Support Circles at FARM dinner

April 5, 2013

What’s an easy and fun way to support people in Bloomington working to get out of poverty? Join us on Tuesday, April 23 at FARM for a 3-course dinner. $19.95 per person with $9.95 of that donated to the Circles Initiative. Yes, it’s true that you will have to devour some delicious meatloaf or pasta, mashed potatoes, greens or market veggies and some cobbler for dessert, but just remember that it’s all for a great cause!

Get all of the details by clicking here: Farm dinner flyer

Circles Initiative featured in statewide newsletter

January 14, 2010

Note: For people interested in applying for the Circles Coordinator position, we are republishing the following story that provides information about the Circles Initiative. You can check out other stories about Circles by entering “Circles” in the search box at the top right corner of this blog.

Check out the article about the Circles Initiative and its second class of Getting Ahead graduates, written by SCCAP’s Bonnie Vesely, in this month’s newly released Indiana Community Action Newsletter (click here).   Good job, Bonnie and congratulations to the graduates!

Fed takes aim at overdraft policies.

November 13, 2009

I’d like to bring to your attention a story in the Washington Post about the federal government taking action to limit bank overdraft fees. In a recent community assessment presented by Circles Leaders in the Monroe County Circles Initiative, the overuse of these fees was identified as a significant problem affecting low-income households.

The Obama administration is currently taking action to limit overdraft fees related to ATM withdrawals and debit card transactions, which account for about half of overdraft transactions according to the story. You can read the whole story by clicking here.

In addition, members of Congress are considering taking further action to restrict overdraft fees, as explained in the final section of the story (provided below). We will keep you posted on Inside SCCAP about the progress of this legislation. 

Congress may weigh in

Two bills — from Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) — would more aggressively curtail overdraft fees. Both limit overdraft charges at one per month and six per year and require fees to be proportional to the amount of the overdraft. They also prevent banks from debiting the most expensive purchases from accounts first, which could increase the number of overdrawn transactions. Maloney’s bill covers checks in the opt-in requirement, but Dodd’s does not.

Both lawmakers praised the Fed’s action on Thursday but said they plan to move forward with their bills. A hearing for Dodd’s legislation is scheduled for Tuesday.

“This is a long-overdue announcement for American consumers,” Dodd said in a statement. But, he added, “we need to do far more to protect customers from abusive bank products.

Some banks have already begun making changes to their overdraft programs. J.P. Morgan announced last month that it would begin requiring customers to opt-in to overdraft protection in the first quarter of next year. It also said it would not charge a fee if the account is in the red by less than $5. Bank of America said it would allow customers to opt out of its program and restrict fees to overdrafts of more than $10.

SCCAP staff getting ready to help other communities start their own Circles Initiative

November 2, 2009

Friendship bread starter

Okay, it may not look delicious yet, but give it 10 days and it will be.  

The South Central Community Action Program’s Todd Lare, Linda Patton and Bonnie Vesely made the bread starter for Amish friendship bread last week. They’re making the bread –  it takes 10 days to prepare – to get ready for a conference they’ll be attending next week.

At that conference on Nov. 9-12 in Phoenix, they’ll be participating in a “train the trainer” process to help them get ready to be part of an upcoming Circles training center in Indiana. That center will help c0mmunities in Indiana who want to join the national Circles Campaign and start their own local Circles initiative.    Read the rest of this entry »

Updates from the SCCAP Central Staff meeting

October 21, 2009

In an effort to keep people who are interested in the South Central Community Action Program updated on the agency’s latest news, we’ve started providing some notes from the Central Staff meeting that’s held every other Tuesday. Here are this week’s updates:

  • Indiana is the only state in the country that hasn’t yet had its plan for use of additional Community Services Block Grant funds from the Recovery Act approved by the federal government. It appears that once the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approves the plan from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, SCCAP will receive about $647,000 in additional CSBG funds to serve people in poverty.
  • SCCAP’s offices in Bloomington, Martinsville, Nashville and Spencer have been extremely busy with people seeking energy assistance and with people who have moved to the top of our Section 8 wait list and are in the process of being approved to receive their vouchers for housing subsidies. The staff members working in those programs are doing their best to help people as quickly as they can, but applicants are still having to wait in line for service because so many people are needing help. SCCAP has served 1,208 people through its Energy Assistance Program since its winter program began on Oct. 1. Energy Assistance Program Coordinator Mary Zimmerman described it as a very busy, very stressful time for those working in the EAP program. Read the rest of this entry »

Town Hall Meeting on Affordable Housing and Emergency Shelter

October 21, 2009

The City of Bloomington Community and Family Resources Commission had a good turnout last night for its Town Hall Meeting on Affordable Housing and Emergency Shelter, filling most of the seats in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

The purpose of the meeting was to take input from the public on Affordable Housing and Emergency Shelter needs. Quite a few people, including SCCAP Executive Director Todd Lare, stood up to make statements to the Commission in what is expected to be a first step toward developing policies to be recommended to City Council. Besides having several SCCAP staff members at the meeting, there were also volunteers from the Circles Initiative who attended.  

Tuesday morning, before the meeting, Commission member Jason Carnes went on WGCL 1370 AM’s Glass in the Morning show to help encourage citizens to come to the meeting and share their experiences. You can listen to that interview here.

Circles has urgent need for Volunteer Community Allies

October 13, 2009

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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