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Social capital as valuable as cash for those in poverty
Circles program continues with matches
In this file photo from the second Circles of Central Kansas graduation on Sept. 27, Deborah Factor from Youth Core Ministries, right, introduces Jamie Baldwin, left, a graduate of the first Circles class in January. Baldwin now works for the program as part of the Circles Team of Great Bend.

Now that Circles of Central Kansas has its second round of graduates, known as Circle Leaders, they will be matched with Circles Allies — community members who will walk beside them in their journey out of poverty.

Circles of Central Kansas is a joint program of Youth Core Ministries and ESSDACK (in contract with Circles/USA) that works to move people out of poverty. It does that by working strategically with families and individuals in a two- to five-year process.

It takes more than just money for someone to move out of generational poverty, according to Deborah Factor, CEO of Youth Core Ministries. Social capital is as valuable as cash. 

Social capital is the network of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society.

“One of the things we do in our program is to pair someone from poverty with those in the middle class, who we call Allies,” Factor said. An Ally isn’t there to provide the Circles participant with finances, but to offer the kind of social support needed to navigate the middle-class world.

“There are significant technical barriers to overcoming poverty,” said Rebecca Lewis-Pankratz, director of Student Services and Poverty/Trauma-Informed consultant of ESSDACK. “They are a lack of education, mental health services, transportation, affordable housing and a host of others. However, experience teaches, if we build up the person and the family, they begin to tackle these challenges for themselves.”

Social capital, connecting across socio-economic classes, is one of the key elements of this program’s success, sponsors said.

Jamie Baldwin was in the first group of leaders who completed phase one of Circles, a 20-week course based on the book, “Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World.” Since graduating in January she has gone on to be a Circles coach as well as a leader.

This week the second class, which graduated in September, will be matched with allies who have been recruited in the community. Over the past few weeks since the graduation, allies and leaders have attended mixers and gotten to know each other in group activities.

“Match night is really special,” said Baldwin, who went through the process earlier this year. “Once you’re matched with an ally, your intentional friendship begins.” Circle leaders will continue to meet weekly, choosing how their training will continue. They may choose to learn more about budgeting or Trauma-Informed Care of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), for example. “It’s up to the leaders what they want to work on,” Baldwin said.

Meanwhile, they will meet at least once a month with their community allies. These partnerships provide someone that can help participants work toward their goal by holding them accountable and being a friend. In other words, they become part of the of the social capital that is so important, Baldwin said. 

Growing Circles

For more information about Circles of Central Kansas, contact Cory Webster, 303-579-6886, or Becky Gillette, 620-617-8039. The group also has a fundraiser planned for Dec. 2, when it will sponsor a luncheon pig roast at Heartland Community Church.

Since the success of Circles of Central Kansas, the program has expanded to Larned, where a new class is scheduled to start next week. A steering committee in Hoisington hopes to have a Circles group there in 2019.

About Youth Core Ministries

Since 1996, Youth Core Ministries (, formerly Youth for Christ, has worked to impact rural Kansas by deep relationships and unconditional love through youth ministries, mentoring and family and community-based programming.   


ESSDACK ( provides leadership, innovation, services, products and solutions to educators in Kansas, across the country, and around the world with a focus on preparing learners for their future.