The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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April 28, 2014

The time is now to combat the poverty problem

“If ever there was a time that people needed new ways to talk with each other about poverty, prosperity and community sustainability, this is it.”

Author and activist Philip DeVol is serious about reducing poverty and creating prosperous communities.

On April 23rd, Ashtabula County professionals were privileged to meet with Philip DeVol at Lakeside High School to discuss positive ideas for combating the problems of poverty in our community.

Mr. DeVol is the author of Bridges to Sustainable Communities, Getting Ahead in a Just-Getting’ — By World workbook, and co-author of the program Bridges Out of Poverty.

As more than 30 individuals listened to Mr. DeVol throughout the morning session, it became clear that our community needed action.

The conversation about poverty is clearly realized each day in the offices of our social service agencies when we meet with clients.

As we strive to help our fellow citizens, it is apparent that we need a better plan.

DeVol reports that, in the wake of the “Great Economic Meltdown of 2008,” communities are being challenged to remain or, in some cases, become socially and economically viable.

Is it that difficult to imagine our community becoming more viable?

What are the barriers to a more successful Ash-tabula County?

We often hear people complain that it is difficult to get things done here in Northeastern Ohio because of the old idea that “we have always done it this way” prevails.

We can’t accept this philosophy any longer. We must stop playing the blame game and simply get to work.

With this in mind, the group of participants at the Bridges Community seminar started the process towards becoming more socially and economically viable as a community.

In creating a steering committee, the group insisted that it be an action committee.

The goals will include establishing a strong, interdisciplinary team that will include social service agencies, business owners, graduates of the Getting

Ahead program, and concerned citizens. It is important that we begin to build relationships across economic and geographical barriers within our county.

We will investigate the issues that create more instability for individuals who are struggling financially and with their help, create solutions that will stabilize their environment.

Together we can develop the foundations for real, concrete and comprehensive strategies that will be effective in Ashtabula County to combat poverty.

The time is now to work together to increase the quality of life for everyone in our community. This won’t happen overnight but we can learn from excellent examples.

Fortunately, there are businesses, cities, and even states that are employing the Bridges Out of Poverty model with amazing success.

It will take courage and ingenuity but as Margaret Mead points out, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

For more information regarding Bridges to Sustainable Communi-ties committees, feel free to contact me at mkapalin1@-yahoo.com.

Remember, education and prevention are keys to keeping our communities safe.

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