It's not really a secret, but the good that the Albany Strive2Thrive program does for the community can be overlooked.
The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce program -- co-founded by Cynthia George, now chair of the chamber board, and John Culbreath, former Dougherty County school superintendent and now chairman of the Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital board -- takes some very real action when it comes to battling poverty. Officials with at least 50 businesses and institutions in town have seen the value of Strive2Thrive, partnering with the chamber on the program.
And it has a concrete effect on those who participate in it. Families that undergo the program for 18 months see their income boost by 70 percent. That type of change in income can make a world of difference in the lives of the members of the family.
Along the way, those families, which had been mired in poverty, learn how to better deal with life and its ups and downs. All families that graduate from the program, which is designed to help those in poverty improve their financial situation, have to take the initial four-month course that helps them learn how to "get ahead" and a "just getting by world."
There's also a four-month portion that focuses on professional development, and a particularly important one on handling finances.
Impoverished families tend to become victims of financial schemes. The portion that deals with financial literacy shows participants how to understand issues such as credit scoring and how to avoid becoming a victim of a predatory lender, helping them avoid a situation in which they can never pay off a loan or get back a title to a car.
While all Strive2Thrive graduations are special -- after all, they mark an opportunity for a family to significantly improve its situation -- the one last week was an especially significant ceremony. For the first time, the Strive2Thrive graduates had completed the entire program.
"We've had graduations before and used the term interchangeably," Strive2Thrive Program Director Ausha Jackson said. "But these are the 'real' graduates. They're 100 percent self-sufficient."
What makes this program remarkable is it is our community helping itself. The partners in Strive2Thrive are making a difference in our community, making people's lives better, creating a stronger Albany.
Anyone can criticize a community for what's wrong, but those involved in Strive2Thrive -- whether they're partners in the program or families working to overcome poverty -- are replacing hollow, often harsh words with positive action.
They're making Albany better. And that is something that should be applauded.
-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board