial to breaking the cycle of poverty in our area.

These groups are made up of community members from all backgrounds and continue to need other committed volunteers to join the effort, to push the work forward. The current Discovery Groups are working on Housing, Community Collaboration and Transportation. For more information or to sign-up, contact Kate Daneker at: kdaneker@ksqroots.com

The Bridges Out of Poverty comprehensive model gives hope for addressing the core issues of poverty at a systemic level. Community volunteers involved in this grassroots effort are thoughtful and committed. The highlight is that they are joining the wisdom of Margaret Mead---"they indeed can help change the world!”

The Story of Kennett may be purchased on Amazon and at the Mushroom Cap or Resale Book Shoppe in Kennett. You can contact Joan at dochollisv@aol.com.
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