r By Jim and Kim OldroydrAccording to the latest U.S. Census, 12.5 percent of people living in Utah County are living in poverty. To give you an idea of what that looks like, a family of five makes less than $28,000 a year. As a professor of strategy at Brigham Young University, my wife (who is a RN and mother of seven) and I felt like we could be doing more to help those low-income families in our county. We had a desire to connect with others and really make a difference. Frustrated with few options to make meaningful connections, we looked for an organization where we could invest our time and help move people out of poverty. We found Circles Utah Valley and our lives have never been the same.
Through this program, we have been allied with a family in poverty – a married couple with three children. The father is hard-working and has a job earning about $12 an hour. He works every day. He has a high school education. The family has a dedicated mother who tries to supplement the income but finds it difficult while caring for her young children. They have a small, old home with a chicken coop and garden in the yard. They are hard-working – hard-working but stuck in a frustrating rut due to a lack of human and social capital. By a lack of “human capital” we mean they don’t have the skills to upgrade employment. By a lack of “social capital” we mean they don’t have the networks to find a better job. Thus they are trapped without means to improve their situation.
As Circle Allies, we have worked to improve the father’s resume. We have offered words of encouragement and support in times of frustration. We have offered expertise in business and home management, and we have found there is hope to break the poverty cycle if we are willing to invest time. This is a long-term commitment, a commitment that can move people out of poverty one family at a time. Our experience has not only benefited those we serve but it has enriched our family as well.
If you are looking for a meaningful experience that really makes a difference in low-income families, we recommend volunteering with Circles Utah Valley. You can find our more information at communityactionuc.org/circle-allies/.