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Poverty workshop looks to fill gaps in outreach services
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Filling the Poverty Gap

When: 8-11 a.m. Friday

Where: First Baptist Church, banquet hall, 751 Green St. NW, Gainesville

Organizers are expecting a large gathering for a workshop Friday that will look at what services are available and which ones are lacking to address poverty in the community.

The program sponsored by the United Way of Hall County is bringing together public and private agencies to help identify gaps and duplications in services provided to individuals and families struggling with educational, medical, hunger, financial or housing hardships.

United Way President and CEO Joy Griffin said she’s expecting some 100 representatives from groups and organizations on the front lines of the battle to help society’s most vulnerable at the workshop set to begin at 8 a.m. at First Baptist Church on Green Street in Gainesville.

“There could be many programs out there that many of us in the community are unaware of,” Griffin told The Times on Tuesday. “We know there are people out there doing wonderful work, and we want to connect with them.”

Merrianne Dyer, a consultant with Scholastic Corp. and a former Gainesville City Schools superintendent, will co-facilitate the meeting. Dyer will lead the program along with Karen Tatum of Tuskegee, Ala., also of Scholastic Corp.

Dyer and Tatum have coordinated similar programs in Alabama, South Carolina, Minnesota, California, Louisiana and recently in Colorado. The two work with school districts and community agencies on aligning resources and supports.

“The workshop is to identify the services now provided by multiple sources to families who live in poverty, the duplications or redundancies, and the gaps and need for additional supports,” Dyer said.

During the workshop Dyer and Tatum will have participants map the resources in Gainesville and Hall County in the five arenas identified by the One Hall Poverty Team — health and wellness, education, housing, hunger and economic stability.

Following the mapping, the group will examine the results and identify its perception of needs, Dyer said.

“Following the workshop, we plan to have focus groups to gather the same information from those that receive the services,” Dyer said.

Griffin said information collected Friday will help the local United Way with its initiatives, including the organization’s “Compass Center” program that launches March 1.

Part of the role of the Compass Center, which is headed by Joshua Silavent, will be to recruit residents who can benefit from local resources and services, Griffin said.

About 32,000 residents live below the federal poverty line Hall County, Griffin said. The poverty line established by the federal government in 2016 for an individual is $11,880 and $24,300 for a family of four.

“If we do identify a gap, we will try to fill that gap by collaborating more to fund a program that is overwhelmed,” Griffin said. “There are some problems that funding alone is not the answer. It requires advocacy and volunteers.”