By Stephani Duff
For the Troy Daily News
Circles, a national campaign started by Move the Mountain, is working toward helping people get out of poverty. In Troy, that mission is carried out by the local Circles chapter through the lead agency of Partners in Hope.
Stacy Hamilton, a member of the Ohio Circle Leaders Council and a part of Circles since 2010, explains the campaign’s mission statement.
“The mission of the organization is to inspire and equip families and communities to resolve poverty and to thrive,” Hamilton said.
The model for Circles started in 2000 as a way for communities to increase the capacity of ways to address poverty. The approach taken is a combination of best practices in various disciplines including community organizing, case management, grassroots leadership, S.M.A.R.T. goal setting, financial literacy, mentoring, peer-to-peer counseling and learning and child/youth development.
“We believe that responsibility for both poverty and prosperity rests not only in the hands of individuals, but also with societies, institutions, and communities,” Hamilton said.
The Troy chapter of Circles began in 2007 through Partners in Hope; the local mission statement for Circles is “Circles of Hope is a faith-based inter-economic community of people living life together increasing resources towards our God intended futures. Circles in a national campaign that is active in 21 states with over 70 communities; Ohio has 7 active communities participating in Circles.
The model for how Circles works involves a few steps: communities contact Circles USA to apply for membership through their website Gena@circlesusa.org or at (888) 232-9285, then Circles chapters use a collaborative approach that integrates Circles into the strengths of an existing community-based organizations. Circles focuses on all three stages required to reach economic stability: crisis management and stabilization, education and job placement, and advancement and economic stability. Local chapters sponsor groups of up to 25 people with low-income, also known as Circles Leaders, who enroll in Circles Leadership Training Class to help build emotional, financial and social resources; they are then paired with trained middle-to-high income community volunteers, called Allies, who support them in their efforts to achieve economic stability. Each week, Circles groups meet to discuss strategies for reaching goals of prosperity and to offer support to one another.
“Locally, in Troy, there are a few ways people find out about the Circles organization,” Hamilton said. “They can get help through Partners in Hope, they might hear about it through a local church or food pantry, and we also do some door to door recruitment; there are also cases in which people have heard about us by word of mouth.”
The achievements of local leaders speak for themselves; one leader was able to get herself out of $20,000 of debt. Another Circles leader was able to buy her own home and many leaders have been able to obtain reliable transportation through their work and goal-setting with Circles.
Simply put, Circles is “an action plan that brings together the best efforts and resources of individuals, organizations, communities, and government in a program proven to raise people out of poverty,” according to Hamilton.
For more information about Circles and the work they are doing locally and nationally, visit their website at circlesusa.org.