Living in Poverty: A grounded understanding

5 mins read
Dr. Donna Beegle addresses the issues of poverty in Franklin County with members of the community.

Editor’s note: This is the fourth story of the Bulldog’s Living in Poverty series which serves to highlight the issue in Franklin County.

In Meghan’s story, as well as in Dawn’s, there is a common factor in their battle against the grips of poverty. It isn’t necessarily about a flexible class schedule or a scholarship to summer camp. It isn’t even about a free gallon of milk picked up from the food pantry.

For both families, the driving factor behind those resources is the opportunity for human connection.

“The isolation of poverty perpetuates it. How do we create a more inclusive community?” Dr. Donna Beegle asked at the Bridging Communities Project kick off event in March.

The Bridging Communities Project is a new program aimed at bringing more understanding to our region’s poverty, by increasing the opportunity for a supportive human connection.

By connecting “neighbors” (those who are in need of extra help) to “navigators” (volunteers who can offer that help) The Bridging Communities Project is slowly creating a web of commonality between otherwise two starkly different worlds.

“In poverty, the dominant message you hear is that nobody cares. But in all of my years of work, I’ve never once heard someone say they don’t care. We care. So where does that message get lost,” Beegle asked.

Beegle was raised deep in the trenches of generational poverty. After getting her GED at age 26, she is now in her 27th year of fighting the stereo types associated with people living in poverty. One way she is doing this is by helping communities like Franklin County to adopt this face to face model of helping.

“We need to start separating the people from the poverty. Part of what this model does is help people to achieve a grounded understanding of poverty, and of how it impacts our fellow human beings,” Beegle said.

Many people all over the county are already doing this in their own way. Whether it’s by seeing a need and responding to it, lending a capable hand or opening doors to things people need. All of these efforts, along with initiatives like the Bridging Communities Project, are slowly breaking down those isolating walls.

For those that don’t know where to begin, or feel overwhelmed by the daunting subject, just reading Meaghan’s story is a start. Approaching that place of understanding is the first step toward shifting the paradigm.

“It’s going to be hard. If you don’t see or hear these things on a regular basis it can be difficult to process,” Healthy Community Coalition Program Coordinator Andrea Richards said.

Richards has played an active role in implementing the Bridging Communities Project, and is continuing to see it through as the program takes off. Recruiting volunteers to be navigators is just one of her many tough jobs. The commitment of time, as well as the emotional wear, can be a struggle for people.

“It just takes time. It’s a hard thing to know when to draw the line, but I deeply believe in the program,” Volunteer Navigator Kim Allen said.

Allen has been paired up with a mother of five. One of the first things they accomplished together was writing a letter of intent for  a job. Most recently Allen has helped her apply for help with her electricity bill through a Central Maine Power program.

“This program is so needed in our community, and in society. It’s important to help other people. Even if it’s just being a friend to your actual neighbor. Positive energy in someone’s life can go a long way,” Allen said.

Richards agreed. Even if the commitment to the program is not doable for someone, that doesn’t mean nothing can be done.

“It might just be a matter of knowing someone who knows someone who knows someone,” Richards said.

For more information on the Bridging Communities Project contact Andrea Richards at Healthy Community Coalition by emailing her at amrichards@fchn.org.

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  1. In the past, about 30 years ago, we had Bass Shoe. We had Forsters in Dryden. We had the shoe shop in Farmington. When you think about how many people graduate from schools and colleges every year, that’s thousands. Nothing has been done to create more jobs. It would help if our governor would try to start up some more jobs. But he just wants small businesses. Well, how many kids can they hire? Then, the lack of public transportation, unless you want to pay for a taxi, which will probably cost 2 hours a day of your work pay. But it’s easy to blame those who don’t make much money, even if they try. IF they can find a job, when they are competing with about a thousand other applicants. It’s about time our state got off their butt and actually tried to improve things. Instead, all this administration has done is slash everything and then complain about people on welfare, when hardly none of them probably even are on it anymore. Most of the money the state brings in comes from taxes. Well, they taxed tobacco to death. The state still whines it needs more money. The state cut medicaid for many people, even in their 60’s and still whine. Well, why don’t they improve the situation?

  2. If you look at your paycheck, I’ll bet you won’t see any reduction in taxes. So, the administration wants to blame poor people, cut off their medicaid (and not all qualify for medicare, yet, or O’Bama stuff. So, if you aren’t seeing a drop in your taxes, it’s like the bully picking on the unfortunate — they don’t want you to focus on their failures

  3. And I heard that now, the state wants to tax more on liquor. Where are the spending the “vice taxes”? They never had it so good. Now, tobacco is double in price, supposedly to prevent kids from smoking. That’s a bunch of crock. If kids want to do it, they will, whether or not you smoke it. And alcohol. You already pay a tax anyway on it. You pay a tax on toilet paper, too, which is a neccessity unless you are a nasty animal. You pay taxes on anything you can’t eat, except for probably at a restaurant. I don’t eat out. So, I don’t know. But, maybe when LePage leaves office, he can work at a restaurant and then, he will be happy, since he didn’t want the workers to get paid more.

  4. What are the facts?
    Fewer Maine youth are smoking cigarettes.
    • Cigarette smoking among
    Maine youth (grades 9-12) dropped from 39% in 1997 (when the state’s tobacco
    control and prevention program began) to 13% in 2013.

  5. Another thing to consider is that now, most jobs do not contribute towards healthcare. So, then workers have to pay for their own and if they can’t afford it, they have to pay a penalty. Well, I think that government workers should pay for their own health insurance, as well as their own transportation back and forth to places. They can afford it. Last I heard, they rake in about $200,000 a year, which is probably 10 times what a manual laborer gets. They can tighten their belts, just like everyone else

  6. I know LePage says he gets a lot less. Still, I’m sure he has a rent free place at the Blaine House and doesn’t have to pay when he goes out to eat, either. I doubt if he has a heating bill. Or an electric bill. Or a trash bill, either. Probably free telephone service and transportation, too. Probably maid service. Let guys like him see what it’s like

  7. Government workers rake is $200,000 a year? A few do, but they have advanced, usually medical, degrees. Most make far less. The Governor makes $70,000, plus housing and a very nice expense account. Here’s the top ten list:
    1. Mark Flomenbaum $230,656.44 Chief Med. Examiner Attorney General
    2. Michelle Gardner $222,493.20 Clinical Director DHHS; DDPC
    3. Deborah Ryan $217,446.10 Hospital Psychiatrist DHHSvcs: DDPC
    4. Rachel Harrow $215,942.26 Hospital Psychiatrist DHHS: DDPC
    5. Cynthia Cushman $193,996.80 Hospital Psychiatrist DHHS; DDPC
    6. Clare Bryce $176,243.20 Dep Chief Med. Examiner Attorney General
    7. George Davis $175,525.20 Physician III DHHS: RPC
    8. Siiri Bennett $161,952.40 Public Svc Coordinator III DHHS
    9. Leigh Saufley $150,130.80 Supreme Court Chief Justice Judicial Department
    10. Hugh Corbett $144,942.00 Executive Director Maine Military Authority

    Read More: The Top 10 Highest Paid State of Maine Employees | http://wjbq.com/the-top-10-highest-paid-state-of-maine-employees/?trackback=tsmclip

  8. Poor unappreciated, unwelcome facts. Some people prefer their own facts, and allow no substitutions.

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