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By Rev. Donald A. Ford
Special to The PREVIEW
Some 18 months ago, Circles began in Pagosa Springs.
It began with a “poverty simulation” designed to show people how to live a month with very limited resources, within a three-hour time frame.
People became aware of the challenges of living within those bounds and also of some of the frustrations with social programs.
People stepped forward and said they would be interested in Circles and in reaching out to others. Meanwhile, others stepped forward who were interested in changing their very limited and challenging lifestyles. Circles brings these people together to form relationships through understanding of each other’s lifestyle.
We have had successes, and some not-so-successful experiences.
Circles is a national initiative based on Scott Miller’s work and described in his book “Until It’s Gone, Ending Poverty in our Nation, in our Lifetime.” There are now over 80 sites across the country that are working on Miller’s goal. Pagosa Springs is one of seven in Colorado.
The operation of Circles is best described on the national website, www.circlesusa.org. The Circles Campaign is a strategy to help those in poverty transform their lives and become more stable and self sufficient. Circles partners volunteers and community leaders with families wanting to make the journey out of poverty. Operating in communities around the country, each Circles initiative consists of families working to get out of poverty and middle and upper income allies who befriend them and lend support. The family is the Circle Leader, setting direction for activities. With the help and friendship of their allies, each family sets and achieves goals unique to their own needs.
For the most part, each Circle Leader that has continued in the program and established relationships has increased their “social capital,” has been able to meet some elementary goals and has begun to change to a lifestyle that is more “middle class.”
Funding for Circles comes from the Community United Methodist Church and from people in Pagosa Springs.
We are very proud of Circles and its first 18 months. We are always looking for interested people who would like to build relationships that may become an inspiration for both Circle Leaders and allies.
If you are interested, join us at our group meal at Community United Methodist Church on Lewis Street, any Thursday evening at 6 p.m.
Our e-mail address is Circles@cumcps.org and a contact phone number is( 970) 317-9237.
In the coming weeks, you will be able to read an article from an ally and one from a Circle Leader.