Building a Bridge: Local groups help people get out of poverty

By Ben Williams, reprint from the Martinsville Bulletin

MARTINSVILLE (April 27, 2017)-Area service organizations are joining forces with one goal: To help connect local residents with the resources they need and break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

On Thursday at New College Institute, United Way of Henry County and Martinsville hosted a “Bridges Out of Poverty” meeting attended by about 50 representatives from service organizations, churches, financial institutions and others.

According to Joanie Petty, United Way’s Community Impact Director, Bridges Out of Poverty is a national program that provides a framework to help these organizations build a better relationship with one another, and ultimately, a better relationship with the people the organizations serve.


Everything comes back to relationships, Petty said. People who are victims of intergenerational poverty – that is, poverty that is transmitted from one generation to the next, which is difficult to break out from – benefit from having solid relationships with representatives from service organizations. One of the goals of the program is to identify “Bridgers” – agencies and people who understand the value of those relationships.

But these organizations also need to build better relationships with one another, Petty said. Martinsville and Henry County contain many great organizations that provide much-needed services to impoverished residents, but it’s easy for these organizations to become “siloed,” meaning that they’re isolated from another and do not always work well together because each organization doesn’t know what services the other organizations are providing.

“We’ve been talking so much about, ‘Oh, we’re so siloed,’” Petty said. “So when are we going to stop talking about it? This, to me, is one philosophy we can adopt here that works in communities all over the nation.”

A little more than a month ago, Petty said, a two-day Bridges Out of Poverty summit was held locally to find Bridgers and identify resource gaps. Thursday’s meeting provided a workshop for those ideas, and at the next meeting, an “Implementation Team” will be chosen to make the ideas discussed in the planning sessions a reality.

“Right now, it’s very nuts and bolts,” Petty said. “We foresee this being a two-year planning process … to really build the case for impacting the number of people in intergenerational poverty.”