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Strive2Thrive works to reduce poverty

Ausha Jackson, program coordinator of Strive2Thrive, at the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, honored first year volunteers for the program at a breakfast meeting of Chamber members on Wednesday.

Ausha Jackson, program coordinator of Strive2Thrive, at the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, honored first year volunteers for the program at a breakfast meeting of Chamber members on Wednesday.

ALBANY -- Albany Area Chamber of Commerce members were addressed at a breakfast meeting on Wednesday by Ausha Jackson, program coordinator for Strive2Thrive, a Chamber program aimed at reducing area poverty.

The program, which is a part of the Circles national campaign of Move the Mountain Leadership Center in Albuquerque N.M., was implemented by the Chamber about 18 months ago, Jackson said.

The basis for the program is a "Circle," defined as an individual or family working to get out of poverty. The Circle Leader is responsible for leading, receiving, and giving support within the partnership of the Circle.

Critical to the success of the Circle is the "Ally," or volunteer who befriends and assists the Circle Leader to figure out how to accomplish her or her plan for self-sufficiency.

Allies are trained in a program called "Bridges Out of Poverty" as a way to support Circle Leaders in their walk out of poverty, Jackson said.

A third and final part of the Strive2Thrive structure is the "Coach," a case worker who supports the Circle Leader in fine-tuning his or her Getting Ahead plan, and in navigating the social services system.

It is not the role of the Allies to fix problems or to "rescue" Circle Leaders, Jackson said, but to assist them in linking to the resources and support necessary to succeed.

During the Chamber presentation, Jackson recognized more than two dozen "first year volunteers" for the Strive2Thrive program. Those who were present gathered and were awarded special plaques. The volunteers had committed to remain in the program as Allies, giving of their time to assist Circle Leaders for at least 18 months, Jackson said.

Volunteers come from "all parts of the economic spectrum," and each must complete a 16-week curriculum called "Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World," Jackson said.

"The program is a community-altering process unlike anything we've participated in before," said Catherine Glover, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber. "It's specific, quantifiable, and all the benchmarks we've set have been exceeded."

Glover lists as benefits to the Strive2Thrive program employment gains, more reliable transportation and greater educational achievement.

"At the end of the day," Glover said, "The people who are helped by this will be giving back to the community."