KresLynn Knouse, Assistant News Editor, @KresLynn
Circles® USA is a new program aimed at reducing poverty in the United States and other parts of the world. Scott Miller, CEO and Founder of the Circles Program, recently visited Provo with the intent to expand the program throughout all of Utah.
Circles participants have seen as much as an 81% increase in income and 800% increase in monthly assets after the traditional 18 month enrollment.
“Circles USA is closely watching the Provo location due to the strength of the agency and its volunteers, the involvement of the LDS church, and its active correlation with United Way,” Miller stated in an interview. Miller hopes to see the kind of success from Circles Utah that he has seen from other Circles programs.
Circles provides low-income families with an “Ally,” a trained middle-to-high-income volunteer from the community. Allies provide social support and offer assistance in financial goal-setting for participants. Circles groups meet on a weekly basis to discuss financial strategies and monthly “Big View” meetings are also held to discuss barriers to success and how to remove them.
“Our efforts are to work with families in poverty and to help them find financial self-reliance,” said Jane Carlile, a Utah Circles Coordinator. “We’re also trying to get communities to see how understanding needs we’re not aware of can benefit all of us.”
Circles USA not only aims to help those in poverty but also to expand awareness of poverty within specific communities. In Utah County alone, 11.8% of families with children are in poverty.
“A unique aspect of Circles is that our meetings are held in conjunction with a free dinner donated to us by volunteers. Providing a meal and childcare at these meetings gives sustained support for our participants to move forward and commit to a better life,” Carlile said.
The main goal for the Circles program is to have the 10% of people currently in poverty in the United States, out of poverty by 2020.
“All it takes is an application and a willingness to change your life,” Miller said.
Currently, the only Circles program offered in Utah is located within Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo. The Provo Circles program has been active for three years, although it is still relatively new.
“As our program expands we highly encourage students to volunteer. There are so many opportunities for students to build their resumes and discover the joys of real nonprofit work. There’s no time commitment. Some volunteer for an hour, some for several hours a month, but many volunteers return on a regular basis which lets me know they really enjoy it”, said Carlile.
Anyone interested in volunteering for the Circles program or becoming an ally can email [email protected] or call Kelly at (801) 691-5217.