Circles Initiative

Circles has urgent need for Volunteer Community Allies

Linda Patton, Jayme Mathis, Stephanie and Markus Dickinson of the Circles Initiative
Linda Patton, Jayme Mathis, Stephanie and Markus Dickinson of the Circles Initiative

The Monroe County Circles Initiative will hold an informational Dessert Night tonight,  Tuesday, Oct. 13, at 7, as part of its effort to fill an urgent need for at least five additional Volunteer Community Allies.

Circles is a strategy to help low-income families build resources and transition out of poverty, to change systems and policies that perpetuate poverty and to build community across race and class lines.

The Volunteer Community Allies are needed to befriend and support families as they work toward their goals. Three to four Allies are matched with each low-income family. Thorough training and ongoing staff support are provided. Background checks and an 18-month commitment of 4+ hours monthly are required. Allies must be available one to two Thursday evenings monthly.

This is a unique and very personal opportunity to get involved. Currently, Circles has 16 Volunteer Community Allies. Markus and Stephanie Dickinson, for instance, have been Volunteer Community Allies since April 2009.

“My wife and I joined the Circles program with the idea that poverty was bad, and we had no idea what to do about it,” Markus Dickinson said. “It’s a shame, we thought, that we really don’t know anyone 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.”

The Dessert Night will be held at the South Central Community Action Program office at 1500 W. 15th Street. For more information or to RSVP, contact Circles Volunteer Coordinator Thomas Kenning at 339-3447, ext. 263, or


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