Nearly 70 people participated in United Way’s Bridges Out of Poverty training to learn about the complicated cultural divide between poverty, middle class and the wealthy.
The event took place Thursday at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilions.
Sharon Farquhar, executive director for Advocates Crisis Support Services, led the discussion and used different activities to help bring to light the socialized differences between classes.
“It’s good to have a big group because then you get people from healthcare, education and the business community,” she said.
It takes all kinds to confront poverty, she said.
“Everybody has a voice. Everybody has a perspective. Everybody has a goal,” she said.
Michele Balleck, coordinator for Connections 4 Kids, said the training was a great opportunity for different people in the community to get together and talk about important issues.
“I thought it was really interesting to have these big community discussions with people I don’t work with on a regular basis,” she said.
The activities helped open people up to ideas they hadn’t considered, said Amanda Arnold, community impact coordinator for United Way.
“These are things that most people in middle class don’t even think about,” Arnold said.
One of the activities challenged people to find a way to get by without a crucial resource. Everybody in the audience had a bag that indicated they were missing one necessity, whether it was regular income, health care or affordable childcare.
“You need to sit at your table with your tablemates and compare what you have,” Farquhar said.
People could try to live without the resource or they could try to barter for it. Farqhar laughed when she said people could even steal an item they needed.
While the activities inspired light-hearted conversation and teasing wheeling and dealing, Arnold said it would help those in the middle class think about the motivations people in poverty have — which are things that some look down upon.
“It makes them think that a person in poverty may not be stealing because they’re a bad person,” Arnold said, adding that it’s because they feel they have no other option.
Arnold assured that the exercise wasn’t meant to condone illegal behavior or suggest people in poverty steal but inspire compassion.
Corrie Ponikvar, executive director for Moffat County United Way, saw the training as a step to get rid of poverty.
“We want to eliminate poverty,” she said. “Not just put a Band-Aid on it.”
Farquhar was encouraged by the end of the trainingbut said people will need to take what they learned back with them into their everyday lives.
“It doesn’t end here,” she said. “This is really just that pebble that’s been dropped in the silent pond.”
She said she hoped the ideas would ripple out.
United Way will be hosting another Bridges Out of Poverty Training on Nov. 6 at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilions, and people who wish to register can contact Arnold.
Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.