Member Spotlight – Steps To End Poverty McPherson County (STEPMC)
Were you aware that one in six Americans live below the poverty line? That’s hard to believe when you look around the community of McPherson, but it is a reality. There is a nonprofit organization in McPherson that is driven by a single goal that addresses this shocking fact. That group is Steps To End Poverty McPherson County (STEPMC), formerly known as Circles of McPherson County. Their goal is to walk alongside people until they are out of poverty.
You might wonder … how can that be accomplished? It happens by forming a community around those involved in the STEPMC program, by fostering connections and creating pathways of opportunity which will lead that person step-by-step to success.
When Beth Versaw, President of the STEPMC board, moved to McPherson four years ago from Colorado, she discovered this program that offices at the First United Methodist Church, 1200 E. Kansas. She took the ally training allowing her to be a volunteer to assist/support one of the individuals in the program chart their course out of poverty. As Versaw puts it, she found just “how much people need the support of their community to make that step out of poverty … It’s an amazing program, where peoples’ lives are changed.”
And change, they have. As a result, 32 families have graduated out of poverty into middle class, with 37 children being a part of that. That’s success. Versaw says that’s an impact of a couple million dollars on our community.
Why has this relationship-based model worked so amazingly well in McPherson? Available homes, employment opportunities, and lower cost of living are certainly factors. But along with that are the good solid relationships within the community with businesses, churches, and individuals who have come alongside STEPMC – opened up their hearts and their pockets and supported those going through this step-by-step journey to move themselves out of poverty.
Sometimes, the steps along the path are longer for some than others and look different. A “step” might mean cleaning up a resume, going back to school or getting a GED. It could mean cleaning up a job record or getting back on track and making goals.
STEPMC Director Chris Carlson said community volunteers are always needed and a new volunteer class will be starting in McPherson in August. The role of a volunteer is to help the individual to focus and be accountable, as well as be a social support and emotional connection for them. The time commitment is 1 ½-4 hours a month for a volunteer. One caring adult is what is needed in a person’s life – to help shoulder that burden to help them make those steps to get out of poverty. Carlson says, “STEPs is an opportunity to rebuild a community and to offer people that social support and emotional connection that they need to get out.”
Sherrie Rickerson is the Coach for McPherson STEPMC. She meets with those interested in being a part of STEPMC, being sure that they qualify for the program and advising them on what is expected of them.
If you are interested in being a volunteer, would like to support STEPMC’s goal of getting families out of poverty, or just want to know more, contact them at 620-241-9011 or visit their website. STEPMC Chamber Connections photos can be seen here.