West Central Blogger

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

West central Minnesota is rooting out poverty

More than 300 people managed to shovel out of the preceding day's snowstorm to attend "Rooting Out Poverty--Rural Family Economic Success," April 7 at the Bigwood Event Center in Fergus Falls. It was the 4th annual Community Action Partnership and partners all-staff training event.

Gregory Gray, executive director of the Minnesota Legislative Commission to End Poverty by 2020, started the day by sharing the commission's progress. Ending poverty requires a consistent and persistent approach, and the participation of people of faith, nonprofit agencies, government and businesses, he told the audience.

"The people in this room are going to help end poverty. You're the real genius of community action," said former St. Paul mayor Jim Schiebel. He recently served as executive director of the Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington Counties. Schiebel talked about Community Action's "Rooting Out Poverty" campaign, and highlighted five action themes:
  • Maximize participation.
  • Build an economy that works for everyone.
  • Invest for the future.
  • Maximize equality of opportunity.
  • Ensure healthy people and places.

A panel shared success stories, and Minnesota CAP Executive Director Arnie Anderson encouraged the audience to take an active part in politics through voting, letter writing, volunteering and contributions, in order to further the cause of rooting out poverty.

Keynote presenter John Molinaro, associate director of the Aspen Institute's Community Strategies Group in Washington, D.C., introduced participants to RuFES: Rural Family Economic Success. Actually, many of those attending knew RuFES well--west central Minnesota has been using the RuFES principles of Earn It, Keep It, Grow It. Most families in rural America are working, but struggle to get ahead, Molinaro said. Obstacles include low wages, the need for multiple jobs and dealing with special obstacles like limited opportunities and support that is hard to find. Molinaro led the participants through exercises to help the group and individuals determine what they could do to help rural families thrive and succeed.

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