An empty bowl means different things for different people. For some it’s a decoration, something to sit on a sideboard atop a doily as if waiting for fresh fruit —also a decoration for people of means. But for others —about a quarter of Troup County residents —it means something entirely different. It means a mouth that’s not being fed, a stomach that’s not being filled, and another day without food.
Hunger is just one of the difficulties people in the downward spiral of poverty face. Twenty-one percent of Troup County residents live below the federal poverty line of $25,100 a year for a family of four. That includes one in three children living in poverty. Circles of Troup County aims to change that.
Circles is a nationally recognized program that is set out to end poverty through community organizing, case management, goal setting, financial literacy, peer-to-peer counseling and learning, and youth development. The program is designed to help people in generational poverty to become self-sufficient.
Accepted participants into the program go through a 12-week class to teach financial literacy and set goals to get out of poverty.They are later matched up with an “ally” from the community who work with them to reach their goals and the groups continue to meet weekly, where volunteers provide a free meal and free childcare.
The weekly classes continue every Thursday with more education and planning as the participants move toward self-sufficiency and graduating from the program.
Thursday afternoon and evening, Circles of Troup County held their annual “Empty Bowls” fundraiser at Del’Avant in LaGrange. Attendees to the event were given a handmade ceramic bowl that they can take home, along with a portion of soup.
The bowls were made by hand by LaGrange College students, who m olded, decorated, glazed, and fired the one-of-a-kind items from start to finish, said Austin Wieland, professor of ceramics at La- Grange College. Wieland and his students made 300 bowls for the event.
Circles of Troup County Director Sherri Brown acknowledges that bowls are sort of a prize for attending the fundraiser event, which has become so popular that they now do a lunch and dinner service.
The unique bowls get some people to attend the event, but they also serve as a reminder at home that there are others where an empty bowls every day.
All proceeds from the event will to benefit Circles of Troup County and the services they provide.
To put it simply, Circles works.
“We see it every single week and every single month as people move forward, step by step, a little bit at a time, and make changes in their life,” said Brown.
“Poverty isn’t good. It’s not good for any of us. It’s not good for education. It’s not good for employers. It’s not good for housing.
It’s not good for individuals and it’s certainly not good for children.”
Participants in the program come in wanting to make a change, they just need some help along the way, which Circles and their volunteers provide.
About 39 percent of participants are out of poverty within 6 months. An astonishing 78 percent are out in 8 months. Circles participants have gone on to graduate college, finish nursing school, and even purchase their own house.
Circles of Troup County does what they do through volunteers and financial support from the community.
If you would like to volunteer or help support Circles, please visit their website at www.circlesoftroup. org or contact Sherri Brown at email@example.com or 706- 402- 6423.
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