Area leaders train for Strive2Thrive

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY -- A new initiative to battle the problems associated with poverty that kicked off late last year moved forward with a work session hosted at Albany State University Tuesday.

An educational workshop was conducted throughout the day on "Strive2Thrive: Bridges Out of Poverty" at the school's ACAD building.

"Our main purpose is to do training for volunteers," said Cynthia George, chairman of the initiative. "It's to teach us about bridging different classes within the community."

The work session covered topics including, in part, the impact of poverty on people and communities, creating employment opportunities and reducing homelessness.

Roughly 70 people attended the event, and coordinators of the ongoing initiative are aiming to reach out to 100 families in the coming year.

"We will start with 10 families and build on that," said Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Workforce Development and Education Director Harriet Hollis.

The next step will be to start a 15-week training period for the purpose of building a relationship with the families the initiative has targeted, which will occur within the next month or so, Hollis said.

The purpose of Strive2Thrive is to use the available resources to move Albany-Dougherty County families into self-sufficiency by providing incentives, coaching, training and technical assistance, officials say.

The guest speaker at the event was Vaughn Grisham, Jr., author of four books including "Tupelo: The Evolution of a Community."

In his address, he discussed the steps that would need to be taken in order to turn impoverishment around.

"Those in generational poverty have been there for 50 years or more, and the situation looks pretty bleak," he said.

The key to dealing with the issues associated with poverty is getting invested, Grisham said.

"We're poor, we're uneducated and we're divided," he said. "We have to have all the people at the table to make a breakthrough."

"It begins as an individual, but if it stays as an individual, it will die."

It's a process that will also take time, Grisham said.

"It takes a minimum of 10 years to notice a difference," he said.

Grisham currently serves as the director of the George McLean

Institute for Community Development. He has also authored more than 100 papers and articles.

Albany-Dougherty was named one of "America's Most Impoverished Cities" by Forbes.com last year. Roughly 25 percent of individuals and 39 percent of families in the area live in poverty. Fifty-nine percent of families in the region impacted by poverty are unemployed, and 80 percent of students in the Dougherty County School System receive free or reduced lunches, information provided by the Chamber of Commerce said.