DEVELOPING AND SUSTAINING PATHWAYS OUT OF POVERTY
Marion Matters has been touching hearts and changing lives in the Marion community since 2009. This program is based on the nationally known and recognized Bridges Out of Poverty program.
“Bridges is the concept of people being raised in different cultures of poverty, middle class, or wealth,” explained Heidi Jones, executive director of Marion Matters. “Each culture is unique in its language and life. Understanding the differences between poverty, middle class, and wealth can help break barriers from one class to another.”
According to Jones, “Marion Matters is comprised of individuals and businesses that care about Marion County and believe that people can improve their lives and financial position with education and support from others. Marion Matters is not a program. It is not a project. It is a community movement.”
Marion Matters offers classes designed to break the cycles of situational and generational poverty through education and skillset development. This effort is valuable to the Marion community because nearly one in four residents receives federal food assistance and Medicaid, two of the most useful indicators of poverty—both of which are significantly higher in Marion than the state average.
“Marion Matters mobilizes caring community members working to create pathways out of poverty through community collaboration, education, and support,” said Jones. “We help individuals recognize and reach their potential. We provide the tools to turn lives in poverty around.”
The series of classes offered by Marion Matters includes “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’ By World,” “Transitions,” and “Financial Literacy,” as well as a youth curriculum called “The R-Rules.” Each class is structured to teach valuable skills to help manage life in a complex environment. Students of the program learn communication skills, setting goals, and financial stability.
Employer Resource Network (ERN) is the newest addition to Marion Matters. This program provides a confidential success coach on the job site to help improve employee retention and productivity.
“As we live out our mission to provide leadership in developing and sustaining pathways out of poverty through education and support, we continue to increase our referral pool and partnerships with like-minded agencies and organizations in Marion,” explained Jones. “With the launch of our Marion Area Employer Resource Network, we are helping at-risk employees maintain their jobs–while saving our business members money by increasing retention and productivity.”
This past year, nearly 90 percent of participants completed all three classes in the series Marion Matters offers. According to Jones, 24 percent of their 2016/2017 graduates gained employment as a direct result of skills learned in Getting Ahead, and an additional 18 percent enrolled in college.
“One participant obtained his first job at a local manufacturing business, and has since gotten a promotion,” said Jones. “Another participant started and completed a nursing assistant program and obtained a position at a local nursing home. All of these things impact and benefit the community. As residents of Marion continue their education, they become increasingly valuable to the workforce.
Once these students graduate from the two month, twice weekly, classes, they are matched with community mentors or “allies” to help them find their way through middle class systems. These students then become teachers and allies for others.”
Additional information on Marion Matters and its classes is available by calling 740-223-2999. Their offices are located at 790 Kenton Avenue.