I N S P I R A T I O N
F O R
THE COMMON GOOD
VOLUME 6 - ISSUE 2 - SUMMER 2014
SPECIAL EDITION CHILDHOOD POVERTY IN KANSAS
winning the fight S I X L E A D E R S H I P S T E P S W E C A N A L L TA K E T O T U R N T H E T I D E
The Journal (Print edition: ISSN 2328-4366; Online edition: ISSN 2328-4374) is published quarterly by the Kansas Leadership Center, which receives core funding from the Kansas Health Foundation. The Kansas Leadership Center equips people with the ability to make lasting change for the common good. KLC focuses on leadership being an activity, not a role or position. Open to anyone seeking to move the needle on tough challenges in the civic arena, KLC envisions more Kansans sharing responsibility for acting together in pursuit of the common good. KLC MISSION To foster civic leadership for healthier Kansas communities KLC VISION To be the center of excellence for civic leadership development KANSAS LEADERSHIP CENTER BOARD OF DIRECTORS David Lindstrom, Overland Park (Chair) Ed O’Malley, Wichita (President & CEO)
Karen Humphreys, Wichita Susan Kang, Lawrence Carolyn Kennett, Parsons Greg Musil, Overland Park Reggie Robinson, Topeka Consuelo Sandoval, Garden City Clayton Tatro, Fort Scott Frank York, Ashland WEB EDITION
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Abstracting is permitted with credit to the source. For other reprint, copying or reproduction permission contact Mike Matson at firstname.lastname@example.org. KANSAS LEADERSHIP CENTER
325 East Douglas Avenue Wichita, KS 67202 316.712.4950 www.kansasleadershipcenter.org PHOTOGRAPHY
Jeff Tuttle Photography 316.706.8529 jefftuttlephotography.com ARTWORK
Cally Krallman www.callykrallman.com MANAGING EDITOR
Chris Green 316.712.4945 email@example.com GRAPHIC DESIGN
Novella Brandhouse 816.868.9825 www.novellabrandhouse.com ©2014 Kansas Leadership Center
“If all of us acted in unison as I act individually there would be no wars and no poverty. I have made myself personally responsible for the fate of every human being who has come my way.” – diarist Anais Nin
I N S P I R AT I O N
F O R
T H E
C O M M O N
G O O D
contents Welcome to the Journal By President & CEO Ed O’Malley . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Dispatches from the Kansas Leadership Center . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Special Edition Introduction: Childhood Poverty in Kansas By Chris Green . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 STEP 1: UNDERSTAND THE ISSUE What Every Kansan Needs to Know About Childhood Poverty By Dawn Bormann Novascone . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 STEP 2: BUILD RELATIONSHIPS AND IMMERSE YOURSELF Leader of the Circle By Sarah Caldwell Hancock . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Sharing the Pain by Brian Whepley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 STEP 3: EXPLORE CHALLENGING PERSPECTIVES Launching a Conservative Crusade Against Poverty By Chris Green . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 STEP 4: THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN DO A Case Study: Charlie Schwarz and His Church’s Work in Planeview By Laura Roddy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 STEP 5: TAKE ACTION AND LEARN Giving Hope By Sarah Caldwell Hancock . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 League 42 Photo essay by Jeff Tuttle . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 STEP 6: INNOVATE AND BROADEN YOUR EFFORTS Setting the Table: College Students Changing the Conversation on Hunger by Joe Stumpe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66 Featured Artist: A Graceful Passage By Cally Krallman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 Poem: Celebrate This Kansas By Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78 The Back Page By Mark E. McCormick
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
MAKInG tHe JoURneY, sIDe BY sIDe LEADERSHIP REQUIRES WALKING WITH OTHERS, NOT FOR THEM
I was running for. Doing so helped me make it to the finish. I felt good about my effort. I was proud to help a cause. I was running for them, not with them, which brings me back to Bob, my great uncle.
“Bob, why are you walking?” they asked. Bob answered, “I just want them to know we are walking with them.” “You mean you are walking for them. Walking to raise money or something for these poor people?” they replied.
In the 1980s, Bob, my grandmother Nadine and another great-uncle, Bud, started a wonderful effort to help the poorest of the world’s poor. Called Unbound and located in a warehouse in Kansas City, Kansas, the effort now delivers more than $100 million annually to help the poor around the world. Bob passed away recently but his spirit of walking with not for is imbedded in the organization.
“No, I walk with them, not for them,” Bob answered as he described his 1994 walk from Kansas City to Guatemala and his 2011 walk from Guatemala to Chile. Walk with versus walk for. There is a leadership lesson there.
How? Consider this. Unbound learned the mothers in the local villages in which they work actually know best how to help struggling villagers. Rather than Unbound staffers with fancy titles and Twitter accounts deciding how to spend the resources, mothers were empowered. The Unbound staff and volunteers were there, not to lead the meetings or make
As newlyweds, my wife and I started running marathons for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. You know the drill. We trained hard, raised money and ran for a cure. There was always a moment during each marathon – usually around mile 22 or 23 – when my body hurt so bad that I would think of the patients
the final decisions, not to do the work for the mothers. They were there to be with the mothers – as friends and partners.
There are no easy solutions to adaptive challenges. There is no walking for in adaptive work.
Leadership requires walking with. This issue of The Journal focuses on poverty. All the numbers are going in the wrong direction. Kansas is a more impoverished state today than it was last month or last year. One interpretation could be that too many of us are trying to walk for the poor. We make financial contributions to worthy charities, we say some prayers for the poor, we pass laws for the poor, etc. We pat ourselves on the back for what we did for others.
Thinking that we are leading for others is a slippery slope to our efforts getting nowhere. Exercising leadership on adaptive work is about creating the conditions for the people themselves to do the work. In adaptive work, the people you are trying to lead or help – whether they are the poor, the rich, your staff or your neighbors – will respond best to you being with them, not doing for them. Learning the difference is key. Onward!
I need to emulate Uncle Bob. I’m not walking across continents, but am trying to walk with our brothers and sisters in poverty. You’ll read about the Circles effort in this issue. My involvement with the Wichita Circles effort is one of my attempts at walking with.
Ed O’Malley President & CEO Kansas Leadership Center
Leadership on tough – adaptive – challenges is about walking with.
DIsPAtcHes FROM THE KANSAS LEADERSHIP CENTER
Government, brings lessons to life by having the class of participants learn about exercising leadership through their own interactions. To learn more, visit http://kansasleadershipcenter.org/traintheteacher or contact Racquel Thiesen at 316-772-1102 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
IN SEARCH OF THE BEST LABEL
If you’ve completed a Kansas Leadership Center program, we currently refer to you as being one of our “alumni.” But it’s possible that there may be an even better label. KLC wants to engage with all of our current and former participants for continued learning, experimenting and sharing as we make more progress for the common good. What word do you think best describes your ongoing relationship with KLC?
BOOK GARNERING HONORS
“For the Common Good: Redefining Civic Leadership,” a book written by two of KLC’s founders about a more purposeful, engaging and provocative approach to leadership, has been receiving international recognition.
Share your thoughts with Lynda Wilkinson, KLC’s director of alumni engagement, email@example.com, and read her blog on the topic at http://kansasleadershipcenter.org/blog/2014/06/19/what’s-in-a-word-wehope-it’s-an-on-going-relationship
The 180-page book written by Senior Fellow David D. Chrislip and KLC President and CEO Ed O’Malley recently won a 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Award in the category of current events/social change. It was also named a finalist for the Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award in social science and is in contention for the “Outstanding Leadership Book of the Year” award being given by the University of San Diego’s Department of Leadership Studies.
IMPROVING TEACHING SKILLS
Two workshops scheduled for this fall at KLC will allow leadership instructors and trainers to hone their skills at using experiential methods to teach leadership.
The book is designed to be a useful resource for people wanting to improve civic culture and make progress on the issues they care about. It can be purchased online at Amazon.com.
A two-day Train the Teacher course in Case Teaching will be offered Sept. 25-26. Participants will develop their skills in facilitating the case study method of learning using materials developed by the Kansas Leadership Center.
PASTORING THE PASTORS
Faith leaders devote themselves to caring for their flock, often to the exclusion of their own well-being. By spending so much time on urgent issues there is little chance to reflect on important matters.
Facilitators interested in developing their capacity to teach using the Case-in-Point method can attend a Train the Teacher workshop on Oct. 29-30. Participants should have some previous experience with the method. Case-in-Point, which was pioneered at Harvard’s Kennedy School of
KLC’s For the Common Good: Transforming Faith Communities held a series of one-day Finding Clarity retreats for faith leaders across the state in June and
Thomas Stanley, a program manager for the Kansas Leadership Center’s faith initiative, speaks during a Finding Clarity workshop in Manhattan. The one-day gatherings are designed to help individuals active in their faith communities, including pastors, make progress on what they care about.
July. Using the Immunity to Change framework created by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, the retreats called upon faith leaders to spend a day focused on a current leadership challenge in which they felt stuck. More than 100 Kansans took part in this effort. Participants reported breakthrough moments and greater insight on how progress could be made. EXPLORE LEADERSHIP AND PUBLIC SPEAKING
Would you like to explore the connection between speaking effectively to groups and the exercise of leadership? A public speaking skills workshop being conducted at KLC on Oct. 14 will allow KLC alumni to develop their capacity at public speaking in order to make progress on a leadership challenge. For more information, please contact Audrey Hane at firstname.lastname@example.org. BUILDING COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP
Driven by a goal of creating new leadership development opportunities for under-represented Kansans, 12 community-based organization kicked off their year-long work with KLC this summer. The Building Community Leadership program is designed to help groups gain the knowledge and skills needed to offer their own sustainable leadership development initiatives to audiences that they are uniquely positioned to serve. The goal of the effort is to increase the numbers of Kansans who are able to participate in high-quality leadership development programs close to home or with organizations in which they have a high degree of trust.
Individuals willing to care more, engage more and risk more on behalf of their community or organization will have multiple opportunities to improve their leadership skills and make progress this fall. Your Leadership Edge programs targeted at Kansans, but open to those from out-of-state, will be offered Sept. 22-24 and Oct. 15-17 in Wichita at the Kansas Leadership Center & Kansas Health Foundation Conference Center. A Kansas City-area Your Leadership Edge program will also be offered Oct. 22-24 at University of Kansas-Edwards Campus in Overland Park. Visit the www.kansasleadershipcenter.org for more information and stay tuned for additional enrollment opportunities at the website. NEW RESOURCE AVAILABLE
A new aid to help KLC participants learn leadership lessons will be available this fall. For the Common Good: Participant Handbook is designed to work in concert with KLC’s For the Common Good program of leadership learning. It contains chapters designed to help you prepare for a KLC program, make the most of your experience and continue experimenting in leadership upon returning home. The participant handbook can be purchased on Amazon.com. Additional titles coming soon from KLC Press include a practical guide to leadership that breaks down the For the Common Good principles and competencies and a teaching guide that explores how to use KLC’s methods of instruction, including Case-in-Point, case studies, coaching and traditional teaching.
how to win the fight SIX LEADERSHIP STEPS ANYONE C A N TA K E T O H E L P PAV E A PAT H T O P R O S P E R I T Y F O R KANSAS CHILDREN
The problem feels daunting. The number of children in poverty is growing in Kansas. Easy, quick-fix solutions are hard to come by. Childhood poverty in Kansas is, by all accounts, an incredibly challenging and complex problem. It can make your head spin trying to unravel all the layers that surround it. It is a difficult dilemma. But it is most certainly not an insurmountable one. We already know something about how to fight childhood poverty in Kansas. Experts tell us it takes social programs that help provide adequate relief. Faith communities, charities and nonprofits that meet unmet needs and help people set their lives on a better path. Early-childhood development that gives young people the best start possible in life. Education that provides skills for a lifetime of success. Good jobs that pay enough for parents to live on. Stable and supportive families and communities. And hope that we live in an environment where it’s possible for anyone to create a better future for themselves.
SPECIAL EDITION CHILDHOOD POVERTY IN KANSAS
STEP 1: WORK TO UNDERSTAND THE ISSUE MORE DEEPLY. PG. 10
STEP 2: BUILD RELATIONSHIPS WITH THOSE IN NEED AND IMMERSE YOURSELF IN
Despite the challenges, we see small victories against poverty every day in Kansas. But we clearly need many, many more, and for those wins to add up to something greater. The question isn’t about whether we can make progress. It’s whether we can muster the will – the leadership – to do it on a much bigger scale. And it’s whether more people in Kansas are willing to care more, engage more and risk more on behalf of paving a path to prosperity for our state’s children over the long haul.
THEIR PERSPECTIVES. PG. 20
STEP 3: EXPLORE CHALLENGING VIEWPOINTS ON THE ISSUE AND LOOK FOR NEW ALLIES.
That’s where you, the reader, come in. This edition of The Journal isn’t just a collection of compelling stories. It’s a road map of sorts. We’ve set out six leadership steps that anyone can take to help our state make progress on addressing childhood poverty. Each story in the issue illustrates one of the steps. Whether you’re a full-time advocate with decades of experience or someone wishing to help for the first time on the issue, this Journal is designed to inspire you to think about how to lead more effectively. The responsibility of making Kansas a healthier place for all children doesn’t belong to any one person, any one organization. Or government official. Or government entity. It ultimately belongs to all of us. And when our state’s children are denied the opportunity to fully develop their potential because of circumstances far beyond their control, we all end up losing in the long run. But if more of us were able to stretch ourselves to do a bit more – to tackle something that’s just on the edge of what we can do – we might be surprised at the extent to which we can turn the tide on childhood poverty in Kansas. We’ll never know unless we try.
STEP 4: THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT SOMETHING MORE YOU CAN DO PERSONALLY. PG. 40
STEP 5: TAKE ACTION, EVEN SMALLER STEPS, WITH OTHERS AND LEARN FROM THE EXPERIENCE. PG. 52
STEP 6: INNOVATE AND BROADEN YOUR EFFORTS FOR A BIGGER IMPACT.
--CHRIS GREEN, Journal managing editor
U N D E R S TA N D THE ISSUE
w h at e v e ry kansan needs to know about
CHILDHOOD POVERTY By Dawn Bormann Novascone
t CHILDHOOD POVERTY HAS GROWN IN KANSAS. RAPIDLY. ESTIMATED NUMBER OF CHILDREN LIVING BELOW POVERTY LEVEL
he conversation about childhood poverty is at times loud and confrontational. It’s piercing and divisive. But the cold hard truth is that mostly it’s heartbreakingly quiet.
It’s easy to get bogged down sorting through infinitesimal details about which poverty number is better and what agency is more reliable. Kansas lawmakers hear from one group, and within weeks another group disputes the facts. Confusion shrouds the problem. It obstructs good ideas from some of the brightest thinkers. It leaves the average citizen wondering whom to trust. The problem is so overwhelming and complex that it can seem easier to dispute or ignore the statistics than to find a place to help.
Then take into account that many middle-class families are still struggling to recover from the economic recession themselves. Making time to solve weighty societal problems – even a moral and ethical dilemma like childhood poverty – isn’t a priority. Meanwhile, childhood poverty grows at an alarming rate. About 1 in 5 Kansas children lives in poverty according to Census figures. Another calculation pegs it at nearly 1 in 4. It’s a national problem. The percentage of children living in poverty in the U.S. has gone up as well. Too many Kansans are not getting the help they need to move their families out of poverty and into the middle class. Poverty impacts every Kansan regardless of their financial wherewithal. It comes at a great financial toll, be it through higher crime rates, special education K-12 spending or low graduation rates and an unprepared workforce. Every dollar invested in helping at-risk children pays incredible long-term rewards. But boosting prevention programs for the state’s poorest citizens is hardly appealing at a time when state revenues have fallen.
The percentage of children living in poverty has gone from 12 percent in 2000 to 19 percent in 2012. The estimated number of Kansas children living below the official poverty line has grown from 80,000 to 135,000, a nearly 70 percent increase. That’s almost twice the rate it’s increased nationally.
A 10-year trend shows that several poverty indicators have increased steadily, including government anti-poverty programs that provide school lunches, health care for low-income children and assistance buying food. At the same time, fewer families have qualified for government welfare programs that provide cash assistance to low-income people. The oddity has happened since 2011 when eligibility standards for cash assistance were changed. The eligibility standards show a clear line where philosophical differences on childhood poverty become profound.
Competing Strategies As much as Americans – Kansans included – criticize social welfare programs, there is a simple truth: Government programs help provide relief.
Critics worry it discourages parents from getting jobs. A good example of those differences is unfolding this very moment within state government. The administration of Gov. Sam Brownback has not backed away from new limits on cash assistance, which is the kind of government aid typically seen as welfare. In Kansas, a family of four can receive a range of $450 to $500 a month. It’s not good for alcohol, tobacco or lottery tickets. And the clock begins ticking the day the first check is cut. In Kansas, recipients are limited to 48 months of aid throughout their lifetime. It used to be 60 months. Brownback has said the stricter standards were imposed for a clear reason: to encourage adults to get back to work faster and achieve long-term self-sufficiency. The country has spent billions on shortterm solutions that haven’t worked, he has argued. Isn’t it time to try something else? The state is open to new ideas, says Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families. For starters, she wants to make mental health a priority.
MORE PEOPLE ARE SEEKING HELP FROM SOME GOVERNMENT PROGRAM – BUT SOME PROGRAMS ARE SHRINKING. AVERAGE MONTHLY ENROLLMENT OF CHILDREN IN THE KANSAS FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
The implementation is where philosophical ideals collide. There are differing perspectives on what actually lifts people out of poverty. Advocates say government aid offers a life preserver that keeps people afloat until they find their own footing.
The philosophy doesn’t sit well with everyone. Some advocates also want the state to begin spending at least some of its $47 million cash assistance reserve fund on Kansans – now. Money might not be the only answer, but it does help pay the rent and provide gas for job interviews, critics have said. It’s a classic example of the clash of perspectives over childhood poverty between meeting immediate needs and promoting self-sufficiency. Several advocates across the state believe it’s unthinkable to have allowed the federal cash assistance reserve to grow so large while so many families were in need. It’s also not clear to them that those losing assistance are able to get jobs to replace that income. The debate grew hotter when the Brownback administration proposed shifting millions from the cash assistance reserve fund for low-income families to fourth-grade reading programs. The debate over encouraging self-sufficiency versus meeting needs remains alive in many other aspects of the issue, too, whether it’s
AVERAGE MONTHLY ENROLLMENT OF CHILDREN IN THE TEMPORARY ASSISTANCE FOR NEEDY FAMILIES PROGRAM
The number of people receiving temporary assistance has been falling in recent years, and the program has accumulated a larger reserve fund. Gilmore’s agency wants to channel welfare dollars into “worthwhile programs that help prevent poverty,” which she says are exactly the places they’re supposed to go.
GOVERNMENT AID HELPS THE POOR. BUT NOBODY’S THRIVING ON IT. CASH ASSISTANCE THAT A FAMILY OF FOUR CAN RECEIVE IN KANSAS*
expanding health-care coverage for low-income Kansans or reducing food-stamp benefits at the federal level. But some advocates, such as Shannon Cotsoradis of Kansas Action for Children, wonder if Kansans could frame the discussion in a way that focuses on what would help children the most. “I think we need to spend less time talking about the adults who are relying on safety-net programs today and probably will be for many years to come, and we need to spend more time on how we make sure that today’s poor children don’t become tomorrow’s poor adults. Our focus is entirely in the wrong place,” says Cotsoradis, the organization’s chief executive and a partner with the Kansas Leadership Center who is attempting to change the conversation on childhood poverty in Kansas.
What’s at Stake
$450-$500 PER MONTH limited to 48 months (used to be 60 months)
PER PERSON AVERAGE MONTHLY FOOD ASSISTANCE BENEFIT IN KANSAS
$124.19 PER PERSON
$4.12 PER DAY
*The funds cannot be used on alcohol, tobacco or lottery tickets.
ven when we fight over our perspectives, it’s clear that there’s substantial human capital lost when children don’t find pathways out of poverty. But quantifying that work is difficult.
“The data in and of itself doesn’t get to the reason of why people are poor, so it does leave it to someone’s philosophical beliefs to fill in the blanks,” says Karen Wulfkuhle, executive director of United Community Services of Johnson County.
Value judgments take over: The poor make bad decisions. They waste money on iPhones. They don’t work. Regardless, economists agree that attending to the issue of poverty is imperative. It saves money in the long run. By now many of us know about the figures: Every dollar invested can pay significant dividends down the road. Some estimate annual returns of quality early-childhood education at 10 percent. It’s especially true for at-risk children, according to Nobel laureate economist James Heckman. He estimates a nearly 7 percent to 10 percent annual rate of return on the investment when one calculates lower crime rates, better overall health, lower social welfare costs and more. “There are very, very few government programs that have any rates of return close to this,” says Heckman, from the University of Chicago, on his website. Cotsoradis adds another complexity to the situation in Kansas. “In Kansas we grow our own. People don’t flock here. So if we’re losing nearly one in four kids because they’re growing up in poverty without access to good educational opportunities, health care, all the things they need to grow up to be healthy contributing adults, that really has huge implications for our future workforce and our future economic prosperity,” she says. “So it makes a lot of sense to talk about why we want to invest in these kids.”
But there’s something else: the link between childhood poverty and brain development. Scientists, pediatricians, sociologists and others are sounding the alarm about the toll of long-term stress on a child’s non-cognitive brain development. Research indicates that skills such as self-control, resilience and reasoning are affected by long-term stress. Children living in poverty might not know where their family is moving next or when the next meal is coming. They are sometimes exposed to violence, drug use and a series of poor decisions. The trauma takes a toll. It’s something that some prison officials in Kansas have discussed for years. But it’s getting more mainstream attention in recent years. Elementary and middle school teachers are paying especially close attention to children’s home lives. Soft skills are so important that early-childhood programs such as the Shawnee Mission Parents as Teachers program encourages parents to start teaching children younger than 3 to learn coping strategies. It’s a small start, but also another reminder how much the deck ends up being stacked against children who happen to born into poverty. When you’re a poor kid, even where you live can work against you. Just living in a community where people are more segregated by their incomes reduces your chances for social mobility.
here is no sure-fire fix to end childhood poverty. There’s no simplistic checklist for scholars, social service groups, government agencies and the public to follow. And there’s no crystal ball to give the conclusion either.
WE’RE EXTREMELY DIVIDED AS A COUNTRY OVER WHETHER GOVERNMENT AID IS A GOOD IDEA – AND THE DIVIDE IS ESPECIALLY STARK ALONG PARTISAN LINES. PERCENTAGE OF DEMOCRATS WHO SEE AID FOR THE POOR AS HELPFUL
Here’s what we do know. Studies say social mobility – the ability to rise above the economic class you were born into – hasn’t changed that much over time. But the middle class is being squeezed smaller. Families are falling into low-income and poverty categories at noteworthy rates. It’s all happening as the U.S. economy continues to undergo changes with the decline in manufacturing and agriculture jobs. As the world has become more competitive, higher levels of education and creative skills have become more prized. Our economy has become more about consumption and providing services instead of making things. Many of the paths that provided stable, decent-paying jobs with benefits to people with high school educations or lower have disappeared.
PERCENTAGE OF REPUBLICANS WHO SEE AID FOR THE POOR AS HARMFUL
MOST CHILDREN IN POVERTY HAVE A PARENT WHO WORKS.
34 PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN IN POOR FAMILIES WHO HAD AT LEAST ONE PARENT WHO WAS EMPLOYED FULL-TIME, YEAR-ROUND
44 PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN IN POOR FAMILIES WHO HAD A PARENT WHO WORKED PART-YEAR OR PART-TIME
22 PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN IN POOR FAMILIES WHO DID NOT HAVE AN EMPLOYED PARENT
The proliferation of low-wage jobs in Kansas and throughout the country means that more Kansans work full time and still cannot move their families above the poverty line. Not only do the jobs pay little, but such key ingredients as health insurance, sick time and stability are missing. In Kansas, about 23 percent of all jobs are classified as low wage, according to the Assets & Opportunity Scorecard published by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a national nonprofit that advocates on behalf of low-income families and communities. At the same time, family structures have been upended with divorce and single-parenthood becoming increasingly common. Two-income families have become the norm, and are increasingly important to keeping the middle class afloat. The moral dilemma of childhood poverty becomes especially compounded because poverty looks different than it did several decades ago. Material belongings once easily identified the haves versus the have nots. That’s changed. Falling prices – the Walmart effect – on consumer goods have made it more likely that a family living in poverty can afford basic consumer products like clothes, toys and even an iPhone. But dramatic price increases on things such as child care and a college education make it increasingly more difficult for families to break the cycle. Individual decisions do matter, but there are broader social and economic forces beyond an individual’s control that make the odds of rising out of poverty so long. One-on-one counseling – conducted by state and nonprofit groups – helps. Money is an important part of the equation but even that is not a magic elixir. Poverty would exist if every public and private dollar was diverted to the issue. But there is one thing everyone involved can agree upon: Jobs are an essential way out of poverty. “One of the number one things that I think we know is that full-time employment is the number one way out of poverty,” Gilmore says. Wulfkuhle agrees. She wonders how to bring more businesses into the conversation about childhood poverty. It would mean creating more family-friendly policies allowing employees to stay home with sick children. It would mean a frank discussion about increasing wages through government requirements or employer decisions. As it stands, she believes that narrow groups of people – state and county governments, schools, some faith communities and nonprofit agencies – are working to solve the massive childhood poverty problem without some essential thinkers at the table. “I don’t think (the conversation) is happening in the business community – in that place where the real solution lies in terms of wages,” Wulfkuhle says. There is something – beside jobs – that many agree must be part of the solution. More people need to get involved. Government isn’t the only answer. 14. 16.
THE CHILDREN OF SINGLE PARENTS ARE MUCH MORE LIKELY TO FALL INTO POVERTY.
MARRIED COUPLES WITH CHILDREN WHO FELL BELOW THE POVERTY LEVEL (2012)
SINGLE MOTHERS WHO FELL BELOW THE POVERTY LEVEL (2012)
SINGLE MOTHERS WITH CHILDREN ONLY UNDER AGE 5 WHO FELL BELOW THE POVERTY LEVEL (2012)
POVERTY NUMBERS ARE A GOOD INDICATOR OF RISING NEED IN KANSAS. BUT THEY’RE NOT SIMPLE.
“It’s all of us doing what we can together. Government cannot do everything and cannot do it alone,” Gilmore says. The secretary wants to see stakeholders from communities across Kansas come up with creative ways to address the root problems within their region. Some of this already takes place, but Gilmore would like to see more. Jobs must be part of the equation everywhere. Others agree. Kansans must step up and do more. But where do they start?
FEDERAL POVERTY LEVEL IN KANSAS
$23,850 FOR A FAMILY OF 4
But children living in families with twice that level of income can be considered low income. Yet the official poverty rate measures only pre-tax income and doesn’t consider government benefits or factor in how the costs of housing, taxes and child care vary from state to state. Supplemental poverty rates compiled by the government could provide a better sense of how rich or poor people feel.
SUPPLEMENTAL POVERTY RATE FOR EVERYONE IN KANSAS*
OFFICIAL AVG. 14.5%
SUPPLEMENTAL AVG. 11.5%
from 2010 to 2012
*ADULTS AND CHILDREN
The Kansas Association of Communication Action Programs has some ideas. Community Action outreach director Jesyca Hope Rodenberg says small steps, even tipping better at restaurants, helps. But she suggests Kansans start talking about the problem. Don’t wait for government policy to make changes. Create the change by voting, calling lawmakers, talking to your co-workers and asking your boss about paid sick leave and minimum wage, she says. Engage in meaningful conversation on social media. But meaningful conversation demands respect, she says. Don’t unfriend someone on Facebook because you don’t agree with them. “It is OK that we disagree with each other. It’s not OK that we don’t listen to each other,” she says. She urges the public to be respectful of the poor as well. She urges Kansans to stop worrying about how poor families spend their food stamp money – laws do a good job of regulating that already – and start thinking about how it feels to lose the freedom to plan a menu for their own family. “I would be aghast if strangers were allowed to judge me based on what I have in my grocery basket,” she says. “I just want people to think about it.” Another key step, Rodenberg says, is for people to start listening and understanding what would truly help those in need in their communities. There are other, more immersive ways to better understand the challenges of poverty. Kansans can invite the Kansas Association of Community Action Programs to come to their organization, workplace or nonprofit and conduct a program called Poverty Simulation. It is designed to help people understand the frustration and confusion that Kansans experience while struggling to maintain employment without money to pay for food, school supplies, child care, mortgage, insurance and gas. Before participants leave, they’re asked to write down what they’ll do to help.
At a recent Poverty Simulation session held in Johnson County, several participants were already volunteering for programs aimed at children. But many wanted to do more. A Shawnee Mission teacher organizes a group focused on childhood poverty at her Wellsville church. She acknowledges that it took her awhile to get past her perception of welfare abuse with some. But eventually she decided that childhood poverty was too widespread to ignore. “I can focus on the abuse and to me all that does is relieve my conscience,” she says. “It assuages my guilt.” Instead she’s decided to focus on something more basic when it comes to thinking about childhood poverty. “It’s not us-versus-them,” she says. “It’s all of us.”
INVESTING IN HIGH QUALITY, EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION CAN MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE. NOBEL LAUREATE ECONOMIST JAMES HECKMAN ESTIMATES A NEARLY
ABOUT THIS STORY:
Journal writer Dawn Bormann Novascone interviewed more than two dozen Kansans and national experts and advocates for this story. She also reviewed a variety of legislative testimony, employment data, poverty data, economic studies and opinion pieces. Her research also included participating in the Poverty Simulation within her community and reviewing reports focused on the long-term effects of childhood poverty. Bormann Novascone also drew on her own experience and training as a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate working within the family court system, and 15 years as a newspaper reporter covering some of the state’s wealthiest and poorest communities, youth issues, crime and politics.
7-10% ANNUAL RATE OF RETURN ON THE INVESTMENT IN AT-RISK CHILDREN WHEN ONE CALCULATES
LOWER CRIME REATES
LOWER SOCIAL WELFARE COSTS
BETTER OVERALL HEALTH
Maria Padillaâ€™s day is probably much like yours. She gets up in the morning and wakes her children, then delivers them to three different schools. School and activity schedules differ, so sometimes she needs to make two trips. The youngest, a kindergartener, has half-day school, so Maria picks her up and then eats lunch with her. The Salina woman shuttles the kids to appointments and makes sure they have what they need. The family has joined the local YMCA to try to live a healthier life, and they always try to eat dinner together. Maria loves to gather everyone at the end of the day. She likes to keep a clean house and is an excellent cook.
MARIA IS ALSO STRUGGLING TO LIFT HERSELF AND HER FAMILY OUT OF POVERTY .
B U I L D R E L AT I O N S H I P S AND IMMERSE YOURSELF
Maria Padilla and her daughter Amy look out the window of their home in Salina.
Maria sits in the middle of her family on the front porch of their home in Salina. Her children are, clockwise from left, Carla, Juan, Jack, Michelle and Amy.
By Sarah Caldwell Hancock
Maria came to California from Mexico at age 19 because she wanted to help her family achieve a better life. Finding a job was difficult because her education had ended at sixth grade, and the language barrier and cultural differences troubled her. “In Mexico, you walk places, but here you don’t do that. People are locked up in their houses,” she says, and when she did meet people, they didn’t speak Spanish. Unable to speak the language, her confidence crumbled. Then she met the man who became her husband. When she looks back, Maria sees that things started to go wrong as soon as she moved in with him. “He would want to do things that single men do, go out, drink, things like that. He wasn’t responsible.” She left him for a time and went to Georgia with some family members, but he followed her. He also hit her. She now knows she was living with domestic violence. “You get used to it,” she says. “Someone else sees it, but you don’t.” When Maria accompanied her husband to visit family in California, he offered some acquaintances a ride back to Georgia. Maria remained behind with their three children; the plan was for her husband to come back for them. When driving across Kansas, the men were stopped. The highway patrolman asked if he could search the car, and the men agreed. One of the passengers had what Maria calls “something” in his backpack, and all the men were arrested. Maria rode the train to Kansas with her kids to get her husband out of jail. They never left.
Maria and her husband had two more children, but their relationship didn’t improve. He often refused to contribute to the household in any way other than working on weekends; when Maria would return home after work, he hadn’t changed the baby’s diaper all day and expected her to cook a large meal and do all the cleaning and other home maintenance tasks. Maria says her friends would ask her, “Don’t you see how he treats you?” Then he started mistreating the kids. The oldest daughter, Michelle, was particularly bothered by his verbal abuse. One day when Maria was at work, she thought, “Maybe he will die soon, and I will be free.” She realized that she was wishing for her husband’s death, and that something had to change. She told her children later that week that she had to leave and that they could choose to go with her or remain with their father. They all chose to go with her. They left with nothing.
reluctant to ask for assistance. “What people don’t understand is that it’s embarrassing. We don’t want to go and ask for help,” she says.
STARTING OVER In some ways, Maria was lucky, because she was able to go to a shelter in Salina. “They welcomed me and wanted me to feel comfortable,” Maria says. “They bought a lot of food because they knew I cook. The shelter is on top of the building and the office is below, and everyone would say, ‘Maria is cooking!’ They wanted me to have whatever I need.”
When she finally relented and went to a local food bank, a volunteer looked her up and down then tried to send her elsewhere. “I look clean, my shoes don’t have mud. You have to go smelling bad or look like a hobo or smell like alcohol, or they think you don’t need the help. I think maybe she wanted me to look bad or ugly so she could help me,” Maria says. The situation was later rectified by another staff member, but Maria felt humiliated.
Maria’s needs went beyond housing and food. She quit her job when she went to the shelter because she feared her husband would follow her and cause problems for her at work. She lacked legal papers to work, and even though she could find jobs at restaurants, she was always afraid. The Domestic Violence Association of Central Kansas helped her conquer her fear by assisting her in obtaining a legal work permit. She also was placed at the top of the list for a house through the Salina Housing Authority.
Besides her kids, the thing that kept Maria going was a desire for education. She puts it simply: “I want to get my GED to get a better job.” Her English is now excellent, and she knows bilingual staff members are needed in courthouses, schools and hospitals. She also watched her oldest daughter, Michelle, leave home for college at Fort Hays State University. Michelle wants to be a nurse, and Maria wants to live up to her own potential as Michelle achieves hers.
While sorting our her legal problems, including a divorce, and meeting her family’s immediate need for shelter, Maria set about supporting herself. She worked at a grocery store for a year, a chain restaurant for eight months and a chocolate factory in a seasonal position for a few months. She worked at a pizza factory throughout 2013. In addition to supporting her family, she wanted to demonstrate her desire to work so her record is solid when she’s able to apply for citizenship in three more years.
Maria’s voice breaks when she talks about Michelle. The emotion is a complicated concoction of love, pride and inadequacy. “When she enrolled in college, she did everything,” Maria says. “I don’t know anything about that — this is the first generation in college. She filled out all the papers. She doesn’t even want to ask me for money,” she explains. Michelle worked and paid the application fees herself.
When working at the factory, Maria woke up at 4 a.m. and returned home at 4 p.m. The schedule left her exhausted, and the $1,200 she made each month wasn’t enough. The housing authority charged her income-based rent of $550, so she was able to pay rent and for car insurance for herself and her oldest daughter, but she often couldn’t stretch her income enough to keep food on the table.
In the hope of accelerating the process of obtaining her GED, Maria made the difficult decision to quit working so she can spend more time at the adult education center. As soon as she drops her youngest off at kindergarten, she goes to the education center to study. She returns in the afternoons when she can to log additional time. Her progress has been slow, but it’s becoming easier. “My writing and reading have improved, so I don’t need any help,” she says. “It feels pretty good. I wish sometimes I could stay there for seven hours.”
Maria’s eyes brim with tears when she talks about this experience. She asked herself, “I am working, but why don’t I have food?” She felt helpless, yet
Maria’s biggest challenge is balancing her priorities and responsibilities to her family, her education and her adopted country. She admits that she cries with frustration at times when she doesn’t have money to pay a bill, but she remains optimistic. “I have to be positive because positive brings positive things. I don’t want negative; I want positive in my life,” she says.
Class participants also learn about building resources and setting goals. When the class concludes, graduates become circle leaders – the center of the circle – and are matched with allies, who surround the leaders. Allies go through their own training to learn about the experience of those in poverty in general and their circle leaders in particular, then they serve the leaders by meeting with them weekly and offering support. Their role is to encourage leaders as they meet their goals, not to offer instruction or unsolicited advice or meet material needs. Including the Getting Ahead class, circle leaders commit to at least 18 months of Thursday meetings.
CIRCLES: POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT Circles of the Heartland is a major source of the positive message that Maria can finally achieve her goal of a better life. Maria heard about Circles, a self-funded nonprofit with eight sites in Kansas and more than 70 in the U.S. and Canada, in the Family Self-Sufficiency program through the Salina Housing Authority. The Salina group started in February 2012 and offered its inaugural class in May 2013. Maria contacted Rodney Denholm and Shelly Martin, program administrators, who urged her to apply.
Deb Marseline serves as an ally and is teaching the current Getting Ahead class. As a former social worker and college instructor of social work, she says she has always believed people have potential and capacity but are hindered by their circumstances. “Getting involved as an ally, I support somebody and show them that they have survived a lot and that they have the skills and capacities to change their situation,” she says.
A 14-week Getting Ahead class is the first step in Circles’ long-term approach to helping participants find a path out of poverty. The curriculum helps those in the class analyze their current situations, including where their money goes, how they spend their time, how to calculate debt-to-income ratios, and the causes of poverty. A workbook discusses concepts such as the hidden rules of economic class and important differences in language with the goal of helping people learn new problem-solving approaches rather than living subject to the “tyranny of the moment.”
Deb has seen the program make a huge difference to circle leaders and the new Getting Ahead class because it gives them a community. Meetings typically begin with a meal, and the Circles staff provides activities for the children so the adults can focus. Participants and allies make the meetings a priority and are eager to connect. “People who are on the fringe or feel isolated now have a community where people love and support them despite their situation,” she says. The support has made all the difference to Maria. “I want a better future for my kids. And that’s what I’m doing, I’m trying to go to school to learn and get a better job. When you come to the program, you know what you want, and they say they’re going to help you follow that goal,” she says. The program steeled her resolve and helped her have the confidence to make the difficult decision to quit her job so she could concentrate on school and family. “Circles has made me brave,” Maria says. “I wasn’t like this before. I see what I want. My allies have helped me a lot. Sometimes I feel like I don’t want to do
Shelly explains that the class works because people struggling to attain financial stability often bounce from crisis to crisis and don’t have the same life experiences as those raised in the middle class. “We learn from our parents, this is how you handle this, this is a checkbook, this is savings, this is a retirement account – we know those terms and understand those things. They’re just experiences, but they’re not written down anywhere,” she says. “It’s a huge barrier for those who live in poverty.”
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF MARIA
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Maria and Amy leave for school, the first of two trips Maria will make to transport her children to school that day. She takes Amy first and then comes back for her older sister Carla; despite a busy morning, Maria finds time for prayer; Maria gets a hug from Circles of the Heartland coordinator Shelly Martin at a meeting in Salina; each night Maria tucks Amy into bed after reading her a book and saying a goodnight prayer with her.
“I want a better future for my kids. And that’s what I’m doing, I’m trying to go to school to learn and get a better job ... I wasn’t like this before. I see what I want. My allies have helped me a lot. Sometimes I feel like I don’t want to do something, but they tell me ‘C’mon, you can do it!’”
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Maria studies for her GED diploma during the day in hopes of obtaining a better job; Maria hugs Anna Prockish, a Circles coach, during a Circles of the Heartland meeting in Salina. Circles has provided a crucial support network for Maria as she works to lift herself and her family out of poverty; Maria reads to her youngest child Amy before bed with help from her daughter Carla; Maria walks with her daughter Michelle in their Salina neighborhood. Michelle is the oldest child of five and is attending Fort Hays State University. She returns home on the weekend to help the family.
something, but they tell me ‘C’mon, you can do it!’” Pat Murray, one of Maria’s allies, has known her only since November but is impressed with “this strong and loving woman.” “She’s working on beginning educational things,” Pat says, “and it’s not easy because of everything else she has to do,” noting that taking care of her family requires much of Maria’s attention. “She’s real persistent and doesn’t give up even though some days it’s discouraging,” Pat adds.
Maria participated in the poverty simulation as a volunteer along with other circle leaders. Her station was a grocery store where participants could pay in cash or food stamps, but the catch was that participants couldn’t speak English. Maria had to tell them that if they needed help, they could speak Spanish or bring an interpreter. One participant who happens to work at a social services agency balked at this turning of the tables and laughed when Maria told her she couldn’t speak English. Laughter seemed inappropriate to Maria, so she seized a chance to explain when all were invited to share at the end of the simulation.
In addition to offering encouragement, Pat says Circles helps participants by emphasizing intentionality. The larger culture “is loud, fast, garish and competitive,” Pat says, and those qualities don’t nurture growth in those who are struggling. Circles offers a different message: “Your real self is good enough and is what matters. It’s … a way to try to attack or respond or change, and there’s great hope in that, and joy,” she says. Shelly Martin says that joy moves both from allies to circle leaders and from circle leaders to allies. Deb Marseline agrees and thinks the larger community has much to gain. “When we don’t know our neighbors, we’re missing that voice at the table, the amazing strengths and resilience they have. In some ways they are creative problem-solvers because they’ve had to be. They have survived things that I wouldn’t know how to survive,” she says. “The more connected we are together, the more interested we are in solving the problems together.”
LEARNING LEADERSHIP Maria demonstrated how far she’s come recently by bringing her voice to the table when Circles sponsored a poverty simulation. About 100 participants were placed in “families” living in poverty. Each family received a scenario and a packet of money and had to meet certain objectives in 20- to 25-minute “weeks,” and families had to make it through four weeks while navigating a community, paying rent, finding transportation, prioritizing bills and solving problems along the way.
Maria, normally shy about public speaking because of her accent, told everyone what it felt like to be unable to speak the language and therefore unsure about whether someone was laughing at you. After experiencing the simulation and hearing Maria speak, the participant who laughed admitted that she had never realized what non-native English speakers might be feeling when they come to her for help. “She understood what that felt like,” says Maria, smiling in triumph. Shelly says Maria’s contribution led others to important insights. “It helps people to understand more clearly the picture of poverty and see what families are struggling and up against day after day after day in a month. It’s an eye-opening experience for a lot of people,” says Shelly. Clear vision is rapidly becoming imperative: In Saline County, 1 in 4 children live in poverty. Adults are only slightly better off; for them, the numbers are 1 in 5. Shelly adds that she expects those figures to worsen to 1 in 3 and 1 in 4 soon, and that many schools already have 80 percent or more students qualifying for free or reduced lunch. Adults and children living in these fragile situations face an environment that is perhaps kinder to the poor than a generation or two ago. Government aid and the falling relative costs of many consumer goods have improved standards of living. But it’s also a climate where the poor are increasingly falling further behind as rungs to prosperity and self-sufficiency – assets like a college education, savings and child care – grow increasingly out of reach.
Before she was involved in Circles, Shelly was a nurse. “I worked with low-income people every day, and I thought I could explain exactly what poverty was like in my community. I was so wrong,” she says. “When I started seeing how devastating those numbers were in our community, I realized how bad the problem was.” Now that Maria is a leader in her own life, has a community around her and is adding her voice to that community, she has a new perspective on herself and her abilities. “I am a stubborn woman,” she says. “I’m doing whatever it is to get my goal. Sometimes I surprise myself.” Her family is on a good path, too. Amy liked kindergarten, and Juan succeeded in sixth grade.
Jack, in his teens, has had difficulties in school but worked at Burger King, helped with Amy and promised to study and get good grades so he can serve in the U.S. Army. Carla was a junior and wants to follow in her older sister Michelle’s footsteps and go to college. Carla and Michelle have struggled with the legacy of domestic violence, but both are getting help. Aside from raising her kids and seeing them launch successful lives, Maria’s dream is to open a restarant – just a small place or a food truck to begin with, so customers can see if they like it. “That’s why I’m going to school, because that’s the goal that I have,” she says. “Later I’m going to say I started from the bottom, and I’m here.”
Shelly thinks Maria will make it. “I’ve seen her grow,” she says, recalling how raptly the poverty simulation participants listened to her, some with tears in their eyes. “I know her emotion and her desire and need to tell people in the community her vantage point made a huge difference. She said, ‘I did it, Shelly.’ I said, ‘yes you did, and next time you’ll do it again. Next thing you know you’ll be not only leading your circle, you’ll be leading the community.’”
S H A R I N G T H E PA I N By touching the soul, a heartbreaking song brings new understanding to the tragedy of childhood poverty
By Brian Whepley
Taped, torn, thumbed and now appallingly grungy, my copy of the blue-covered 1983 edition of “The New Rolling Stone Record Guide” reveals all kinds of vinyl treasures. Loving music but unable to play anything but the stereo, I danced into Rolling Stone and any other publication covering rock, punk, blues, soul and whatever else caught my ear. When a five-star review of the album “Watch Your Step” described Ted Hawkins as a cross between soul singer Sam Cooke and gentle bluesman Mississippi John Hurt
and declared “soul and blues fans need to hear this,” I had a mission: Buy it. I don’t remember where I picked up “Watch Your Step,” but I’ll never forget the impact. The songs, recorded in 1971 but unreleased for years, were joyful, aching, sad, even hilarious. Some combined all those feelings, but the ones that hit hardest seemed drawn from nowhere but personal experience: “Put in a Cross,” “Sorry You’re Sick,” “I Gave Up All I Had” and “Peace & Happiness.”
None hit harder than “The Lost Ones.” In two minutes and 50 seconds of desolate examples, Hawkins tells of crushing poverty and its toll on the children who have no control over their circumstances. The song leaves no doubt Hawkins had seen if not experienced every bit of the devastation he describes. He was reporting from the front lines and embedded in emotion. There’s the tragic reality: Mama is dying and daddy is gone. I’d call the doctor but there’s no telephone. There’s hunger: Icebox is empty and the food is all gone. This wouldn’t be happening if my daddy was home. There’s isolation: I’d call the neighbors but I don’t even know their name. They’ve lived there 10 years, oh ain’t that a shame. There’s no hope: We’ve all tried praying but I don’t know how to pray. And there’s the chorus’ sad recognition of being written off: We are the lost ones, living all alone. “The Lost Ones” struck a chord with me, I think, because it struck so many chords. It’s easy to blame the poor for being poor and then dismiss them. But one devastating point after another in Hawkins’ lyrics rips that simplistic argument to shreds, just by reciting the facts. What on earth have these poor kids done to deserve their circumstances? Absolutely nothing, from what I hear. I’m always looking to hear something new – often something old, actually – when it comes to music. It can be loud, proud, slow, fast, sad, mad or glad, but it must move me. When music connects on a
deep level the way Hawkins’ does, it’s special. I don’t know if his music changed my life, but it sure made it richer and possibly a bit more thoughtful. On “The Lost Ones,” Hawkins’ voice takes his striking words and paints pictures in my mind and heart that I just cannot dismiss, making a case that the cold, hard facts of printed words alone cannot. Accompanied by his basic guitar – he scratched out a living singing on L.A.’s Venice Beach – his singing cuts to my soul. He has made others’ songs his own – Webb Pierce’s “There Stands a Glass,” Cooke’s “Bring it on Home to Me,” John Fogerty’s “Long as I Can See the Light” – but Hawkins’ own words hit hardest. They are about not having things – love, parents, medicine, money, a drink, the ability to make good choices. But his voice – husky, deep, bouncing, piercing – fills and washes over those voids. It’s a voice that led me to buy copies of “Watch Your Step” from cutout bins and force them upon friends – “You have to hear this. You have to feel this.” Hawkins knew what he sang. He stole, used drugs, went to reform school and prison, and drifted across the country before settling in L.A. in the 1960s. Repeatedly “discovered” but never finding lasting success, he died of a diabetic stroke on Jan. 1, 1995, eight months after his only major label release. Hawkins was forever shaped by childhood. Born poor in mid-1930s Mississippi, he never knew his father, and his mother was an alcoholic and a prostitute. “I’d come home and want to be cuddled, but my mother would never cuddle me,” he said in 1993. “She never could love me, and because I never got love, I can never give love. … The only way I can share any love is by singing.” Share he did.
LISTEN TO “The Lost Ones” Hear the song at www.kansasleadershipcenter.org/blog.
Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute called for a conservative social justice agenda in an article he wrote for Commentary magazine earlier this year.
Ideology and the poverty issue: Why it matters Liberals often argue for preserving and enhancing government programs that ease the strains of poverty, while conservatives tend to criticize those same initiatives, arguing they are unaffordable or do more harm than good. And thatâ€™s where the discussion often stops. The divide over what we think about the social safety net in our country is only growing steeper as our country grows even more ideologically and politically polarized. The partisan gap over the social safety net, the Pew Research Center found, represents the starkest divide in our politics today. This schism has profound implications for Kansas. Poverty is increasing in the state at the same time that members of the Republican Party in Kansas may be increasingly skeptical of governmentbased efforts to alleviate it. Furthermore, nearly 42 percent of Kansans identified themselves as being conservatives in a Gallup poll last year. Conservatives represent the largest ideological group in Kansas and can heavily influence actions paving the way for a better Kansas.
EXPLORE CHALLENGING PERSPECTIVES
Launching a conservative crusade against POVERTY In this Q&A, Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute discusses his call for a social movement to build up the institutions of faith, family, community and work and what it could mean for a place like Kansas. Earlier this year, Brooks wrote an interesting essay titled “Be Open-Handed Toward Your Brothers” in Commentary magazine. In it, Brooks, a devout Catholic, argues that people who are ideologically conservative need their own social justice agenda, one consistent with their conservative values. His views certainly won’t resonate with everyone, and he’s been criticized on both the left and the right for them. But in a country where the conversation about poverty is often stale and repetitive, Brooks challenges the status quo and gives us all – regardless of our ideology – something new and provocative to be curious about.
By Chris Green
Q: In your magazine essay, you write that, with America continuing to suffer years after the Great Recession, it’s time for conservatives to have “a social justice agenda of their own.” You say a lack of a positive plan makes it possible for conservatives to be portrayed as heartless and callous. What has made it difficult for conservatives to articulate an anti-poverty agenda? A: To begin with, the conservative idea of economic growth through free enterprise – incidentally that’s not the conservative history going back very long. It was (President Ronald) Reagan on the political side, and (economist Milton) Friedman on the academic side, that were responsible for making free and open markets a staple of the right. And the way they explained it was pretty revolutionary. The way they explained it was in largely material terms. They said, “Look, everybody’s going to get richer. That’s great, isn’t it?” So the problem is it’s kind of recent and the opening vernacular was the most obvious argument for the free enterprise economy. Which was “it’s really good for material prosperity.” Conservatives, therefore, never really learned another way to talk about it.
Q: You talk about the need for a positive social agenda
that is “tangible, practical and effective.” For you, this would be based on three pillars – TRANSFORMATION, RELIEF and OPPORTUNITY – in that order. Could you please tell me about each of those pillars and why the order is important? A: When you talk to people who pull themselves out of poverty, there’s nothing theoretical about what they say. They’ll tell you basically that to pull themselves into mainstream society, to do well, to be happy, to prosper, the first thing that they need to do typically is they get their act together. So transformation, moral transformation is required as the first step for a lot of people. Then there is a lot of material relief that has to be dealt with. But again you can’t get that sort of stuff until you have the values that you want to deal with these kind of things. Then material relief really kicks in. After that, you have to be able to look toward the future and say, “Hmmm, if I work hard and play by the rules, I can get something really awesome.” Which is the whole notion of hope and opportunity. So they follow in that order. Which is really kind of interesting because it turns out that that order is upside down from what psychologists usually talk about. If you don’t do all of those three things (transformation, relief and opportunity), you’re not going to get the job done and you’re going to either make the problem worse or not solve the problem with vast amounts of cash. And that’s one of the reasons we haven’t solved the problems of poverty. The right is pretty good at talking about moral transformation and hope and opportunity but not very good about talking about relief. The left, all they can talk about is relief. So the result is they just get stuck sort of talking about welfare the whole time. Neither side has all the pieces in place, and you need a synthetic solution that will actually get you through all three steps.
Q: What do you mean by
transformation? Whose responsibility is it to do the work of transforming character and values?
A: Not the government. The big role of the government is getting out of the way of people to transform their lives. Then private society, and civil society has this important role. All of us as citizens should be thinking, “What can I do for the transformation of people who are in poverty and people in need?” And incidentally, “to transform myself as well?” Because we need the same things that poor people do – faith, family, community and work. And we need to think more about creating these institutions, doing things that the government really can’t do. Talking more openly about intact families. Trying to keep communities together. Trying to integrate people who are in poverty into our communities as opposed to shutting them out, which is the wrong thing to do morally. And most importantly, to make clear that work is a blessing.
Q: One of the most eye-catching things
about your piece to me was your acknowledgment that there are needy Americans, that “voluntary charity alone simply cannot get the job done on its own” and that there’s need for a limited government safety net. As a person passionate about free enterprise, how hard was it to come to this conclusion? How commonly held is the belief in a limited safety net among conservatives today? A: Virtually all Americans understand that. You have to spend a whole lot of time in the Ivory Tower to not realize that there’s need out there that’s going to go unmet by the $300 billion that goes into private
charity. That’s a lot and that’s a beautiful thing and conservatives disproportionately give it, but you know, you look at something like Hurricane Katrina where it’s pennies on the dollar that were given privately for what we needed for recovery in that particular community. What I think conservatives need to recognize is that there’s not just a place for a safety net. It’s one of our greatest achievements as a society that we’re able to do that. Safety nets for people who are truly indigent are a really good and noble thing, and it’s an incredible testament to the productivity of our magnificent free enterprise economy that we can afford to do
WE’VE GOT TO HAVE CONSERVATIVES STOP SAYING THE
SAFETY NET IS FOR
it, which is precisely the point – that we need to have fiscally sane policies so that we can continue to afford the safety net. The reason you need to be an economic conservative, in my view, is that’s the only way that you can guarantee the preservation of the safety net for the most indigent citizens. Then we should be able to celebrate it. We’ve got to have conservatives stop saying the safety net is for takers. People do take at certain points in their lives. But we should be proud of the fact that we can make that happen, within limits that don’t hurt them and their lives, don’t destroy their opportunities, don’t make them permanently dependent and don’t drive our economy over a cliff.
Q: The challenge I would see is that “limited” could be a subjective term. Are you concerned about the goal posts on “limited” being moved over time? A: For sure. It’s like that in anything that you’re doing. It’s the slippery slope argument that anything can turn into a beast that gobbles up everything and everybody is desperate and using the safety net. I understand that that’s the danger but that’s not a good enough argument to not do a safety net.
There really are people who are in need, and we can relieve it. What that is, is a charge for us to be responsible citizens who are self-governing and we remember what actually it means.
Q: Your piece appears
aimed at conservatives. What kind of reception have you received from liberals and moderates?
Q: I’m trying to imagine what this would look like in real
life. If this was something that I cared about in Kansas, what would I be doing to promote this agenda? A: The two things to be a conservative warrior for, number one, are a really well-ordered culture where we say it’s not OK for culturally liberal forces to be at war against faith, family, community and work because that is a war against poor people. In other words, you need to be a culture warrior but not for puritanical or religious reasons but for social justice reasons. Number two, it’s to be full bore on the opportunity agenda. Basically the opportunity agenda has three parts to it: Number one is to be a warrior for education reform – education policy that’s all about choice and innovation. Because choice and innovation serve kids as opposed to a system that serves grown-ups. Second is to be a radical for jobs. We simply can’t have a culture where people talk about dead-end jobs. There’s no such thing as a dead-end job. There are dead-end people, there’s a dead-end culture, there’s dead-end government, but there are no dead-end jobs. You need to have a mentality that all jobs are a blessing and no job is a punishment. Therefore, you have to have a government orientation and a culture orientation toward radical job creation. The third thing is entrepreneurship, but not entrepreneurship for billionaires. Billionaires will take care of themselves. It’s entrepreneurship for low-skill, low-income people. The greatest area of damage socially that we’ve done through the American economy of late is making it harder for low-skill entrepreneurs to get started because of licensing requirements. We need to relax these things and be as true to our roots as we ever were when we talk about landscaping businesses, roofing businesses and contracting businesses and all the things that people are going to start.
A: What you find on the left is you get two typical reactions. One is, “Wow, it would be unbelievable if conservatives started talking this way. I could really imagine myself not being a diehard leftist if there were alternatives.” Now the second is actually more common. The one that you hear the most. “You conservatives don’t actually want to help poor people. You just want to win votes,” or “I don’t know what you’re up to buddy, but stop it.” Now that means you’re doing things absolutely right, when you get that reaction. The truth is if conservative politicians start talking about social justice and make a serious bid for the poor, they’re going to win. And it’s not just one way to win. It’s the only way to win in a country that’s still suffering after the recession.
Do you get any pushback from conservatives? A:
Sure. It’s a new way of thinking. Conservatives stand athwart history shouting stop. But you know, I’m a utopian conservative. I believe that we really can and should make progress all the time. Conservative principles are fundamentally sound and good and right, but we have to think about them and frame arguments in new ways and use conservative principles overtly to help people who need the help the most. But when you do that, people will say, “That’s not the way I think about these things. This sounds like veiled liberalism.” It’s actually not. It’s the most conservative thing ever. But it’s a new way of talking and if you talk in a new way, you get pushback. But that just means you have to make it sticky.
“COMMUNITIES FORM ON THE BASIS OF
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND, FRANKLY, WE NEED A SOCIAL MOVEMENT FOR ”
Q: With so much of our contemporary debate around
alleviating poverty focused on government, what will it take to strengthen the institutions of FAITH, FAMILY, COMMUNITY and WORK? A: Government can affect culture, it really can, but really only citizens can make culture. That’s what social movements are all about. The key thing is I don’t want people running around saying, “Faith, family, community and work are the most important things for prosperity and happiness, so the government really needs to start getting serious about policies that will bring people to those institutions.” That will have unintended secondary consequences. I’m enough of a libertarian to know that the most important thing is to stop hurting those institutions. But I’m also enough of a student of social movements to understand that, at the same time, you can have social entrepreneurs who can fundamentally inflect the culture. We’ve had four great enlightenments in the United States where we’ve had mass conversion of people returning to their religious faith. It’s happened over and over and over again, and disproportionately among the poor you’ve seen this. It was hugely important — it was a beautiful thing for the lives of people that were largely in disarray, that they were able to find the truth and meaning that comes from an honest and well-organized religious life. Communities form on the basis of social movements and, frankly, we need a social movement for work. It sounds absurd, but we’ve gotten rich enough, and we’ve lived with the welfare state long enough that now we need a social movement that’s pro work. Crazy. But we really can do that. It’s happened throughout history and social reforms come on the basis of those movements.
Q: How does this happen though? How might these movements wind up forming in a place like Kansas? A: For one thing, in Kansas, I’ve been out there. You’ve got like five churches for every person. There’s a ton. It’s a very religious state. You have a lot of people who attend religious service. You have very strong houses of worship out there. One of the things that the religious movements need to take on is how they’re going to reconnect people to meaning in their lives. Faith is going to be the easiest one for them to get their minds around, but the other ones are going to be really important, too. Remember, Saint Paul didn’t talk just about having greater faith, he talked about leading more upright lives. He talked a lot about family morality. He talked constantly about the integrity of communities. He talked about the importance of work. It’s clear that these things are all linked deep in the minds of any social reformer. And it’s going to be religious reformers that are going to have the greatest voices in this. They need to be able to take this on as a big cause.
Q: I wonder, though, will the people doing this work have to experience moral transformations of their own? A: I think so. That’s always the case. When you operationalize values within a community it’s because you need some sort of a conversion. I think a lot of people in the United States have decided that the job of taking care of the poor is just the government’s or that the reason people are poor is that they’re stupid and lazy. It’s not limited to people who are secular. I think a lot of religious people believe this, too. And so, of course, you’re going to have to actually have leadership. People want to be heroes. One of the things that I find is that I talk to the most stridently conservative groups and I stand up and say, “Are you going to be a warrior for the poor or not?” It’s a standing ovation line. People want to be heroes to people who are weaker than they are. They just need to know what to do. Kansas is a perfect laboratory for this, by the way, because you have a governor who understands these principles and you have a Legislature that can do a lot of good and you have a lot of religious congregations. What if you had a summit on this? Heck, I’ll come out there and set it up. And basically have the faith leaders and the government leaders around the table and say we’re going to divide and conquer this problem. We’re going to go back and talk to our congregations. We’re going to go back and talk about how we can stop hurting, and let’s start a movement, man. Let’s start a social movement.
“People want to be heros. ... They just need to know what to do.” Learn more about Arthur C. Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute and read his writing, including his columns for The New York Times, at www.aei.org/scholar/arthur-c-brooks/.
Arthur Brooks speaks during an American Enterprise Institute event with the Dalai Lama, a key Tibetian Buddhist spiritual figure, earlier this year.
The Planeview neighborhood sits in southeast Wichita. Hastily constructed during the World War II era to house an influx of Boeing defense workers, the area now provides an affordable place to live and hosts networks of new immigrants.
THINK ABOUT W H AT Y O U C A N D O
T H E S T O RY O F C H A R L I E S C H WA R Z A N D H I S C H U R C H ’ S W O R K I N W I C H I TA ’ S P L A N E V I E W N E I G H B O R H O O D
when the door slams shut 41.
W H AT I S A
CASE STUDY? It is a story designed to help you explore deep and meaningful questions about leadership and decision making. This case unfolds in two sections that prompt distinct sets of questions.
part a STANDING IN THE PLANEVIEW NEIGHBORHOOD IN SOUTHEAST WICHITA, CHARLIE SCHWARZ SCANS THE AREA AND SEES NOTHING BUT BUILDING AFTER BLIGHTED BUILDING.
By Laura Roddy
An idea occurs to him. It’s 2009 and the federal government’s stimulus efforts to bolster the economy are in full swing. Looking around at the community’s ramshackle houses, he thinks to himself, “We should tear this down. We can take advantage of grants and improve the neighborhood.”
The pattern had left many residents disillusioned and distrustful of the promises being made to them. While cleanups and other one-day events offered by some groups tended to work fine, they also didn’t do much to alter the day-to-day challenges Planeview residents’ faced -- poverty, lack of transportation and poor access many services, such as medical care.
He didn’t know it then, but Schwarz – lanky, softspoken and middle-aged – was hardly the first well-intentioned person to step into Planeview and think he could do something to help. The trouble was, those good intentions had only rarely translated into lasting progress.
Schwarz hadn’t visited the neighborhood, part of a once-booming “instant city” built decades ago, or even thought about it for years. But he could suddenly recall his time as a teenager, when he had driven through the area with a friend and “caused grief,” making their car backfire on purpose.
Over the years, Planeview had seen its fair share of what 25-year resident Al Rose, a retired United Methodist minister, calls “plop and drop community development.” Groups, including local government, would offer help only to pull out after grant funds dried up. Services that residents had come to count on disappeared.
“Unless you went to Joyland [a now-defunct Wichita amusement park], you tried to stay away from Planeview,” Schwarz says. “As the neighborhood declined, there was nothing there – there’s no reason to go there.”
Charlie Schwarz attends a meeting in the Planeview neighborhood. He decided to make assisting Planeview his mission while transitioning through several major life changes.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The intersection of Roosevelt and Roseberry sits in the northwest part of Planeview. The neighborhood is home to a diverse array of residents, more than half of whom are Hispanic; a mural covers a building in Planeview; Schwarz learned as he talked to others that his initial idea to tear down dilapidated houses in Planeview was a bad one because it would reduce the supply of affordable housing for residents.
Planeview is a neighborhood in southeast Wichita that was hastily constructed in the World War II era as housing for an influx of Boeing defense workers. The community had declined over time, but the cost of housing is low, and there are established networks there for new immigrants. The 4,400 residents are diverse – 53 percent Hispanic, 22 percent Caucasian, 14 percent Asian and 7 percent African American. The neighborhood is also impoverished. About 30 percent of Planeview’s 1,300 households live on less than $15,000 a year, making it one of the state’s poorest neighborhoods. It wasn’t perhaps surprising that Schwarz would find himself on the cusp of working on behalf of the residents of Planeview. He already had been serving meals to the needy for years and had an extensive record of voluntarism and public service.
He was occupying his time by readying his and his wife’s previous homes for sale and looking for work. He talked it over with his wife and decided to make helping Planeview his mission. “I knew I had the time to do this,” Schwarz says. “I knew that down the road there were going to be more things that we were going to ask our congregation.” But Schwarz recalled his KLC leadership training and the concept of diagnosing the situation, and wanted to spend some time educating himself and testing whether his initial thinking about helping Planeview was the right path. He kept asking questions, listening and pondering how to help improve the lives of the residents, many of whom were new immigrants. Schwarz burned through a lot of shoe leather getting to know the people in Planeview. Several joined the Planeview Transformation Coalition.
The path that brought Schwarz to the community began when he attended a training at the Kansas Leadership Center with his pastor, the Rev. Jeff Gannon, and several other members of Chapel Hill Fellowship, a United Methodist congregation in affluent east Wichita.
But it was a conversation with Planeview’s senior services coordinator that delivered a big wake-up call for Schwarz.
The group was encouraged at the training to do something for the common good. One of the members of the Chapel Hill group had deep ties to Planeview, working for more than two decades to help place new immigrants there.
The coordinator, Gay Quisenberry, previously had been the manager for Christian singer Rich Mullins. She had been raised middle-class but had decided to live among the people she was helping, choosing to live in the nearby Hilltop neighborhood, which had similar characteristics to Planeview.
Gannon wanted to inspire members of his congregation to live their faith more fully and help those in poverty. That day, the Chapel Hill team essentially formed the Planeview Transformation Coalition, and the group visited the neighborhood.
When Quisenberry encountered Schwarz, she had already been living and working with the poor for nearly a decade. She sometimes questioned outsiders’ motivations: “Are we going into Planeview or Hilltop because we want them to be middle class?”
Ultimately, Gannon, the pastor, challenged his congregation to make a 10-year commitment to the neighborhood, and Schwarz made his own commitment.
Quisenberry quickly pegged Schwarz as being just the latest in a fairly long line of ill-prepared do-gooders.
Schwarz had recently married and undergone heart surgery. When he returned to his accounting job, he found out that his entire division was being eliminated.
“The first time I met Charlie, I thought he’s a really nice guy, a great guy, and he’s going to fall on his face,” Quisenberry says.
She went on to tell Schwarz not to draw assumptions about Planeview and not to come in thinking he had some great idea that would change everything. Too many people in Planeview had become used to a group swooping in, promising something big – and maybe even delivering to a degree – but then disappearing.
She also told him why his initial idea to tear down dilapidated houses was a terrible one. What Schwarz saw as eyesore represented a rare chance at affordable housing for people in Planeview. Schwarz’s idea, she told him, would take away the homes they desperately needed.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: 1. If you were Charlie Schwarz, how would you respond to the interpretation that his idea to tear down
the houses is all wrong for Planeview? 2. What tough interpretations might be useful for Charlie to explore in this situation? 3. What does Charlie’s experience in this section tell you about the challenges of diagnosing a situation?
part b BUILDING A CLINIC
Armed with new information, including his conversations with Quisenberry, Schwarz reassessed his goals. He still wanted to help in Planeview and decided to start something that he thought would be low-hanging fruit, something that would fulfill a clear need in the community.
Neighborhood residents were already in the midst of staving off another round of disappointment. Budget cuts were hitting the city’s parks department and neighborhood residents were concerned that their recreation center – one of the few public gathering spots in walking distance – would be closed.
Schwarz was also aware of the stigma surrounding Planeview as crime- and drug-ridden. But that wasn’t what he experienced in visiting the neighborhood.
Schwarz recalls sitting in a community meeting and seeing the ties becoming tighter around the necks of the “suits” from City Hall. About 300 Planeview residents had gathered to voice their concerns. It showed Schwarz how deeply the residents care about opportunities for their children, and he also says it was the most diverse crowd he has ever been among, about a third Hispanic, a third Asian and the rest black and white.
In his view, the problems were being created by only about 1 percent of the people there. The rest of the residents were very giving and hardworking, struggling to provide for their families. Many worked two or three jobs, often without owning cars, making access to health care elsewhere in Wichita difficult.
Schwarz kept meeting with people in Planeview. Sometimes he was alone, and other times his pastor or fellow church members were involved. One day, he had a discussion with folks from Brookside United Methodist Church, Hunter Health Clinic and the city.
Schwarz, however, didn’t have a background in construction or engineering or even fundraising. He was an accountant by trade but was determined to help the people of Planeview. He made no outward promises, but wanted to use his network to help fulfill the need for medical access in Planeview.
It was evident that one area where there was great need was with the Hunter Health Clinic’s Planeview location. The clinic operated out of tight space in Brookside. The two tiny exam rooms were only 7 feet by 7 feet; there was a physician’s assistant but no full-time physician for this community of 4,400.
The first thing he focused on was getting architectural plans. He and Gannon tried one firm but only were able to secure a discounted rate. Schwarz then took the plight of the clinic to his friend Kerry Hunt at GLMV Architecture and asked the firm to donate its services.
But there was some encouraging news: The clinic had rudimentary plans for an expansion and about $250,000 secured in federal and state grants.
Hunt presented the idea to the partners, and they agreed to do the work pro bono. In the end, it was the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars in work. Clinic officials and architects worked together and determined that a new building would be most cost effective. Planeview was put up so fast to accommodate the Boeing defense workers in wartime that there is nothing constructed in a standard manner, requiring many accommodations for utilities and plumbing.
Schwarz believed that he and his congregation could make a significant contribution to the area by helping improve medical care in Planeview. He saw helping with the health clinic as just the first step in a process of engagement that his congregation would have with the residents of Planeview. Delivering on that promise might earn not only the trust of Planeview residents, but he also felt it could energize the members of his church to sustain their commitment to the neighborhood.
Brookside was willing to set aside land on its property, and Hunter Health was willing to make a 25-year commitment to serving the community.
“The people in our congregation will have a deeper experience in interacting with the people in Planeview. … It changes our perspective, and it changes the perspective of the people in Planeview. That’s what’s really cool – interacting with people, changing perceptions.”
Schwarz was feeling pretty good – that is, until Hunt told him the project needed an experienced engineering firm to provide precise architectural engineering plans. “It felt like a brick wall,” Schwarz says.
ABOUT 300 PLANEVIEW RESIDENTS HAD GATH ERED TO VOICE THEIR CONCERNS. IT SH OWED SCHWARZ HOW DEEPLY THE RESIDENTS CA RE A BOUT OPPORTUNITIES FOR THEIR CHILDREN.
“THE PHYSICAL STRUCTURE IS NOT THE CHURCH,” SCHWARZ SAYS. “A PEW OR A CHAIR IS NOT THE CHURCH ...THE CHURCH IS THE PEOPLE. OUR CHURCH IS OUTSIDE THESE FOUR WALLS.” C H A R L I E S C H WA R Z
Armed with new information, Charlie Schwarz reassessed his goals and decided to work on improving access to medical care in Planeview.
It took additional effort, but Schwarz got Professional Engineering Consultants to consider the great need in Planeview. The company allowed its employees to donate their services as long as they did the work on their own time.
project. While he did involve others, particularly those on the Planeview Transformation Coalition, progress on the clinic mainly fell on his shoulders. Schwarz also felt that while he had his pastor’s endorsement and assistance, he didn’t fully have Gannon’s ear, as busy as he was with day-to-day church operations.
With that work completed, Schwarz was ready to do the legwork on securing a contractor. Schwarz was asking contractors to take on the project at cost with no overhead profit. Schwarz secured Hutton Construction and finally had a detailed bid. It was a $600,000 project.
Still, the land for the clinic was set aside, and Hunter Health had committed to 25 years. Schwarz had precise architectural and engineering drawings. He even had many hours of free labor arranged. To secure that $100,000, Schwarz set his sights on a large private foundation linked to a prominent Wichita business family that he thought was his best and maybe only hope. Schwarz submitted the plans for the new Planeview Hunter Health Clinic. The response? A polite but firm no. Already in this project, Schwarz had encountered some roadblocks, so he pushed back. He was persistent. He called the foundation grant manager. He pleaded his case; he asked why.
Numbers and budgets were familiar territory for Schwarz, though. He worked with Hunter Health Clinic to whittle that down, scaling back on some plans. He recruited a Methodist men’s group to do some of the construction. Hunter Health Clinic was able to allocate an additional $100,000 from its grant pool for the project. Finally, Schwarz had his marching orders: He needed to find about $100,000 to finance Planeview’s new Hunter Health Clinic; and he did have a time crunch. It was now well into 2010, the clinic needed to be built by 2011, or the grant money would expire.
Finally, the manager responded, and she didn’t mince words. A Planeview health clinic simply did not align with the foundation’s philanthropic interests in any way.
“I had to close the gap,” he says. The door slammed shut. Schwarz honed his business plan. He had the tacit backing of his congregation, which had agreed to the pastor’s challenge to support Planeview and was contributing with donated school supplies and tutoring.
Schwarz was devastated. He had put all his eggs in this foundation’s basket. For the first time, he felt truly flummoxed.
Schwarz was serving a three-year term as chairman of his church council, and he gave both the council and the congregation periodic updates on the clinic
Want to find out how Charlie’s story ends? Visit www.kansasleadershipcenter.org/blog to read this case study’s epilogue.
DISC US SION QUESTIONS: 1. Is Charlie primarily treating this situation as an adaptive challenge or technical challenge?
What do you see in the story that leads you to that conclusion? 2. To what extent is Charlie successfully energizing others in this story?
What might he do to be more effective? 3. How would you respond if you experienced a disappointment like this with your own leadership
challenge? What options does Charlie have to hold to his purpose?
Nathan Rogers attempts to climb a pole in Planeview.
“THE PEOPLE IN OUR CONGR EG ATION WILL HAVE A D EEPER EXPER IENCE INTERAC TIN G WITH THE PEOPLE IN PLA NEVIEW. ... IT C HA NGES OU R PERSPECTIVE, A ND IT CH AN GES THE PER SPECTIVE OF THE PEOPLE IN PLAN EVIEW. TH AT’S WHAT’S R EALLY COOL – INTERA C TING WITH PEOPLE, CHA NGING PERC EPTIONS.” C H A R L I E S C H WA R Z 51.
gIvINg hOPE By Sarah Caldwell Hancock
TA K E A C T I O N AND LEARN
By Sarah Caldwell Hancock
A SMALL GROUP SHOWS THE PERSISTENCE, FLEXIBILITY NEEDED TO OVERCOME CHALLENGES AND TO ADDRESS POVERTY M E A N I N G F U L LY AT THE COMMUNITY LEVEL
It’s a familiar tale: A group identifies a challenge and starts working on it, but loses momentum. But where this particular story leads might surprise you. The challenge? Poverty in Greenwood County, a large eastern Kansas county about 60 miles east of Wichita. Nearly 18 percent of the population lives below the poverty line there, compared to 13.2 percent statewide. To help address the problem of poverty, a team from Eureka’s First United Methodist Church started a program to provide kids a place to eat breakfast and play games on days when school started late. The efforts were sparked by the church’s participation in Leadership & Faith Transforming Communities programs offered by the Kansas Leadership Center. But progress proved difficult. First United Methodist member Jan Stephens says the group felt like it was spinning its wheels. “It’s an overwhelming prospect,” she recalls. “We had some meetings and asked, ‘What do we do about this?’”
Nothing seemed to be working. Attempts to get a KLC alumni group to start meeting foundered amid busy schedules. “We became aware we weren’t getting anywhere, that we didn’t know the right players,” Stephens says. After struggling to meet for about three months, members of the group heard about four families with similar goals who had broken away from a local church to form the Flint Hills Christian Fellowship. “They were new, and we didn’t know them,” says Stephens. “We met and they were gung-ho, and that’s where it really jelled.” Led by Matt Osborn, the faith group joined forces with the KLC alums and helped form an organization called Community LinC (Love in Christ). Patsy Garner of First United Methodist says the new organization obtained nonprofit, tax-exempt status “in record time” last spring. By the summer, the group was serving one community meal a month, expanding to two meals per month at the beginning of this year.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Volunteer Patsy Garner (left) hugs or greets everyone who attends the free community meal at Eureka’s First United Methodist Church. Volunteers for the group putting on the dinner, Community LinC (Love in Christ), come from organizations and factions across the community; Joshua Osborn eats some fruit at a dinner; the meals have connected church representatives with people that might not have met otherwise. First United Methodist member Jan Stephens says she’s lived in Eureka for 40 years and people have come in for the meals she has never seen before; volunteers prepare one of the twice-a-month community dinners in the church kitchen earlier this year; a meal prepared earlier this year included breakfast items, such as biscuits. Volunteers served 127 plates and 20 to-go boxes that day.
The new organization not only boasts a board of directors and a large volunteer base, Stephens explains, but its volunteers also come from many different organizations and factions within the community. While the group serves meals at First Methodist, seven churches in all are represented on the board, which meets monthly. About 25 people form the core group of volunteers. Treasurer Jan Taylor keeps the finances in order, and an event team led by Matt’s wife, Beth Osborn, plans meals and coordinates volunteers using a project management website. They even plan special meals, such as a Valentine’s Day menu with bacon-wrapped hamburger steaks, ranch potatoes and chocolate cake for dessert. At another February meal, breakfast was on the menu, and the group served 127 plates and 20 to-go boxes.
‘WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?’
After moving from questions of “Can we take this on?,” Community LinC achieved technical success relatively quickly; however, the group faced other, more difficult hurdles as it worked across factions to address poverty. Serving meals was one thing. Answering their own church members’ questions and debunking stereotypes about those they are aiming to help has added another layer to the challenge. Garner says she sometimes hears comments from church members about helping freeloaders, or “these people” who want handouts. “That should not keep us from helping others,” she says. “We have an education job within our own church membership, and some have come and helped and some are just asking questions – who are these people? We have to think of that as opportunity.” Stephens says that there’s “always going to be people who think everyone should be able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and that’s not
always possible.” She thinks some in her congregation have changed their thinking over time. Stephens and others from First United Methodist ensure that at least two people from their congregation attend every meal, and Community LinC has communicated appreciation for use of the church facility. The next step is getting more church members to attend the meals. Communicating with skeptical members within their own church hasn’t been the only challenge. Working across different denominations has also required everyone to set aside assumptions. As a “pretty middle-of-the-road Methodist,” Stephens says, she is not always comfortable with some outward shows of faith, but she likes how Community LinC demonstrates the love of Christ. “It’s wonderful to see how people from different churches come together. We’re learning about each other,” she explains. Part of that is not judging each other’s choices. “I’ve never asked why [Osborn’s group] left a more formally established church and started their own. It’s not my choice, but it’s theirs,” she says. Matt Osborn stresses that the group’s purpose transcends church boundaries. “I don’t want this to get into denominational differences and arguing about a bunch of nonsense,” he says. “There are people from other churches around town working together to make this happen. I think that’s a miracle. We’re building community among the ministry itself. I’m hoping it spills all over town.” Stephens says KLC leadership training was crucial to starting Community LinC. “We really learned how to identify competencies,” she says, noting that common language was helpful. “So when we said we need to diagnose the situation, it wasn’t a scary or foreign term. We learned to use our strengths. I’m not sure if it’s divine leadership or KLC leadership, but a lot of people were around the table and we really didn’t have an election, but we
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Matt Osborn, who leads the Flint Hills Christian Fellowship, stands in front of Eureka‘s First United Methodist Church, where Community LinC serves meals. The group started with help from both Osborn’s church and Kansas Leadership Center alumni from First United Methodist. Seven churches are now represented on the board of Community LinC; diners pray before one of the community meals at the church; volunteer Tasha Brandt cooks a dish for the dinner; Jim Baker of Eureka enjoys one of the meals. Community LinC organizers would like to raise funds for a facility of their own and provide classes to help those in poverty improve their quality of life and attain independence.
needed a secretary, president, etc., and people said ‘I can do that’ and were in the places they needed to be,” Stephens says.
Stephens says that working with Community LinC has stretched her and helped her get to know people she doesn’t typically encounter. “We’re all comfortable in our own circles, and I am so lucky to be in a good life situation and not have to face the challenges some of these people have faced. When we’re all clean and warm, we can’t understand why others aren’t, and it’s not always their fault,” she says. “It’s broadened my horizons.”
She would like to see the Community LinC board as a whole gain greater familiarity with the KLC leadership framework so that everyone shares the same vocabulary. “I think it would be easier if we all had a taste of those principles,” she says.
As individuals’ horizons broaden, gaps between them narrow. Many who attend the meal contribute something to the donation jar. Some also add prayer requests to a designated container, including a family with a high-risk pregnancy that came to a later meal with a healthy baby. Many have donated funds or food to the effort or have helped solicit corporate donations, such as turkeys for the Thanksgiving meal from Cargill or beef from local ranchers. Matt Osborn puts it succinctly when he says, “We are seeing community built.”
Regardless of whether they use the term, all who work with Community LinC understand that poverty is an adaptive challenge – a problem that resists tidy solutions. Garner says they know they have to prepare themselves for a long, messy process. “We are not reaching with our meals nearly all of the hungry people in this area, and we’re not learning about their other needs, although we’re working toward that,” Garner says. “But we’re making a little progress in those areas. You can get very discouraged with projects if you don’t realize the adaptive nature of continuing efforts.”
MORE THAN MEALS
Community LinC’s ambitious goals include raising funds for a facility of its own and providing classes to help those in poverty improve their quality of life and attain independence. Stephens started working toward this goal by inviting community professionals from a variety of fields to bring educational materials to meals. In February, a representative from Greenwood County Hospital Home Health brought dental care kits. A display with nutritional information from K-State Research and Extension was another recent addition.
Building community is a necessary first step, and Community LinC is careful to be inclusive. Meals are open to the entire community. Although many who come struggle with income problems, others have different needs. Matt Osborn notes that physical needs are often a “doorway.” “Our goal is to minister the love of Christ to all people whether they are rich or poor or whatever, with love and primarily by providing meals and meeting them at their points of physical, spiritual and social need,” he says.
Osborn says having a Community LinC building would help expand the organization’s offerings. Some aren’t comfortable coming to a church, so a neutral site is a necessity. Osborn also sees the possibility of deeper impact.
Stephens shares that view. “I’ve lived in Eureka for 40 years,” she says, “and we have people come who I’ve never seen before. People without networks come.” The volunteers, including clergy from every church in town and everyone who serves, make an effort to sit down and eat with those who are receiving the meal and get to know them.
“The overall vision is if I give a free meal to someone, have I really benefitted them?” he explains. “More than just a meal, long-term, we’d like to provide different ways of looking at life.”
help even if they have financial problems, that there’s hope for a better quality of life.” She says educating families in a friendly environment will help them learn about available resources as it enriches community.
One challenge of poverty is losing the feeling of helping others. “People might want to come and help in a garden or be involved in something else. My vision would be a Community LinC center – a room, a kitchen and some other facilities to be used for job fairs and workshops or any number of things to benefit the town and overall community,” Osborn says.
Osborn credits the people in Eureka with helping Community LinC get off to a good start. “The people of Greenwood County are some of the best you’ll ever find on earth,” he says. As his group works to expand, he hopes to continue to encourage all to contribute. He knows the area has suffered economically, but he sees a way forward. “I hear a lot of folks complain that this area has a black cloud over it. I think that’s garbage. We choose to let it stay there, or we can choose to make a difference. I encourage others to be part of the solution.”
Stephens says that people in poverty situations concentrate on short-term problems such as having grocery money or paying rent. Instead, she wants them “to see hope, that their children can go to college, or they can have a full-time job, or there’s
L ESS ONS f rOm g rEEN wOOD COUN TY: HOW DO YOU ADDRESS POVERTY AT THE COMMUNITY LEVEL?
Identify an area of community need.
Experiment with efforts addressing it.
Evaluate your efforts. Reassess if things aren’t working.
Grow your circle by engaging others.
Focus on building relationships, not just meeting needs.
Be prepared to grow and change through the process yourself.
Make progress one step at a time.
Keep your eye on the larger challenge.
Eliana Osborn, 2, enjoys a meal at the church.
“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” BABE rUTh
By Jeff Tuttle
A player looks on during the opening ceremonies of League 42 earlier this year.
from first pitch to home run It started out as just an idea. A question really. A dribbler of an infield single that kept rolling toward the fences and is on its way to being an inside the park home run. With organized baseball long absent from many of the neighborhoods in the urban core of Wichita, a generation of children had been growing up without much access to playing America's national pastime. Then, Bob Lutz, a sports columnist for The Wichita Eagle, asked last year in a Facebook post whether anybody would be interested in a grassroots effort to bring youth baseball back to the inner city and allow children the chance to develop a love for baseball and what playing it can teach them about life. The scribe's thought became a spark that caught fire, bringing in dozens of volunteers, spurring the involvement of community groups that work with youths and enlisting the cooperation of city government officials. It led to the creation of League 42, named for legendary barrier-breaking player Jackie Robinson, which opened play this past spring with 16 teams and 220 players ranging in age from 5 to 12. The league's opening night, captured by Journal photographer Jeff Tuttle, shows how one person's thought can snowball into something that can enrich the lives of hundreds, both players and volunteers. It's a good reminder. Your ideas have power. And many more may share them. But you may have to be willing to make the first pitch.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Caiden Holloway gets a hit in a League 42 T-ball game in Wichita; Izzy Ristich looks on as her team is announced at the opening ceremony for League 42; League 42 founder and T-ball coach Bob Lutz encourages his team during a game; teams greet each other at the end of a game.
A team lines up to be announced during the opening ceremony of League 42, which began play this spring.
Monica Brown helps with the food assembly at the Hyatt Hotel in Wichita on the night before the official start of the 2014 Kansas Hunger Dialogue. The dialogue was started in 2010 to build agreement among Kansas higher education institutions about hunger awareness and action.
I N N O VAT E A N D B R O A D E N YOUR EFFORTS
SETTINg ThE TABLE DIALOGUE PULLS COLLEGE STUDENTS INTO EFFORTS T O C H A N G E T H E C O N V E R S AT I O N O N H U N G E R
By Joe Stumpe
For Cassie Standley, the realization that some Kansans don't always know where their next meal is coming from sank in while she was tutoring a Wichita fourth-grader. When snacks were handed out, the boy would usually tuck his away uneaten.
his parents divorced and his mother was forced to work multiple jobs to feed her two sons. "As a kid my diet was terrible â€” 'Kid Cuisine' and soda," Martin says. "I was hungry a little bit as a kid." However they come to know that hunger and food insecurity exist, college students such as Standley and Martin are leading efforts to do something about it on their campuses, in communities across the state and in other areas of the world. Working with their schools and other organizations, the students conduct food drives and meal-packaging events, set up food pantries, raise money, perform research and stage events to draw attention to hunger.
"He didn't know if he'd have food to eat when he got home," says Standley, who graduated from Wichita State University in May. "That was kind of shocking to me. I'd never known anyone like that." Zach Martin, a freshman this past year at Hutchinson Community College, didn't need anyone to teach him about food insecurity. Growing up in Manhattan, Kansas,
The students are also part of a public conversation that's trying to shift the focus from hunger relief to the kind of transformational development that heads off the need for it. That development, the thinking goes, will not result solely from anti-hunger and anti-poverty efforts but from work in agriculture, technology, business, public policy and many other fields.
Old Town entertainment district, the students sorted rice, beans, pasta and other shelf-stable ingredients into thousands of bagged meals for distribution by the Kansas Food Bank.
The students grapple with many of the same challenges as their older counterparts when they try to make change happen, from raising awareness of an issue to finding the resources to address it. Plus there are challenges specific to their situation: a lack of experience, the growing pains and distractions that come with the college years, and a transient pool of manpower to draw from.
The Kansas Hunger Dialogue was started in 2010 to build agreement among Kansas institutions of higher learning regarding hunger awareness and action. Ninety students, teachers and administrators attended the first dialogue, a number that grew to 155 people representing 16 schools this year.
But they bring special attributes as well. "When you get college kids behind something, they're going to see it through and get it done," says Brian Walker, executive director of the Kansas Food Bank. "The passion that brings, the amount of students that can bring to the table, is enormous."
REFRAMING THE PROBLEM
On a chilly night this winter, some of that passion was evident at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Wichita. It was the night before the official start of the 2014 Kansas Hunger Dialogue, and many students were already in town for the event. Instead of lounging in their hotel rooms or looking for fun in Wichita's nearby
Not that they weren't having fun. Decked out in school colors, hairnets and plastic gloves, participants let out cheers as they filled boxes with the meals.
In addition to hearing from experts in the hunger field, participants made presentations about what's happening on their own campuses and broke into small groups to exchange ideas about what does, doesn't and could work. For instance, students from Kansas State University came away from the dialogue with the idea of starting an on-campus food pantry, similar to what's been done at other schools. One of the most common themes heard at the dialogue is that many Kansans are not aware that there is a problem with hunger and food insecurity here. That's led several campuses to hold week- and even month-long "hunger awareness" programs, often involving symbolism. For example, students at Fort Hays State planted 365 plastic folks on the school's quad -- one for every 10 people living in poverty in Ellis County, where the college is located.
LEFT TO RIGHT: Individuals from several schools and organizations help with the food assembly prior to the Hunger Dialogue. Students sorted rice, beans, pasta and other shelf-stable ingredients into thousands of bagged meals for distribution in Kansas; Michelle Dreiling works as a food assembler; Isaac McNary demonstrates how to package the food prior to its being boxed.
"It's not so much doing similar things but things that are appropriate for each campus," says WSU professor Deborah Ballard-Reisch, who has led hunger awareness efforts.
the idea is to reframe the discussion so that it's not about charity. Hunger is a multifaceted problem with complex solutions."
Estimates are that 1 in 6 Kansans are "food insecure," a term the U.S. government uses to mean a person's consistent access to adequate food is limited by money and other resources. Another measure of the problem is the number of Kansans -- nearly 200,000 each year -- who receive emergency food through food banks and other organizations.
SOWING THE SEEDS O F T R A N S F O R M AT I O N
The food insecurity rate is highest in some of the state's most populated areas, plus the southeast region and northeast edge. Riley County and Geary County, where Manhattan and Fort Riley are located, share the highest food insecurity rate -- 18.4 percent. The figure comes from Feeding Americaâ€™s Map the Meal Gap Project. The problem is even more pronounced for the stateâ€™s children. Nearly 23 percent, about 162,400 children, are food insecure in Kansas. Woodson County has the highest percentage number of food-insecure children in the state, 32.5 percent. Sedgwick County has the highest numbers of food-insecure children (30,630) followed by Johnson (24,840), Wyandotte (12,070) and Shawnee (10,360) counties. "Initially, the (Hunger) Dialogue existed to raise awareness of the issue," says Josh Mosier, this past yearâ€™s executive director of Kansas Campus Compact, which hosts the event. "Now that we're in year four,
Students at Kansas State University have a long history of helping the Flint Hills Breadbasket food pantry in Manhattan, which primarily serves city residents rather than students. For 18 years, an event known as "Cats For Cans" has collected cash and canned food donations for the pantry prior to a K-State Wildcats home football game. Hunger relief and awareness efforts have grown along with the university's School of Leadership Studies. Much of what's taught in the school should sound familiar to anyone who's been through the Kansas Leadership Center's training in principles and competencies. In class, students spend time diagnosing situations and analyzing stakeholder perspectives in the community they're trying to impact. Outside class, they try not just to complete service projects, but to engage those different stakeholders as well. "There are so many leadership aspects to it," K-State teacher and academic adviser Lori Kniffin says. "Hunger is an issue students can connect to and start practicing some of those competencies."
Zach Martin, a student at Hutchinson Community College, grew up facing food insecurity and is part of an effort to start a food pantry on his campus.
â€œwE wANT ThEm TO ThINk ABOUT BEINg INvOLvED IN ThEIr COmmUNITIES BEYOND jUST ThEIr fOUr YEArS IN COLLEgE.â€? Kniffin doubts that any current campus hunger efforts qualify as "transformational" but says the Hunger Dialogue has sown seeds in that direction. "That is something that came away from the dialogue, that 'aha' moment." Students in one class, Lead 405: Leadership in Practice, have worked on The Facing Project (manhattanhunger.facingproject.com), collecting stories from people visiting the Flint Hills Breadbasket for help. The plan is to publish the stories in a book to raise awareness. On a weekday in March, K-State senior Alyssa Casanova interviewed several people at the food pantry. One was a veteran and single father who'd been deployed overseas three times, twice resulting in injuries. Another was a woman with a master's degree who'd lost her job after taking time off to deal with an autoimmune disease and to help her single son raise his children. "You don't really think of people who are hungry as people who are in those kind of situations," Casanova says afterward. "It's really eye-opening." Still another pantry visitor turned the focus back on Casanova. "There was one lady who said she thinks college kids are all just rich kids coming to school," Casanova says. "Actually, I'm a single mom, I have two kids myself. I'm also on food stamps. It's nice for them to be able to see us in a different light." Another K-State student in the leadership school, Tyler Morrison, says he is a rich kid, or at least
one from a comfortable, private-school background. Morrison says he grew up helping his parents conduct food drives and serve holiday dinners to the poor in north Texas. He's done the same in Manhattan, preparing and serving meals at the First Methodist Church each Wednesday. Morrison and the other volunteers sit down and eat with their guests and try "to get to know their stories." The actual topic of hunger is touchy, he says. "Not too many like to talk about the subject. They want to talk about their lives." Morrison, who's involved in the proposed oncampus food pantry at K-State, says there are many reasons why students go hungry or subsist on non-nutritious meals. It can be as straightforward as spending money on rent or tuition instead of groceries. For many, money is especially tight at the beginning of the semester, when student aid may not have arrived. Money from home often takes time to catch up with students who come from foreign countries. Some students have family or friends they could ask for help but are embarrassed to do so. Nationwide, the number of on-campus food pantries has grown from four in 2008 to 121 today, according to a recent tally. The increasing number of students from low-income families who view higher education as necessary to a secure financial future is one factor feeding the growth. "There's a lot of need in the city, but there's also a lot of need among students," Morrison says.
The number of students, teachers and administrators who attended the first Kansas Hunger Dialogue in 2010.
The number of people hailing from 16 different schools at the 2014 dialogue.
The child food insecurity rate in Woodson County, which is the highest percentage in Kansas.
hUNgEr DIALOgUE BY THE NUMBERS
200,000 The approximate number of Kansans who receive emergency food through food banks and other organizations each year.
The food insecurity rate for children in Kansas, according to Feeding Americaâ€™s Map the Meal Gap Project. The percentage is equal to 162,400 children.
*(Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). 72.
1 in 8 The number of people in the world estimated to be suffering from chronic hunger or regularly not getting enough food to conduct an active life in 2011-13. The total number of undernourished, 842 million, has fallen 17 percent since 1990-92.*
fIghTINg hUNgEr ON CAmPUS O T H E R E X A M P L E S F R O M A C R O S S T H E S TAT E
HUTCHINSON COMMUNITY COLLEGE Honor students are trying to get a food pantry started. It's tough to get students in two-year institutions motivated for long-range projects, says student Zach Martin, but a survey shows a real need. "How ridiculous is it that in the most obese country in the world we have all these people at our doorstep needing help?" he asks.
WICHITA STATE Students have partnered with community members to package hundreds of thousands of emergency meals for overseas relief, collected food and volunteered for the Kansas Food Bank and formed the Hunger Awareness Initiative to raise awareness on campus.
PITTSBURG STATE UNIVERSITY Students are positioned to open the Gorilla Assistance Pantry (named for the school mascot) next fall, funded partly by a "Hunger Games" fundraiser modeled on the popular movie.
BUTLER COMMUNITY COLLEGE Interest in the issue might be surmised by the fact that both the current president, Kimberly Krull, and her predecessor, Jackie Vietti, attended this year's Hunger Dialogue. In December, the school opened a food pantry in the library on its main campus in El Dorado.
‘WE ALL HAD THE SAME ISSUES’
Students at Fort Hays State established a food pantry three years ago, after the university's Center for Civic Leadership launched an initiative to address global issues such as poverty, hunger, immigration, sustainability and human trafficking at the local level. "Hunger is definitely the main one we focus on," says Brenna Johnson, a junior majoring in organizational leadership. "With hunger, we can do a lot more hands-on activities. Other events just bring speakers. We have found that students really like hands-on activities." As part of Poverty Week at Fort Hays State, students camped out in handmade shacks, watched a film about Haiti and made a meal out of rice. Using food supplied by Numana, the El Dorado-based international hunger relief organization, students also packaged 50,000 meals, with half going overseas and the rest staying in the United States. The university's food pantry, located in the library, is utilized by students but probably needs tweaking, Johnson says. She says some students may be embarrassed to use it, others don't know it exists, and still others wouldn't know what to do with the dry and canned goods if they got them. "We would like to provide more recipes for students to use," she says. "We'll get a can of beans, and it
will sit in there for months. We think it's because students are like, 'How do I cook this?'" Johnson came away from the Hunger Dialogue with a feeling that Fort Hays students are not alone in the challenges they face. "I think we all had the same issues – getting (fellow students) involved or getting them passionate about hunger."
BEYOND THE COLLEGE CAMPUS
Ottawa University, a private school with about 600 students, may be the smallest Kansas college with an active anti-hunger effort. Sandra Marlatte, an instructor in social and behavior sciences, got the ball rolling when she took two students to the first Kansas Hunger Dialogue. Back in Ottawa, the trio started Hungry For Change, a chapter of Universities Fighting World Hunger. Today, about 20 Ottawa students participate. The students hold a competitive food drive with Baker University, their nearby rival, during the schools' annual football game. They stage a "Hunger Banquet" at which attendees are randomly assigned a seat at tables representing rich, middle-class and poor homes, then served meals ranging from steak
LEFT TO RIGHT: Butler Community College President Kim Krull assembles food with other students from the school; The meals packaged by the students will be distributed by the Kansas Food Bank; Both Krull and her predecessor at Butler Community College, Jackie Vietti, attended this year’s Hunger Dialogue. The school opened a food pantry in its library on its main campus in El Dorado last year.
and dessert to rice and water. They use a grant from American Baptist Churches, with which Ottawa University is affiliated, to help the Communities in Schools program in Ottawa provide snacks to middle and high school students.
fewer meals than they would like to. Of respondents with children, 31 percent said they'd gone hungry so their kids could eat. A common complaint was the lack of accessible, affordable and healthy food options.
Seniors who take a problem-solving class at Ottawa proposed starting an on-campus food pantry. However, as Hungry For Change member Janelle Bailey notes, the seniors "handed that off to us" when they left â€“ an example of the way the transient nature of the college experience can impact plans.
On the broader issue of development, there may be little that college students can do to change economic, political and cultural conditions that contribute to hunger. However, they won't be college students forever. Mosier says food pantries and other charitable efforts are "entry points" to fighting hunger and food insecurity.
"We're struggling to get that going because we haven't found a permanent location," Bailey says. As a result, "It's difficult to advertise it."
"We want them to the think about being involved in their communities beyond just their four years in college," Mosier says.
For now, the pantry is run out of Marlatte's office. Statewide, there seem to be no good statistics on the number of college students utilizing food pantries. Rick McNary, who attended the Hunger Dialogue as a representative of the Outreach International hunger organization, says the fact that the pantries are regularly refilled shows they're needed.
That's exactly where Morrison, the K-State student, says he's headed during and after a hopefully successful career in the private sector. "Every nonprofit is going to need someone for the board, or to help them financially."
"Students don't want to admit that they're hungry, but they are slipping into the food pantry and getting supplies," he says. "They're often empty." WSU students conducted a survey of their campus community that drew more than 1,000 responses. The results were similar to the overall estimate of food insecurity in Kansas: 17 percent reported eating
The Kansas Food Bank's Brian Walker has no doubt they can make a difference, and not just in the area of hunger. "The long-term effects of that is that you've got them committed to supporting nonprofit work, not only in the hunger business but in Big Brothers Big Sisters or whatever," he says. "You get them involved at that age, and they're going to stay committed to helping."
a GraCeFuL PassaGe BY cAllY KRAllMAn
thrilled to be able to share my vision and perception with others. It is my goal that one of my paintings may spur a memory of a familiar scene or simply evoke a feeling of “home.”
I have been painting in the Midwest, primarily Kansas, for more than 25 years. I have traveled to many places throughout the world, but I am still drawn to the simplistic beauty of Kansas. Many people think of Kansas as just a flat agricultural state, but in fact it is full of wonderful hills, tree-lined rivers and creeks, and other unique land formations. The sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking and calming at the same time. Our four seasons create myriad colors worthy of any artists' palette.
I enjoy plein air painting (on location). There is no better way to capture all the nuances of a scene. Although studio painting makes up the largest portion of my work, painting en plein air keeps my perceptual skills honed. My pareddown setup consists of: pochade box, tripod, paints, solvent, brushes, viewfinder, canvas panels, paper towels, sunscreen and bug spray – lots of bug spray!
My work ranges in size from 6”x 8” all the way up to 4’x 8’. I am always looking for the perfect composition, and Kansas can certainly provide that. Endless roads, fields of grain, chromatic sunrises or dramatic sunsets are always on my radar.
My home studio includes two work areas. I have one area for painting, including up to three easels for working on multiple paintings at the same time. The other area serves as a framing/stretching station and also houses my inventory of frames, canvas, stretcher bars and paintings that are not yet at a gallery.
I believe there is a large audience for Kansas art, including those who proudly call her home or those who have moved elsewhere and want a reminder of our beautiful state. I am 77.
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg wrote “Celebrate This Kansas” for the state's 150th anniversary of statehood in early 2011. Later that same year, storm chaser and photographer Stephen Locke took this photo near Cunningham of a receding supercell, catching magnificent colors and textures at sunset. Mirriam-Goldberg and Locke have teamed up to create a new book, being released this fall. Called “Chasing Weather: Tornadoes, Tempests, and Thunderous Skies in Word and Image” (Ice Cube Press), the book matches 70 of Locke’s storm photos with Mirriam-Goldberg's weather poetry. Mirriam-Goldberg has always been in love with weather, which makes living in Kansas especially ideal. Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate and the author or editor of 19 books, including her new memoir about being poet laureate, “Poem on the Range: A Poet Laureate's Love Song to Kansas.” She teaches at Goddard College in Vermont through a low-residency program, and leads community writing workshops widely. See more of Mirriam-Goldberg’s writing at her website and blog, www.CarynMirriamGoldberg.com.
CeLebrate this kansas BY cARYn MIRRIAM-GolDBeRG
Celebrate this sky, this land beyond measured time that tilts the seasonal light. Dream the return of the stars, the searing rise of summer or fast spread of thunderheads, the secret-holding cedars and witness rocks that migrate across the prairies. We breathe the air of those who spoke languages forgotten as the glaciers. We walk the fields that once fed the fish of inland oceans. We turn our heads away from where the raccoon hid his family from the storm hundreds of generations beforehand. This rain was once a man's last wish, this heat what warmed a weathered rock enough for a woman to rest on with her baby, these fossils, love songs of memory and longing after the beloveds die. This horizon once and always the homeland of butterfly milkweed oranging in ancient sun. This creek's trail rerouted by deer and wild turkey. This wooded curve the one favored by bluebirds and monarch butterflies following last summer south. All we see, the ghost and angel of trails through the grasslands over thousands of years, the remnant of hard rains where the grandmothers and grandfathers sang of weather and loss, wars and births. The bones of this land and the feathers of this sky know us better than we know ourselves.
THE BACK PAGE DestInAtIon neveRlAnD? I sURe HoPe not I’m uncomfortable thinking of myself as Peter Pan, although it was my favorite childhood Disney fantasy. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to grow up or that I’ve wanted to fly or that I remain distrustful of Captain Hook.
The noble interpretation of what I’ve done journalistically is that I’ve helped raise awareness about these issues. But keeping my journalistic distance has left me less outraged than I once was. Have I reduced tragedies to banal storytelling?
It’s more that I don’t like how much I identify with Peter Pan’s betwixt-and-between plight with regard to helping children trapped in poverty.
I once arranged for a grocery delivery to an impoverished family I’d interviewed. I clearly cared and wanted to do more. But isn’t that just charity masquerading as justice?
When JM Barrie, Peter Pan’s creator, was 6, his older brother fractured his skull in a fall. The brother died just short of his 14th birthday but in their mother’s mind his brother remained a boy forever – thus Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. One theory insists that Peter Pan inhabits a betwixtand-between world, floating in a purgatory between Earth and Neverland (Heaven). From there, the eternally pubescent Peter Pan escorts children the rest of the way to Neverland. As a journalist, I’ve considered myself a child advocate, too, but wonder if writing about childhood poverty constitutes work avoidance. Am I watching children founder while describing the water? I’m a year removed from covering shocking child poverty in Missouri’s Ozarks, and several years from a 20-year newspaper career -- mostly in Kansas -often covering child poverty.
Betwixt and between is the journalist’s natural “observer” state, but maybe I’m acquiescing to what is also a natural inclination to avoid pain for coping comfort. I wrote often of poverty’s learned powerlessness without realizing observers might be susceptible. Earlier versions of Peter Pan found Peter trapped in his world after being granted the gift of flight. He’d returned home to find bars blocking his window and his mother cradling another little boy. My betwixt-and-between escape will mean asking myself what I’m willing to sacrifice to make progress. Asking if I’m protecting my carefully constructed reality. Would I be willing, for example, to surrender my prized journalist’s identity for one of a staunch advocate? Whatever it is, I need to do it.
The first child poverty story that jolted me, however, wasn’t my own. Twenty years ago, a co-worker covering social services shared her story about a gaggle of homeless children who ate breakfast at McDonald’s every morning – from the restaurant’s dumpster.
I don’t want to exist as Peter Pan – believing I’m helping, but merely accompanying and comforting children awaiting their fate.
But countless stories followed in my own career: stories about children whose “weekend” food backpacks sat empty by Friday evening; children humiliated at school because their mother couldn’t bathe them or wash their stinking clothes; children whose mothers stayed with boyfriends offering a place to live but who also beat, abused, and in some cases, killed them.
Mark E. McCormick is the executive director of The Kansas African American Museum in Wichita.
“Wealthy men can’t live in an island that is encircled by poverty. We all breathe the same air. We must give a chance to everyone, at least a basic chance.” – Ayrton Senna, Brazilian racing driver
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