Is there a better way to begin a conference on poverty reduction than greeting 16 bike riders who trekked from Lancaster, PA to Nashville, TN, riding through wind, rain, fog and ultimately sunshine, to raise awareness? Chuck Holt, Executive Director of The Factory Ministries (a Bridges Out of Poverty community in Paradise, PA), led a team of bike riders on the nearly 900-mile journey to the Addressing the Challenges of Poverty conference. Amidst rounds of cheers, they successfully completed their journey to Nashville to start the Conference!
An evening reception for networking segued into a morning keynote by Maura Daily, Chief Communication and Development Officer, of Chicago-based Feeding America, one of the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charities. Every four years, Feeding America conducts the largest, most comprehensive study of the challenges faced by the people they serve. The findings of Hunger in America 2014 demonstrate the need for a well-rounded approach to solving hunger that helps families achieve stability in other areas of their lives.
Following the keynote, there were outstanding sessions on how Bridges is being embedded in different communities. Getting Ahead graduates and facilitators shared how future stories are being written, lives changed and the generational cycle of poverty is being broken.
Sonia Holycross, Family Development Coordinator and Education Specialist, of Partners in Hope, Troy, OH shared her family’s journey of moving from generational poverty to stability. After having five children and attempting to change her life on her own, she was asked to consider doing a Getting Ahead co-investigation, and that’s when she discovered herself and her potential – along with the words to express it. Sonia now desires to build on her experience and move into “Staying Ahead” after her completion of “Getting Ahead.”
The two-day conference was closed by Dr. Ruby Payne, CEO and Founder of aha! Process, who continues to spread her message of building human capacity and to show how poverty, among other things, is an economic development issue.
Other highlights included:
- New materials are being developed.
- The introduction of data collection systems: Charity Tracker and MPOWR provide modules for Getting Ahead, in addition to a smart phone “app” for Getting Ahead graduates to track their progress.
It is becoming evident that the work of Bridges Out of Poverty is reaching a new level. Communities that were early adopters are now innovating as their initiatives move forward. Individuals within these more experienced communities are now able to mentor those communities just beginning their Bridges journey.
This work cannot be completed in a silo; it requires collaboration – like Addressing the Challenges – amongst different sectors and communities. The 2015 conference is already in the planning stages (October 4-7, 2015 in Cincinnati) and will offer another opportunity for communities to gather and share!