Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Economic Development on the Individual Level

One of the recurring themes of Lincoln Avenue has been economic development. Usually, that has me talking with someone who is developing some kind of local or regional project to create new businesses. This week, I talk with Kelly Elko about a different kind of economic development: preparing women who are living in poverty to join the workforce and improve their families’ economic position.

Kelly directs Potter’s Wheel, which is just one of the programs run by Beatitude House to help women and children escape poverty. Along with providing housing, educational programs, and support for personal growth, Beatitude House helps women who have not been successful in finding and keeping jobs develop the skills they need to achieve economic stability. For some women, getting out of poverty is a matter of changing their attitude – gaining confidence and determination. For some, it means learning that showing up day after day can help you keep a job. For still others, it means learning specific skills that will help them land a job or figuring out how to dress for an interview or simply finding out about job opportunities.

All of which is fine in theory, but what if Beatitude House could provide hands-on work experience for the women it serves? That’s exactly what Kelly and her colleagues are working on as they design a new “green cleaning” business. They’re working with other local non-profits to learn about the concept of “social enterprises,” the idea that non-profits can create for-profit businesses that not only support their efforts financially but also provide important opportunities for their clients. The training program is sponsored by Community Wealth Ventures. By this coming fall, Beatitude House hopes to open a business that will give the women in its programs experience working and, for some, experience managing others.

To succeed in its work, Beatitude House needs your help. You can make a financial donation, but they also need stuff – work clothing, household goods, and more. You’ll find a list of needed items and information about how to donate them in the Beatitude House newsletter.

In a community with high rates of poverty, we not only need new businesses and jobs. We also need to support the development of individuals. That’s what Beatitude House is all about.

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