Syracuse Post-Standard, September 29, 2007: Helping communities see ‘invisible’ poverty

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By Kathy Coffta Sims

Staff writer

Terri Jones knows poverty has many faces.

In her part-time job as the volunteer coordinator for Community Action in Morrisville, she sees people from all walks of life who have fallen on hard times or who have been living in poverty for generations.

Friday, at a conference in Cicero, she learned there are many reasons why people live in poverty and stay in poverty.

Jones, along with about 200 others from food pantries and service agencies throughout Central New York, participated in the Food Bank of Central New York’s annual conference.

The keynote speaker, Angela Douglas, of Syracuse, is a certified trainer in the Bridges Out of Poverty program. Douglas spent more than two hours helping those who attended better understand the day-to-day struggles their clients face. She also showed them some of the reasons why getting out of poverty isn’t easy at all.

The Bridges Out of Poverty program, based on the work of author and educator Ruby K. Payne, is designed to show social service workers that there are three key ingredients to move clients toward economic stability: choice, power and hope for the future.

A key component of the program is the recognition that the middle class and the wealthy must change their behavior and thinking about poverty and must come together to work to solve the problem. Douglas said most of the world simply does not “see” people in poverty.

“They are used to being invisible,” Douglas said.

Jones knows this firsthand. One of the pantries she helps run is situated near Colgate University and Hamilton College.

“It’s difficult, at times, to raise funds and to get food,” because poverty is not on the radar in those communities she said.

“The churches support us as much as they can,” she said. “We also have a strong Lions Club and Rotary in the village that really help us out.”

Jones said her volunteers are almost exclusively senior citizens.

“All but one come from RSVP,” the retired senior volunteer program, she said.

Jones said she hopes to get the local colleges involved in helping out the food pantries in her area, thus building a bridge between the different social classes and the communities that they reside in.

“Morrisville already has service requirements for their athletes and resident assistants,” she said. “I’m trying to expand that.”

Kathy Coffta Sims can be reached at or 470-3253.

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