Don't be a critic; be an ally

Aug 02, 2013

Calling all critics. Those of you who have ever griped about people living in poverty who are ‘using the system,’ here is your chance to be part of a meaningful change.

Circles of Hope in Haywood County is still seeking volunteer allies for its program, which is devoted to teaching individuals and families how to live a life outside of poverty. This includes weaning the poverty-stricken “Circle leaders,” as they’re called, off of food stamps and other government benefits as they learn to sustain life in the middle class. But they can’t do it alone.

While many believe poverty is about a lack of money, Circles of Hope demonstrates that it is much more than that. Ally training teaches volunteers how to help their Circle leaders persevere, make sound choices and avoid self-destructive behavior.

For people who are apprehensive about services for the needy, this is an opportunity to learn about poverty from the inside out. Becoming an ally for someone who lives in poverty could help foster the understanding that many of these people are just looking for a hand up, not a hand out.

The Mountaineer recently published two stories about local residents who are overcoming poverty, both of whom will become leaders in the Circles of Hope program. Both individuals exemplify determination and desire to not give up hope. So far, 10 participants have joined the program to better themselves, but there are many more in the community needing help and support.

Statistics show that 18 percent of the North Carolina population currently lives in poverty, marking our state with the 12th highest poverty rate in the country. Though Haywood County’s poverty level rests at the lower end (about 12 percent), that still means more than 7,000  of our 59,000 local residents are struggling in poverty.

But poverty isn’t just a number. It’s mentally exhausting, and a wound to the spirit. Workers and current volunteers at Circles of Hope and other nonprofits in the area are striving to lift the spirits of those in need and help them battle these economic hardships. But they also can’t do it alone.

If you’ve ever thought of reaching out to the community, becoming a Circles of Hope ally will connect you to people who want and need your help. If you’ve never thought of reaching out to the community, becoming an ally will open your eyes to the needs in Haywood County.

If you don’t want to be an ally, you can still be a sponsor to help volunteers help others. No matter what you decide, when it comes to helping those with so little, even a little support can go a long way.

To join the program call Millie Hershenson at 828-452-1447, ext.134. Ally training will be offered from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 10 at Grace Church in the Mountains in Waynesville.