Long walk

From one of the Community Action Center videos addressing poverty in Northfield, this animated single mother of two walks across town with her laundry. (Photo from short film by Gisell Galderon, Vincent Dezutti, Sam Frederich and Shaylin Nguyen)

The Northfield Community Action Center will be holding its second Bridges Out of Poverty workshop, bringing together a variety of groups tackling the issue.

Next Thursday, CAC will hold a continuation to its 2015 poverty workshop, where strategies were discussed, and report back what has worked for the different groups battling poverty in their communities. Bridges Out of Poverty: Apply Bridges Concepts, also available in Spanish, will be hosted by consultant Jodi Pfarr.

CAC board member Kim Decker said the group hosted an initial one about eight or nine years ago, but absent of follow-up, decided to begin again in 2015. Attendees closely examined the systems and infrastructure of serving those in poverty, identifying gaps in service and how it has been received.

Decker pointed out that people in the roles addressing poverty − social workers, police, health care workers − may be coming from a different background than those in poverty. Whether the gaps in service was the fault of communication, different procedures and timelines, was for those attending to determine.

“The first workshop kind of exposed these things,” Decker said. “To continue the conversation is kind of applying these things.”

In addition to health care and social workers, child support services, faith community members, educators and law enforcement are also involved in the workshop. Decker said this provides an opportunity to have these different systems come together and perhaps exchange data or notes.

“We’ve planted some seeds, let’s double back,” Decker said.

This also is the chance for these institutions to report back how they have been addressing poverty using what they have learned, which seems to match the host’s style. Decker described the host Pfarr as a dynamic, captivating speaker, who promotes interaction and prods her audience for solutions under a “Yes, And …” mentality.

Pfarr could not be reached for comment.

While Decker is unsure of what other organizations might have to report, CAC has applied strategies through its Northfield Works program, which she describes as going much deeper than a standard job placement program. By providing job coaching, money management and computer training skills, child care or even help with car problems, CAC has helped roughly 120 retain the jobs in 2016.

“We’ve seen it impact a lot of lives,” Decker said.

Though Decker said though it means a smaller amount of people are served, the long-term difference makes big strides in helping people work out of poverty. She said the program started around the same time as the 2015 poverty workshop and is looking forward to hearing from the roughly 150 registered participants.

“We want the community to know that, together, poverty reduction is possible,” CAC Executive Director Jim Blaha said in a press release. “Our hope is that participants of the Bridges Out of Poverty workshop leave with a renewed sense of hope and ideas about how they can partner with the CAC to combat issues of poverty.”

The poverty workshop will be held Jan. 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Bethel Lutheran Church. Registration costs $75 and comes with lunch and program materials. For more information or to register, visit www.communityactioncenter.org/bridges.

Reach Reporter Ida Mojadad at 507-333-3135 or follow her on Twitter @APGidamojadad.

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