Poverty Awareness Day April 11

By Jesse Campbell (jesse.campbell@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Apr. 3 | Modified: Apr. 12

To help combat Watauga County’s rising poverty rate, a variety of community minded organizations, children advocacy groups and clergymen are taking the lead on bringing this societal issue to light.

Spearheaded by The Children’s Council and Hospitality House, the High Country Poverty Awareness Day: State of the Child community conference will be held at 9 a.m. Friday, April 11, at Alliance Bible Fellowship Church, located at 1035 N.C. 105 Bypass in Boone. Breakfast and lunch will be provided for free.

The purpose of the conference is to discuss and collaborate with fellow community members on how poverty affects children in Watauga County, according to an official news release.

The forum will present parents, professionals and government officials an opportunity to network and gain knowledge about what resources are available in the community in assisting children and families with poverty-related issues.

According to local homeless awareness officials and U.S. Census data, Watauga County ranks third statewide for poverty and leads all mountain counties in this designation.

Single mothers particularly have fared worse, said Todd Carter, director of development for Hospitality House.

The forum will allow different agencies that are facing similar battles to come together for a common purpose.

“This is another way that nonprofits are partnering together to bring about positive chance in our communities … strength in numbers,” Carter said. “We can do more good, affect more people and change more hearts and minds (through the forum).”

The first workshop of the day focuses on poverty simulation.

“This is a life-changing exercise,” Carter said. “This sets a tone for the rest of the day. With the poverty simulation exercise, participants are given a certain amount of money and told where they fall on the socioeconomic scale.”

Participants might find themselves in the shoes of a single mother raising two kids or in a family of four.

Players in the workshop will then learn the difficulties of ascertaining different services, including food stamps and how to pay for gas and childcare.

“It really puts you in the position of being in poverty,” Carter said. “I’ve seen many, many minds and hearts open and change through this workshop. This gives you a true representation of living in poverty.”

The forum will continue in the afternoon with a “Bridges Out of Poverty” workshop.

“This tries to connect people to understanding poverty and understanding what to do to get out of poverty,” Carter said. “We will also look at barriers and things that people living in poverty are facing. They will learn how one situation can derail entire lives.”

Carter said the forum is open to everyone in the community.

“We really want to make this available to as many people as possible,” he said. “This is a great missions project for churches and anyone looking to get involved and make a change in their community.”

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