As relative newcomers to this community, over and over we realize what a blessing it is to have landed here for our final, permanent home. Never have we had that feeling as much as experiencing the United Way gathering last Friday at First Baptist Banquet Hall, connecting providers of services toward a thorough, long-range process to break the cycle of poverty in Hall County. Former Gainesville schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer, now Scholastic Cooperation national staff person, did a superb job facilitating the process.
From our first days here, we have realized what a generous, caring church-centered community this is. But in our participation in the Wisdom Project our first fall here, we learned also of the real pockets of poverty in our new community. We discovered that even though there are over 550 nonprofit organizations here, there are gaps and duplications in services and the poverty rate remains high.
Formal and informal meetings, dialogues and discussions over several months, involving most segments of our community, resulted in United Way articulating a comprehensive statement of purpose “to understand poverty from the perspective of our most vulnerable citizens.” United Way is leading the way to bring together all segments of our community toward commitment to long range purpose to “create pathways out of poverty.”
Plans are envisioned to embed in all of us “Characteristics of the Community We Want To Be” which have been formulated. To set goals and make on-going plans for Hall County United against Poverty, United Way is organizing five inclusive teams representing all segments of the community. The five Arena teams — housing, hunger, health, education and economic development — will define meds and develop the ongoing strategies and coordination of services to meet the identified needs. Chairs of the five teams have been recruited. A steering committee will coordinate the communitywide plans.
We should be grateful, and let our gratitude be known, for the leadership of us all by new of United Way President Joy Griffin, her staff and board. We especially should be honored that Joshua Silavent, recognized by many as the person most knowledgeable and heartfelt about poverty in our community, has joined the United Way staff to manage the new Compass Center, which opened Wednesday morning. Compass Center will be one place where any vulnerable person, with any needs, may go. Identified needs will become parts of the ongoing goals and decisions of this United Way community structure.
We express our thanks to United Way and its leadership. But thanks said must be thanks lived, truly as One Hall United against Poverty.