By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Circles graduation celebrates success
Allies wanted for anti-poverty initiative
Quenla McGilber, right, speaks at the second Circles of Central Kansas graduation, Thursday at Great Bend’s First United Methodist Church. Fifteen Circles leaders graduated from the 20-week program; those pictured also spoke about the experience. - photo by Susan Thacker

The second Circles of Central Kansas graduation ceremony, held Thursday at Great Bend’s First United Methodist Church (FUMC), honored 15 men and women who completed the 20-week Getting Ahead class offered by this nonprofit organization.

Circles is described as a community initiative to assist individuals and families with limited resources to better their circumstances.

“We want to see a community where everyone has enough,” said Quenla McGilber, a member of the local Circles steering committee. Local individuals formed the Circles of Central Kansas Chapter with sponsorship from Youth Core Ministries in Greensburg. It follows the example of Circles/USA.

“Poverty has a lot more to do with than just finances,” McGilber told the graduation audience. “There are a lot of smart folks that just need some help.”

The graduates, known as Circles leaders, bring a lot of know-how, resourcefulness, self-reliance and generosity to the table, McGilber said. “If there is a zombie apocalypse, these are the people I want in my corner.”

Sue Bishop, a facilitator to the Getting Ahead class, has supported Circles since it came to Barton County.

“Circles works to empower people who are experiencing poverty to change their own lives. It’s not about doing it for them; it’s about doing it with them,” Bishop said. “The (Getting Ahead) material required a lot of looking into yourself.”

Graduate Oscar Usoro told the audience that he joined the class because, “I wanted a better life for my sons and myself.” He found useful information as the class looked as 11 resources for getting ahead, such as developing social capital.

“This class has helped me to navigate my life a little better,” said graduate Amy Grove. “I started to find out the many ways I could help myself.” Resources include “building supports and having a positive attitude.”

Shiloh Cruz said she decided to take the class after seeing positive changes in her roommates, who were in the first graduating class. Now she has seen the lesson work in her own life.

“I communicate better as a parent with my children,” she said. She has gone from working two part-time jobs to one job and she is going back to school.

The program isn’t just for those who attend the class, Cruz told community members in the audience. “We would love to have you as allies.”

McGilber said now that Circle leaders have graduated they will be matched with Circle allies. The allies aren’t there to help them financially, but to offer encouragement.

“Every Thursday night in October is dinner and mixers to FUMC for those interested in becoming allies,” McGilber said. “This is a time for interacting with Circle leaders and learning about the Circles process.”

Meetings for leaders, allies and their families start with a family-style meal at 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays at the church. Child care is provided.

Those interested in becoming allies also receive training. They are asked to take a one-day Bridges Out of Poverty class which will be on Oct. 20. On Nov. 1 Circle leaders will be matched with allies who are asked to commit to meeting with the matched Circle leaders one Thursday a month.

Community members can also get involved in other ways. Funds are needed for course materials and other expenses. Volunteers are needed to provide the family-style meals and childcare.

For more information contact Cory Webster, 303-579-6886, or Becky Gillette, 620-617-8039.

If there is a zombie apocalypse, these are the people I want in my corner.
Quenla McGilber
Deborah Factor from Youth Core Ministries, right, introduces Jamie Baldwin, left, a graduate of Great Bend’s first Circles class in January. Baldwin was recently hired to work for the program. Starting Monday, Oct. 1, she will be part of the Circles Team of Great Bend. - photo by Susan Thacker