<![CDATA[Palmyra Circles - Blog]]>Tue, 29 Dec 2015 23:33:11 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Palmyra Pastor Contributes to Poverty Book]]>Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:08:26 GMThttp://www.palmyracircles.org/blog/palmyra-pastor-contributes-to-poverty-book
Circles Book released with Chapter from Palmyra Circles & Dave Harris
Author Dave Harris shows his new book, "The Circles Story" to individuals mentioned in his chapter recently. Pictured, from left, are Rozella Wagner, Tony Keller, Dave Harris, Jan Glatfelter and Gwen Pavasco. (Submitted)

     A Palmyra pastor who has been involved with a Palmyra group that addresses poverty issues has written a book about his experience.
     The writings of Rev. Dave Harris, who has been involved with Palmyra Circles of Lebanon County since 2011, have been included in "The Circles Story: How Circles Can Help Your Community Find New Ways to Resolve Poverty and Thrive." The book was written by Scott C. Miller and is available through Amazon.
     Harris said he sees Circles as an approach to addressing poverty that "really works."
     "With my background as a pastor and counselor, I've seen lots of programs come 
and go.   The thing that excites me about Circles is how it brings together the good ideas already out there and adds the element of community building and intentional relationships across economic class to help those struggling financially (Circle Leaders) to become self-sufficient," he said in a news release. "I was excited to contribute my story, our community story, to the 'Circles Story.'"
     Harris is pastor of Palmyra First United Methodist Church and a member of the Palmyra Circles core team.
     An informational meeting for potential new Circle leaders will be held Monday, Nov. 3, at the Palmyra Church of the Brethren, 45 N. Chestnut St., Palmyra. Contact Lee Smedley at 610-914-3846 or lee@palmyracircles.org for more information and to reserve a place.

Link to LDN online article
<![CDATA[Palmyra Circles helps struggling families]]>Sun, 28 Sep 2014 10:27:13 GMThttp://www.palmyracircles.org/blog/palmyra-circles-helps-struggling-familiesPicture
Palmyra Circles celebrates two years addressing poverty one family at a time.

PALMYRA >> Two years ago, Wanda Graybill of Palmyra was struggling with day-to-day pressures. There wasn't time to plan for the future, Graybill recalled recently. But, today Graybill has a brighter future for herself and her family after completing a two-year program known as Palmyra Circles of Lebanon County.

Last Monday, Graybill and 12 other Lebanon County residents graduated from the program. Circles is a national network of anti-poverty initiatives operating in 26 states. Started in September 2012, Palmyra Circles is designed to help families, identified as "Circle Leaders," create their own plan for rising out of poverty by increasing their opportunities and connections and reducing the barriers that make it difficult for poor families to survive.

Palmyra Circles also celebrated the completion of working with its first group of Circle Leaders....
More... (Whole article by Chris Sholly in Lebanon Daily News 27 Sep. 2014)

<![CDATA[Could You COPE?   ]]>Thu, 10 Jul 2014 15:35:11 GMThttp://www.palmyracircles.org/blog/could-you-copePicture
Could You COPE?     (July 3, 2014 Hummelstown Sun article)  pdf   link
Palmyra Challenge
By Aura Hill

Keith and Casey Two with Parole OfficerKeith and Casey Two, parents of 10-year-old Cathy and 2-year-old Christy, are struggling to make ends meet. Having been incarcerated for three years, Keith is unemployed despite having his continuedsearch for a job that will hire him with his prisonrecord. Other than checking in weekly with his parole officer, he helps out out at home and provides most of the daycare for his younger daughter.

His wife, Casey, is a full-time secretary earning $900 a month; she attends night school in hopes of obtaining a better paying job.

They live in a two-bedroom home purchased from family and own a car. With a $367 allotment infood stamps, their monthly income is $1,267. Monthly expenses of house payment, gas, food and clothing are $1,310 per month.

You do the math.

Keith and Casey, the personas adopted by Matt Wickenheiser and Vicki Deloatch of Lebanon County, are only two of the nearly 40 players in the Cost of Poverty Experience (COPE) simulation that took place Saturday, June 7, at Palmyra’s Pine Street Elementary School. The simulation, jointly sponsored by Palmyra Circles of Lebanon County, Caring Cupboard of Palmyra and Jonestown Bank and Trust, allowed participants to experience the day-to-day challenges those living in poverty and near poverty face in any given month.

Participants received identities and a profile ofemployment, health and other features of typical families. In a compressed timeframe, they had face-to-face interactions about public transportation, social services, finances, employment, food and shelter, and in the process, developed a new awareness of what living in poverty or near poverty feels like.

“We were stuck in a situation,” Loatch said. “It was upsetting and challenging. I was always having to re-prioritize as things piled up.”

The simulation took two hours, with each 15-minute segment representing a week. Weekly and monthly tasks such as paying bills, visiting parole officer, attending school, shopping for necessities, working, and visiting social service agencies all sapped the families’ time and money for the week. Unplanned obstacles, like having electricity shut off, further contributed to the stress

Deloatch said she ultimately pawned many of the family’s belongings to have money enough to buy food but with all the requirements to meet, the family did not have an opportunity to shop for food for three of the four weeks.

“I was frustrated, felt as if I was not in control and at the mercy of others,” Wickenheiser said. “With probation and other agency needs, you have to do things in order, but to do so, you stand in lines, burning up time. You are not able to do what you must to get ahead.”

“I grew up in a middle class family in Palmyra. I had blinders on,” Karen Good, a teacher in Palmyra Area School District, said. “I didn’t know how much poverty was here and it wasn’t just about getting the money. Things kept piling up effecting the family unit,” she said. “This helped me to realize the feelings of the family unit.”

“Poverty is national but it has a local face,” Smedley said. “One in five families in Lebanon County are doing without. One in five families make less than $25,000.”

Doug Knepp, another Palmyra teacher, also took away new insight.

“As teachers, we tend to make generalized judgments about kids and their families. My family in this simulation had real problems – finances, mental health. I tried to deal with it, busting my butt, and at the same time my kids were trickling away, doing marijuana. I realized that in a month, I never talked with my kids.”

For more information about COPE and Palmyra Circles, go to www.palmyracircles.org or contact Smedley at lee@palmyracircles.org

<![CDATA[Palmyra Circles Results Summary – Sept. 2012 through May 2014 ]]>Wed, 09 Jul 2014 22:39:05 GMThttp://www.palmyracircles.org/blog/palmyra-circles-results-summary-sept-2012-through-may-2014Picture
Results Summary – September 2012 through May 2014
                                  Click here for PDF version
This is summary data for 13 individuals - all currently active Circle Leaders.  We began with 17 individuals who signed up for the initial Circle Leader training in September 2012.  Fourteen individuals were active after 6 weeks of the program, and one Circle Leader has moved out of the area.  The remaining 13 leaders have been active since then.   Our Circle Leader group represents 8 family units and 15 children.   


·         76% retention since Circle Leader training began Sept 2012

·         93% retention rate in Circles of Support segment of the program that began March 2013

Of this group – three families have a stay-at-home mom.  Excluding these moms, four of the individuals were unemployed at some time during the training and Circles support program.  Now, everyone except the stay-at-home moms is employed, at least part-time. 


Our Circle Leaders all report that the number of people they can count on has increased.  This expanded support network includes not only individuals in similar situations (bonding capital), but also a significant increase in the number of relationships with Middle and upper class friends (bridging capital) 

  • At least doubled number of friends in similar situation (other Circle Leaders, etc)
  • Increase of at least 10 in number of bridging friends (middle or upper class)  , in some cases from no bridging friends at all

  • Progress from 60% of eligible workers employed to 100% employed
  • 60% of eligible workers have moved to better paying jobs
  • 30% of eligible workers have moved to team leader/management responsibilities

  • Most have experienced a reduction in benefits, esp. food stamps. 
  • Some compensate for this gap with more reliance on the Food Bank

Four of our Circle Leaders have been involved in some form of education or professional development.  This includes job ready training through CareerLink, real estate license training, child clearances and Dress for Success programs. 

  • 40% eligible workers have participated in education/development activities

  • One family is in the process of buying their first house
  • Another has invested in a second car (paid cash) to widen their employment options
  • Several have moved to more stable/reliable cars

Eight of our Circle Leaders had not been working from a budget when they began with Circles.  Now, virtually every Circle Leader family has a budget and is tracking income versus expenses on a monthly basis.

  • Increase from 38% to 100% of Circle Leaders operating from a budget
Our micro-loan program has helped Circle Leaders in two ways – (1) emergency loans help Circle Leaders weather a short-term cash flow issue, (2) capacity loans help Circle Leaders develop new capacity for increased income.

  • 7 microloans offered  - 86% repayment rate – only one default

We have partnered with other non-profits in supporting Circle leaders in achieving their goals.

·         Three of our female CL’s are working with Dress for Success.  One has been featured in a dinner presentation and Dress for Success publications for her progress.

·         Community Action Partnership has referred a potential Circle Leader to us, has made a presentation on available services to those striving to become self-sufficient, and has provided part-time employment to one of our Circle Leaders.

·         PROBE, a non-profit that focuses on financial literacy for women, has made presentation to our Circle Leaders and is currently working with one of our Circle Leaders on career exploration

·         Caring Cupboard food bank has provided referrals for our program.

·         Lebanon Family health Services has provided programs on family nutrition and affordable health care.  Three of our Circle Leaders are participating in their smoking cessation program.

<![CDATA[COPE offers people a taste of Poverty  (from Lebanon Daily News)]]>Wed, 09 Jul 2014 22:27:48 GMThttp://www.palmyracircles.org/blog/cope-offers-people-a-taste-of-poverty-from-lebanon-daily-newsPicture
COPE program offers participants a taste of povertyThe Cost of Poverty Experience, known as COPE, at Pine Street Elementary School gave participants a simulated first-hand view from below the poverty line
By Barbara West

For The Lebanon Daily News

UPDATED:   06/10/2014 07:11:41 AM EDT0 COMMENTS

Gene Simmers, left, background, and Chuck Yasinski of Palmyra discuss their family strategy. Meanwhile, another simulated family portrayed by Vicki DeLoatch, vice president of finance and marketing at Lebanon Family Health Services, and Matt Wickenheiser of Palmyra, determine how they will pay their bills. (Lebanon Daily News — Barbara West)
Bad news for this family, which is in danger of being evicted and has been dealt a fate card. Families received random notices like this throughout the COPE simulation. (Lebanon Daily News — Barbara West)
PALMYRA >> It was only a test — a thought-provoking, humbling, heart-breaking test, in the words of participants.

"This has opened my eyes. The blinders are off," Karen Lynch, a second-grade teacher at Palmyra Area School District's Forge Road Elementary School, admitted after completing the Cost of Poverty Experience simulation Saturday morning at the Pine Street Elementary School. "I knew there were needy people, but I didn't know that the needs were so great."More than 40 participants spent a simulated month living in poverty during the workshop, jointly sponsored by the Caring Cupboard of Palmyra, Palmyra Circles of Lebanon County and Jonestown Bank and Trust.

It was also an exercise to challenge their perceptions of the poor.

"Poverty is a national issue, and it has local dimensions. One in five families is doing without in some way," said Lee Smedley, coordinator of the Palmyra Circles of Lebanon County program. "These are not lazy people. They are people who have a job. The purpose (of the simulation) is to understand moment by moment what that life is like."

Participants were assigned an identity for a character within a family unit. For most of the participants, there were many unfamiliar challenges as they juggled home and family in a low- or no-income household during an accelerated month-long simulation.

Marilyn Baker, a volunteer with Caring Cupboard and Palmyra Circles, explains to participants in the COPE workshop that it's not just the people who fall under the poverty level that need help. (Lebanon Daily News — Barbara West)
The ringing of bells every 15 minutes, which added to the pressure felt by the participants, signaled the end of a simulated week.

Unless fortunate enough to have a vehicle and gas money, participants were required to get a bus or walking passes.

Patience became a major challenge as they encountered long lines for employment, public assistance or to register with their parole officer at the various stations set up on the cafeteria's perimeter.

One woman admitted mounting frustration caused her temper to flare at the banking station, and she apologized for it.

It was a stressful education for everyone as they learned how and where to apply for needed assistance.

And the consequences for failing to follow the steps in the application procedure in the proper order meant you didn't qualify for food or other aid. Many found it an exhausting juggling act. And sometimes, they dropped the ball.

No amount of pleading with the judge was enough to keep Laura Whitman's character, Jessica 4, out of (simulated) jail.

"It's a big mix-up," the Ono woman explained, "I missed my probation appointment because I was trying to deposit my paycheck, and then I had to go to the pawn shop. Now I'm in jail, and by two kids are at school."

A college student majoring in social work, Whitman referred to the workshop as a valuable experience since she's encountered clients with similar problems.

"I'm getting a sample of the stress my clients experience," she admitted. "It wears on you, and I've just done this for a short time.

There were signs that some were learning to adapt. By the time the fourth week rolled around, participants were anticipating the ringing of the bell, ready to spring out of their seats to be the first at the head of the line.

"Environment has a big impact on how we behave,"Smedley said. "In these circumstances, we do thing we never would imagine."

So how did the simulated families fare during their month of poverty?

The system, most agreed, appeared to offer more obstacles than assistance.

On the positive side, one group managed to help their neighbors while living in poverty themselves. A group, associated with the Church of the Brethren, managed to share money with another group in need.

However, none of the groups managed to purchase groceries every week or make their loan payments on time. One family was evicted. Few were able to meet their health-care needs, and a few had emergency health situations arise during the simulation.

Chuck Yasinski's character was unable to afford his seizure medication and had to sit out the first five minutes of the second week of the simulation. Yasinski, who registered for the workshop after receiving an email from the Palmyra Area School District, set out to learn more about the struggles of the poor and homeless.

"I've driven through Harrisburg and have seen people living in tents. It's always left an impression on me," the Palmyra man explained. "I've wondered what they go through; what their lives are like. As a member of this community, it makes me want to learn how I can help."

No stranger to helping those in need, the Rev. Denise Founds of the Campbelltown United Methodist Church was deeply touched by what she encountered in the simulation.

"I realize that these people are desperate, and it breaks my heart," Founds admitted. "How difficult it is for these people to be literally begging for this food."

And as Marilyn Baker, a volunteer with Caring Cupboard and Palmyra Circles, reinforced, it's not just the people who fall within poverty level that have a need for assistance.

"There are many 'near poor' people here; those just making from paycheck to paycheck," Baker said.

As people continued to inquire how they could help make a difference for families for whom poverty is a reality, Smedley was notably pleased. "What touches me and gives me goosebumps is that none of these people were required to come here," he says. "They felt compelled to come and do something positive."

<![CDATA[Betty Ross '14 Reflects on Internship with Palmyra Circles]]>Sat, 31 May 2014 00:19:07 GMThttp://www.palmyracircles.org/blog/betty-ross-14-reflects-on-internship-with-palmyra-circlesPicture
In October of 2013, I began searching on LVC’s Job Center and found an internship posted for Palmyra Circles by Lee Smedley. I instantly knew that this would be a good opportunity for me because I already knew Lee and a little about Circles, an organization that helps families get out of poverty. As President of MISA, I had facilitated the decision that the Music Industry Conference would support Palmyra Circles. MISA presented a $300 check to them in 2012 and a $600 check in 2013.

I was given the book "Bridges out of Poverty: Strategies for Professionals and Communities" to read before my internship began. Reading that book, as well as getting to know people who are working on getting out of poverty, has forever changed the way I understand the definition of poverty. Before this internship, poverty was simply a word. It wasn’t something that was real, that was connected to actual people. It was more of a general term that described people who didn’t have enough to live on, who were in sad situations and weren’t doing enough to get themselves out of those situations. Now I know that this isn’t true.

There are actually two types of poverty: generational and situational. Generational is defined as living in poverty for two generations or longer. Situational is shorter and is often caused by a certain circumstance. According to the United States Census Bureau, the poverty rate was 15% in 2012, which means that 46.5 million people in the United States were living in poverty. If you are working full time at minimum wage, you will be living in poverty. You need to make $10.10 an hour full time in order to not be living in poverty. I originally thought that as long as a person could get a better job, it would be easy for them to get out of poverty. However, that is not the case. It is actually very difficult to get out of poverty.

Did you know that there are hidden class rules? The wealthy, middle class, and people living in poverty have these rules. They’re hardly ever mentioned and not often thought about. But they exist. And they make it very hard for a person living in one to transition to another. For example, a person living in middle class generally manages their money, makes decisions based on the future, are possessive over things, and speak in the formal register. For someone living in poverty, they generally spend money as soon as they get it, make decisions based on the present in order to survive, are possessive over the people in their lives, and speak in the casual register. If a person wants to get out of poverty, they have to be able to learn the rules of the middle class. This is nearly impossible to do on their own. They need someone to help them. That is one of the beautiful things about Circles.

The Circles program allows a family living in poverty to become a Circle Leader who then has Allies, people living in middle class, who “circle” them and support them to help them learn the hidden class rules and transition out of poverty. Circles is a long term program; families commit to 18 months of helping each other. During the few months that I have gotten to be part of this Circle group, I have seen families grow so much. For example, I’ve seen a woman who was adamant about being a stay at home mom who would break down in tears every time I saw her, grow to be a strong woman who shares her story with others to help them avoid making the same mistakes she has made and who is now following her dream of becoming a realtor. I have been accepted into this beautiful community that has been created between these different groups of Circle Leaders and Allies. I honestly feel that I have benefited more from this internship than they have from me.

Lebanon Valley College is actually connected to Palmyra Circles in many ways: I internedwith them, Metz provides food for dinner every other week, three students regularly come and teach the kids, MISA has been supporting them the past two years, another group on campus donated a prize they won to them, there is a capstone group selling cupcakes to raise money for them, they participated in Relay For Life this year, and families were encouraged to utilize the VITA program. I personally help set up and participate in the weekly Circle meeting on Mondays, take notes and contribute to the Core Team Meetings every other Wednesday, have done grant research, am in the process of finding someone to run a poverty simulation on campus next semester, have done a few promotional pieces, and help with anything that is needed. If you would like to learn more about Palmyra Circles, I invite you to check out their website at http://www.palmyracircles.org.

Betty Ross is a recent Music Business and Digital Communications graduate from Pequannock, NJ.
Original article here.

<![CDATA[Having Fun, Circles Style]]>Wed, 14 May 2014 14:14:08 GMThttp://www.palmyracircles.org/blog/having-fun-circles-style
Last summer's Circle's Picnic was a blast.  We have another picnic coming June 28, 2014 from 1-7pm at Gretna Glen Camp (directions here).  Allies, Circle Leaders and special guests come for the food, stay for the fun!
<![CDATA[Christine Wurzer Rocks Dress with Success Partnership!]]>Mon, 05 May 2014 17:32:30 GMThttp://www.palmyracircles.org/blog/christine-wurzer-rocks-dress-with-success-partnershipPicture
Christine Wurzer Rocks Dress with Success Partnership!
Christine is making an amazing journey from stay-at-home mom to real estate.  
    Circles began a partnership with Dress for Success connecting Circle Leaders to resources of coaching, learning, relationship, and business attire.  Christine, one of Palmyra Circles first participants in the program, gained tools and relationships to enter classes for real estate sales.  In the process she was asked to speak to others.  (Read her speech here.)
    What an amazing transformation of confidence and potential.  Christine amazed herself speaking in front of a crowd.  She is celebrating the progress she has made on the goals she set.  
    Stay tuned, maybe you'll buy your next home with Christine's help.

<![CDATA[Circles Intern, Betty Ross, as Entrepreneur ]]>Thu, 10 Apr 2014 18:38:36 GMThttp://www.palmyracircles.org/blog/circles-intern-betty-ross-as-entrepreneurPicture
Circles Intern, Betty Ross, is a gift to Palmyra Circles and has much more going on.  Read about her entrepreneurial ability below.  Stay turned for her updates as she spends a mission year in Uganda.  She has been a huge asset.  Thanks Betty.

Students Present Self-run Business at Lebanon Valley College’s Inquiry 201404.09.14 |  Not many institutions offer the experiences that Lebanon Valley College extends to its students. One of these unique opportunities came to fruition just a few short years ago. With the student vision of creating a college record label, evolution took place changing the initial idea into something much greater than was initially anticipated. The end result is the currently operational Vale Music Group LLC.  “It really is awesome to think about how much work we put in every week for the record label, and it definitely shows in the finished products and how far the company has developed since its creation,” said current Vale Records president Brianna Steinitz ’15. “Vale is way more than just a class.”  Read more... 

Here's an article on student volunteers, with Betty named too!

<![CDATA[A Perspective on Poverty & Wealth]]>Wed, 01 Jan 2014 23:57:08 GMThttp://www.palmyracircles.org/blog/a-perspective-on-poverty-wealth "...how might th(e) experience of being a privileged player in a rigged game change the way that you think about yourself and regard th(e) other player?"  Watch for 16 minutes and share your thoughts...
Resources can desensitize us to those around us.  In what ways are you reminding yourself to live with compassion and care?
    In Circles we learn together about a life and community where everybody thrives.  Ask us how!  (We have an upcoming training, community presentations, and more!  "Contact Us!")