Circles of the High Country

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



Article Published: Sep. 12, 2013 | Modified: Sep. 12, 2013

A new poverty elimination initiative and self-help program at the Hospitality House of Boone is working to end the cycle of dire economic conditions in the High Country.

Circles of the High Country is part of a larger national initiative that engages participants in a 16-week program that gives them the tools and resources to help them pull themselves out of poverty, said Chatty Majoni, Growing Places coordinator at Hospitality House.

“We want to change perceptions at the community level, reduce barriers encountered by people trying to move out of poverty and create new policy at the local, state and national levels that demonstrably enhances opportunities for citizens to become self-sufficient,” Majoni said. “Finally, and significantly, we want to create new relationships across racial and economic boundaries.”

At the conclusion of each class, participants are paired up with two or three mentors to help them build what Majoni calls “social capital.”

By doing so, participants can learn tips and pointers for polishing their résumés, how to land interviews and make new professional connections.

The first class is scheduled to graduate next week, and plans are already under way for enrollment in a second class, Majoni said.

“We hope to match them with mentors by early October,” Majoni said. “We hope to do four classes a year.”

She said there have already been “numerous success stories” that have emerged from the inaugural class.

“We’ve seen five (members) get employment; others have gotten out of debt and even opened bank accounts,” Majoni said. “It has been really eye opening to see how far they’ve come in the first 16 weeks, and they haven’t even got their mentors yet.”

The demographics of the first class have covered a “wide range” of the spectrum, Majoni said.

The participants range from 19 to 50 years of age. Some are single mothers. Others are recovering addicts. Approximately half of the membership comes from Hospitality House’s transitional program or live, at least, 200 percent of the poverty line.

“This is an incredibly diverse group of individuals working toward the common goal of getting out of poverty,” Majoni said.

In the future, Hospitality House hopes to expand the program to Avery and Ashe counties.

“We will work with agencies and local churches to get referrals, find meeting places and start from scratch,” Majoni said.

To learn more about Circles or how to get involved, call Majoni at (828) 264-1237 or check out one of several scheduled info sessions listed below.

• Monday, Sept. 16, 8 a.m. at Local Lion
• Tuesday, Sept. 17, 7 p.m. at Bald Guy Brew, King Street
• Wednesday, Sept. 18, 5 p.m. at Stick Boy Kitchen
• Thursday, Sept. 19, noon at Farm Café
• Friday, Sept. 20, 5:30 p.m. at Low Bar
• Saturday, Sept. 21, 4 p.m. at Sweet Frog

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