Training meeting for Allies of Stafford County take place in St. John on Feb. 17. More male volunteers are needed to help others move from poverty to prosperity.

Allies are needed to help Circles of St. John participants get to the front porch of middle class life and leave behind the stigmas and troubles of living in poverty.
"Our goal is to get 200 percent above the poverty line and it is just amazing to see how this program works," said Sheryl White, Circles Coordinator. "An Ally is simply a friend who offers encouragement, listens, supports and gives kindly advise to those willing to try to improve their lives."
According to White, the Circles program started in Stafford County last year at the request of state representatives Mary Jo Taylor and Greg Lewis.
"They have been great leaders for us and continue to support our efforts here, along with a ton of volunteers who help prepare meals, coach leaders and lend their expertise in a variety of ways," White said.
The Circles program is an 18-month investment of time during which stable, middle-class community members help others step out of the cycle of generational poverty.
"It takes two to five years to break habits that keep individuals and families in poverty," White said. "That is why we have an 18-month program in place. Anyone can be an Ally. It's just beautiful how much we all learn from each other once we understand our circumstances."
Once Circle Leaders are paired with their Ally friends, they meet every month to study a curriculum called "Getting Ahead in a Just Get By World. Rebecca Lewis-Pankratz, a former Circle Leader, now leads training sessions using material from "Bridges Out of Poverty."
There are currently 10 members of the St. John Circles group who will graduate from their first year in the program on March 5. A new Circle and cycle will start with a training session on Saturday, February 17 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in St. John. Volunteers may sign up with Sheryl White by calling her at 620-672-1596 by February 15. There is a need for more men volunteers at this time.
"Where ever you are, if you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, then this program is for you," White said. "Poverty is often a generational thing and once the bands are broken, it is a wonderful thing for these families to begin to thrive."
The Circles program is supported and funded by ESSDACK and Youth Core Ministries, as well as other local groups.