The Monroe County Circles® Initiative always has a need for volunteers to help Monroe County families who are working to get out of poverty. One role for volunteers in the program is the role of Circle Allies, who are volunteers with sufficient and stable resources, and an interest in eliminating poverty in Monroe County. The Circles® Initiative facilitates intentional relationships between these Allies who have sufficient resources to thrive and Circle Leaders who do not.
A Circle Leader is someone who is motivated to increase his or her resources in order to move out of poverty. Each Circle Leader is matched with three to four Circle Allies, creating a circle of support. These circles not only help individuals move out of poverty, but they work to break down class stereotypes, advocate for the poor, and create a more sustainable economy for our whole community.
One of the current Circle Allies, Marcus Dickinson, wrote the following about his volunteer experience:
“My wife Stephanie and I joined the Circles program with the idea that poverty was bad, and we had no idea what to do about it,” Dickinson said. “It’s a shame, we thought, that we really don’t know anyone in poverty and we only know bits and pieces of the research on poverty.
“So, we signed on to be Allies, partnering to move them out of poverty, despite barely knowing what that meant. What prevented us from joining sooner was the imposing 18-month commitment required of Allies. But that’s one thing we discovered: it’s not a commitment any more than a friendship is a commitment. It’d be weird to say that you have an 18-month friendship, and it’d also be missing the point.
“We’ve been able to help someone and, at the same time, have them help us. Like friends do. In good times and bad times. It’s been eye-opening to see how hard some things are for people in poverty, like housing issues or car troubles, but wonderful to see how deeply the friendship can grow in the midst of those hardships. That’s why we signed up: for a deeper sense of community, here in Bloomington.”
Volunteers receive training before taking on their roles as Allies. For more information on becoming a Circle Ally, please contact Circles® Coordinator, Linda Patton, at (812) 339-3447, ext. 206.