ALBANY -- An anti-poverty initiative that has taken hold in Albany appears to be working.
The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and Strive2Thrive took home honors at the 2012 American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) National Convention in Louisville, Ky. last week, officials with the chamber say.
The chamber's workforce development program, which seeks to partner working professionals with families in the Albany area living in poverty, won the Gold Communications in Excellence Award by the ACCE before being named "Best of Show" in its category, a news release from the chamber states.
Strive2Thrive was also named a finalist in the Alliance for Regional Stewardship (ARS) Organizational Champion Award. Only three chambers nationwide were named ARS finalists, officials say.
Deborah Bowie, senior director of public policy and communications for the chamber, authored the winning submissions and served as the opening and closing session emcee for more than 2,500 chamber executives representing hundreds of communities across the country.
"Getting that kind of recognition is the best national coverage you could get," Bowie said. "Just having a national platform (affirms) that Albany has come up with something unique and piques peoples' interest (is significant).
"I knew from my (Chamber experience) that there really wasn't any other model like this."
The recognition received at the convention will earn a spot on the ACCE website, which gives the program exposure -- and the ability to network with other Chambers, officials say.
"It's the nod of knowing that other communities can model (what is being done in Albany)," Bowie said.
"When you start something you don't know how it will end up. The work (Strive2Thrive is and has been doing) is substantial, but it is a huge problem to undertake."
Ausha Jackson, the program's director, was also at the convention sharing details of the local initiative as a participant on the ARS Blue Ribbon Panel that featured winning communities and their programs, chamber officials say.
Chamber President/CEO Chris Hardy, along with Strive2Thrive co-founders John Culbreath and Cynthia George, also attended the convention.
The program was created more than two years ago by the Chamber as a way to address the region's disproportionate poverty rate. Last year, Albany made national headlines for its ranking by Daily Finance, a division of AOL, as the nation's fourth-poorest community.
The Strive2Thrive program has helped 40 families to date, officials say.
The initiative, includes -- among other things -- an 18-month intentional relationship between working professionals, or "allies," and people living at or below the poverty level, or "circle leaders". It is modeled after the national "Move the Mountain" Circles Campaign developed by Scott Miller.