By Morgan Bryce
Lessening poverty and helping people find a pathway to personal success is the goal of “Circles of Opelika,” a nonprofit organization under the umbrella of the Envision Opelika Foundation.
Launched Dec. 1, Circles of Opelika is a member of “Circles USA,” a national organization with a belief and concept that poverty is a nonpartisan, systemic issue and can be solved through “(focusing) both on what individuals can do to change their situations and what society can do to remove the barriers that stand in their way.”
During the last 11 weeks, Director Regina Meadows has been busy laying the groundwork for the foundation, hosting informational meetings and leading a poverty simulation program at Southern Union last Saturday.
“The ultimate goal that we have for people who go through this program is to help them be self-sufficient and self-sustaining financially. It’s more than just money, it’s a holistic approach,” Meadows said. “One of our taglines is ‘long-time strategy versus a short-term fix.’ We’re not a crisis-intervention program but instead one that gives people an out and who want something different for their lives.”
Individuals interested in joining Circles of Opelika must submit an application, which will be thoroughly vetted before that person is granted approval to join the program. If approved, they will go through a 12-week program featuring weekly meetings that will provide individuals with information and guidance to the proper community resources they need to be successful.
After graduation, Circle graduates will be paired with volunteers supporters or “allies” for 18 months, who will help them through the challenges of this 1.5-year-long commitment toward bettering themselves.
That portion of the program will include monthly meetings with each Circles graduate and their ally, as well as family fun nights and sessions designed to reach youth.
Meadows said the program has already received solid support locally, as Southern Union’s Adult Education Department has committed to assisting Circle’s efforts and several community leaders and prominent individuals pledged to be allies.
“When it’s all said and done, we want to see people have increased savings accounts, more employable skills, as well as deep lasting bonds between graduates and their allies. We hope that the relationships that they’ve established during that 18 months doesn’t end at 18 months … we want it to be a lifelong commitment and bond because many people in poverty don’t have access to positive resources that they can call on in a time of need,” Meadows said.
All future Circles of Opelika meetings will be held at the Southside Center for the Arts at 1103 Glenn St. in Opelika.
A website for Circles of Opelika is under development, and Meadows mentioned that applications will start being accepted in coming weeks. For more information or to inquire about volunteer opportunities, call 334-203-1860, email firstname.lastname@example.org, like and follow the organization’s Facebook page or visit the national Circles website www.circlesusa.org.