Circles of Troup County exists to identify and eliminate the causes of poverty and support those wishing to lift themselves out of poverty. The nationally recognized program uses a relational strategy to support both adults and their children moving out of poverty while inspiring and equipping the community to reduce its poverty rate.
Circles’ high-impact approach to addressing poverty combines best practices in several disciplines including community organizing, case management, SMART goal setting, financial literacy, peer-to-peer counseling and learning, and child/youth development.
Circles is designed to help people in generational poverty move to self-sufficiency. Participants in Circles must apply and go through an interview process. Participants who are accepted attend a 12-week class that includes a wide variety of concepts including goal setting, financial literacy, “hidden rules” of economic class and more. The unique financial literacy program is designed specifically for low-income individuals incorporating a deep understanding of the physical, psychological and emotional trauma experienced by those living in generational poverty.
Once completed, participants graduate and are each matched with two to four middle class volunteers who commit to working with them to reach their goals. Participants are the “Circle Leaders” of this small group, the volunteers are “Allies”.
The group continues to meet weekly on Thursdays. The weekly meetings include education, small group meetings among the “matched circles” and advocacy meetings to address systemic barriers in the community that keep people from getting ahead. Visitors are welcome to attend the weekly meetings.
In June 2007, leaders in Troup County began a strategic planning initiative to develop strategies for promoting a healthy and thriving community. Georgia Tech’s Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development conducted research, assessments and strategy development in support of this initiative. Once completed, the leadership team created a nonprofit corporation to act as the leading resource for implementing the strategic plan. In addressing poverty, the board researched multiple options and chose Circles USA.
Circles of Troup County began in July 2012. Sherri Brown was named director and worked with a team of volunteers to set the strategies and direction of the group. The first Circles class began in November, 2012 with seven participants graduating in February, 2013. They were matched with 20 volunteers. Since then, Circles has had more than 70 families graduate from the 12-week class.
Performance measures show that Circles participants average a 39% increase in income after six months and a 78% increase in income after 18 months.