by Sister Rose Therese Bahr, A.S.C.
“And Jesus said: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to Me” (Mt.25:40).
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Empowering families to move out of poverty and capture the spirit of Jesus’ words prompted the Adorers of the Blood of Christ to start a new ministry, the Delano Circle Site, to help poor families in 2013. This ministry, established after a year of planning in collaboration with dedicated lay men and women who embrace this mission in the low-income Delano neighborhood of West Wichita, is located about a mile from our Center convent in the Parish Hall of St. Joseph Parish. This ministry is affiliated with the National Circle Movement started in Seattle, Washington, which is spreading across the United States into cities to help eradicate poverty and to help families achieve a more humane approach to life with dignity and respect.
The program has a two-pronged approach: 1) Bridges Out of Poverty, 12 weekly classes for families learning on how to improve their lifestyle and assume responsibility for seeking employment, better housing or whatever challenge is faced as the cause of their poverty; and 2) an 18-month series of weekly meetings where Bridges graduates become Circle Leaders and lead a supportive resource staff (called Allies) to discuss establishing goals resolving the challenges faced by the family to help them move out of poverty.
These programs, officially begun in February 2014, currently include 14 adult poor women in the Bridges program and 5 graduates in the Delano Site Circle Leader program with 3-4 women joining this group shortly. The Bridges classes are held consecutively throughout the year offering an on-going supply of Circle Leaders. The Delano Circle Site programs are also open to men.
The hoped-for outcomes include: a) achieving positive self-esteem in the women/men resulting from the Bridges program and the Circle Leadership experience; b) promoting confidence in the Circle Leader that they possesses the necessary qualities of leadership to move forward in overcoming poverty challenges and improving quality of life; c) encouraging the Circle Leader in setting realistic and attainable goals that will move the family out of poverty; d) developing intentional friendships between the Circle Leader and supportive Allies who serve as a resource of support long-term; and e) supporting the current and future participants in the Delano Circle Site program.
A typical weekly meeting for the matched Circle Leader is from 5:30-7:30 p.m., beginning with a simple shared meal prepared by the Food Committee and an opening prayer. Following the meal, each adult shares a ”new and good” item from that week so all can rejoice at the good news. Then, each Circle Leader and 4-5 assigned Allies meet for an hour and half to discuss goal setting and other challenges faced by the Circle Leader and family. To end the evening, expressions of “Appreciations” for good things shared to offer similar support to the entire group. An example of a challenge expressed as an Appreciation was someone in need of additional money beyond her low-income wage discovered holding a garage sale in her neighborhood brought in added money—in her case over $160—and she planned more such activities. To help her, Delano Circle Site members are gathering additional items for her next garage sale. It is through small steps that the Delano Circle Site program is making a difference in people’s lives through education, support and intentional friendships, so by being empowered they too can achieve a lifestyle allows them more independence from welfare and oppression.
The Delano Circle Site received a grant from the Kansas City Province Human Development Fund this summer.