Friday, August 21, 2020

Bank of America grant will help local families escape poverty

 Sarah Kimbrough signed up to take Common Heart’s Getting Ahead classes for the $425 in gift cards (the free weekly dinners and free childcare were nice bonuses, too). But this Common Heart focus group quickly became much more to Sarah and her family as they started their journey out of poverty. 
“During the very first class I thought ‘I fit in here. They understand.’ It’s not that I choose to be poor,” Sarah said. “It wasn’t just the contents of the workbook that helped me. It was what we were getting from each other. Helping others overcome their obstacles helps you overcome your own.”   At the start of Getting Ahead last year, Sarah -- a former paramedic and Mom of 4 -- had to hotwire her car on and off each time she needed to travel. Their cupboards always seemed to be running low and the bills were piling up. Her husband was working but she couldn’t find any jobs that would still allow her to care for their children -- three of whom have special needs. 
Sarah Kimbrough

Now, more than a year later, Sarah has a part-time job that works with her schedule to care for the children, thanks to networking and resource sharing at Getting Ahead. They have a reliable vehicle and she says they’re “working on not just paying bills, but saving for the future.” 
This Monroe native says the experience not only helped her family, but encouraged her to help others in similar situations. After graduating from the program, Sarah served as a co-facilitator for the most recent Getting Ahead group and has since completed training to facilitate the next group on her own. She’s also a key member of the Common Heart committee working to host the first official R Rules session -- a similar class for teens.    And thanks to a generous grant from Bank of America, Common Heart will be able to help even
more families like Sarah’s take those first steps out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. Bank of America and Common Heart are partnering to connect our community to empowerment resources. Half of the grant funding will support expanding the Getting Ahead work group sessions for families living in poverty as well as the teen R Rules class and an expanded series of workshops for families to build resources. These programs will be restarting online in the coming weeks. The grant also includes funding for Common Heart’s expanded food pantry services and adult literacy. 
“We’re impressed with the level of services and care Common Heart is delivering for Union County residents,” said Bank of America Charlotte Market President Charles Bowman. “At the core of what they do is a proven model for moving members of this community ​to a path out of poverty ​through impactful workshops and resource building.” 
 Sarah says she’s taking “baby steps” toward her long-term goals and can’t wait to facilitate the next Getting Ahead class & R Rules so she can share what she’s learned. 
“I was just really inspired by the whole Getting Ahead class, learning how to build resources and networking and understanding how to build my credit and move up the ladder,” she said. “During the first chapter in Getting Ahead you learn about how people living in poverty have a unique skillset. We’re amazing problem solvers and know how to survive and make things work. With COVID, there are many people who were never in a situation like this before but they are now. I’m excited that we know how to help and I can pass that information along and help them. Who knew that being poor would come in so handy?”  

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