Bridges Out of Poverty to teach Moffat County about poverty

— Poverty is an undeniable part of all of our lives. Even people who are not personally impoverished still deal with ramifications of those who can’t find employment to put food on the table.

About 13 percent of people in Moffat County live below the poverty line, according to numbers from Yampa Valley Data Partners.

The gap between the rich and the poor is widening, but Corrie Ponikvar, executive director of Moffat County United Way, wants to make it smaller by starting community conversations. The program is called Bridges Out of Poverty, and it is United Way’s most recent effort to make connections in the community, inspire compassion and help people in poverty develop skills to get themselves out of tight financial situations.

“If I’m a wealthy person or a middle-class person, I might not understand how a person in poverty thinks,” she said.

Poverty doesn’t just affect those in dire straits, said Amanda Arnold, community impact coordinator for United Way.

“Poverty is the root cause of a lot of community issues,” Arnold said.

United Way officially will launch its Bridges Out of Poverty workshops Oct. 24, and the second workshop will be Nov. 6.

“Anyone can attend these workshops,” Ponikvar said. “The more people we can education and have dialogue, the stronger our community can be.”

The classes in the fall will be focused toward middle-class community members to help them grasp the culture of poverty. But United Way also will be teaching getting-ahead classes to people in poverty starting February 2014.

The getting-ahead classes will teach people in poverty skills to get and keep jobs and manage their budget.

The fall workshops are a way people can get involved and help without touching their budget, Arnold said.

“We’re not looking for your donation or your money, just your time,” she said.

This is something everybody should participate in, said Kerri Klein, director of the Social Services Department.

“It’s a real opportunity for this community to pull together to learn about poverty,” Klein said. “Anybody who can attend, should.”

It’s proven to be effective, Klein said.

“There’s been a lot of research about how Bridges Out of Poverty can improve a community,” she said. “It can raise the economy of the community.”

It’s important to have these conversations because it’s a complicated issue, Ponikvar said. There are different types of poverty: generational poverty and situational poverty. Because of the recession, many in the middle class have fallen into a lower income bracket because they lost a job. Unfortunately, those in situational poverty don’t have the skills to identify existing community resources the same way those in generational poverty might. So those who fall into hard times can hit hard.

This requires an open community willing to listen, Ponikvar said, one that is “being more compassionate and understanding.”

People who want to attend the workshops can contact Arnold and register with her.

Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-875-1794 or efenner@CraigDailyPress.com.

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