In October of 2016, the Delaware County based program TEAMwork for Quality Living merged with the Second Harvest Food Bank. As Second Harvest’s mission to provide Help for Today and Hope for Tomorrow, it was a natural fit to join forces in assisting families by providing food resources but also by providing a resource for families to become self-sufficient. The main organizational focus of TEAMwork has been the Poverty Alleviation program based in Muncie, which has been operating since 2005.

Our Poverty Alleviation program, is a relationship based community poverty initiative, not affiliated with the national work, in which social service agencies, businesses, and Delaware County community members come together to support individuals in poverty access their fullest potential. The Poverty Alleviation program is designed to engage local community members in efforts to increase the economic stability and vitality of struggling households. Each matched group is comprised of two to four community volunteers, “accountability partners” and one family or person, “Captains” with a goal to leave poverty.

Accountability Partners are community volunteers living in middle income or wealth who want to be intentional friends and accountability partners to someone enrolled in the initiative. Accountability Partners work alongside participating family members, “captains” to focus on reaching family-prioritized goals of:

  1. Increasing income,
  2. Acquiring needed education or training, and
  3. Enhancing personal social capital.
Dorica Watson, Community Engagement Manager

A successful Poverty Alleviation program can help to generate creative solutions to family dilemmas not always addressed through social service programs.

This community engagement strategy designed to reduce and end poverty by building both individual and community assets. While traditional “safety net” social service programs are critical to help provide for families’ most basic needs, these programs usually do not engage the broader community in developing relationships with households who have a focused goal to get out of poverty.

A unique aspect of the local work is that two dynamic actions occur simultaneously:

  1. Low-income people receive personalized support from community volunteers, increase their ability to access community resources and opportunities, and develop hope for their futures; while
  2. Community volunteers (Accountability Partners) learn what it takes for people to leave poverty permanently.

Volunteer Accountability Partners are trained and learn to identify and address the policies and systems that need to change in order to make “leaving poverty” possible. This successful model provides a framework for a local community to build relationships across class and race lines and enables neighbors to work together to advocate for positive change in their communities.

The guiding principles of the program are:

We are committed to and understand that building relationships will serve as a driving force for our efforts, shaping our goals, and methods of alleviating poverty.
We are committed to educating ourselves and others on the various facets of poverty beyond material deprivation, in order to create lasting collective mindset change.
We believe building intentional and authentic relationships across economic communities has the potential to inspire and unleash gifts and human assets that can transform neighborhoods and communities.
 We are committed to engaging families in poverty as persons with unique gifts, leadership qualities, and perspectives that can greatly contribute to communities as they drive for solutions to alleviating poverty.
 We are committed to the process of inspiring, inviting, and re-engaging middle/upper-income individuals to help solve the toughest issues facing poverty in America.
 We value the leadership of low-income individuals are committed to providing a forum for them to offer lasting solutions to alleviating poverty.
 We are committed to the long haul in order to realize lasting transformation.

The Poverty Alleviation program helps to support and build relationships with people who want to be financially independent. Our team journeys with them to the finish line, helping them build resources and give back to our organizational community and the community at large.

For more information about the Poverty Alleviation program, please contact Dorica Watson at dwatson@curehunger.org