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Addressing poverty

Local team will tackle poverty with $11.7 million grant
News Editor
   If poverty was a Central Oregon town, its population of 15,261 would make it the second largest city in the region.
   So says a newly created nonprofit corporation called the Madras-area Community Action Team, which, armed with a portion of an $11.7 million grant, is launching an effort to to tackle poverty in Jefferson County over the next decade.
   Recently, the team hired a full time community advocate and opened an office on 226 S.W. 5th St.
   Their mission: reduce poverty in the area by identifying and addressing it at its roots.
   "A lot of communities just band-aid their problem," said Angie Weinke, the advocate for the Madras area. "We're going to go further and work to eliminate poverty at its root cause."
   The hiring of Weinke and the opening of the Madras office ends a tireless effort by a group of local citizens to get the program off the ground and marks the beginning of what they hope is a long and fruitful program to aid the area's less privileged.
   "What we will do differently in the next 10 years in the Madras area is try to improve the liveability in our community," said Mary Krenowicz, a founding member who serves on the Central Oregon Partnership's board of directors.
   The Central Oregon Partnership, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit comprised of seven community action teams, is funded by a 10-year grant from the Minnesota-based Northwest Area Foundation.
   The Madras-area Community Action Team, known as MaCAT, is one of three community action teams up and running. LaPine and Sisters already have community advocates hired.
   The partnership is designed to "act locally and interact regionally," Krenowicz said. It has identified eight root causes of poverty, and MaCAT members will choose one or a few to address through regional projects.
   The eight root causes are identified as:
   - A family history of poverty.
   - Chronic poverty.
   - Limited economic opportunity.
   - Marginal education/training opportunities.
   - Racial isolation/discrimination.
   - Weak family structures.
   - Weak traditions of civic engagement and limited social capital.
   - Limited community awareness/inclusiveness.
   "One of the things that I discovered is that it is really easy to ignore what poverty looks like," said Becky Lu Hummer, a MaCAT member. "It's easy to not think about it. We're busy. We're doing community service for people that might fit in one of those categories but you don't really sit down and think about how many people actually have needs in Central Oregon."
   Other community action teams are being set up in Warm Springs, Bend, Prineville and Redmond.
   At this point, MaCAT members say they are only in the planning stages. Weinke and MaCAT board members are working on Phase I of their plan, which consists of bringing people together to study and analyze local data related to poverty. The group will be holding local meetings and setting up task groups to set up a one-year plan of action and a five-year plan of action.
   Eventually, the team will execute six projects to tackle the root causes of poverty. The projects will not be quick fixes, Weinke said, like some of the more commonly thought of efforts to address poverty.
   "Low income housing is great but it doesn't give people the dream of doing better," said Weinke, citing an example. "We want to get to the point where putting a roof over people's heads and feeding them for the moment is not the answer."
   Clint Jacks, of the local Oregon State University Extension Office, a MaCAT founder, said "kids having kids" and the high school dropout rate in Jefferson County are just some of the areas of concern that the group could possibly focus its efforts on.
   "The need for us here is going to be different than in Prineville or Redmond," he said.
   MaCAT members say they will not be looking to duplicate or emulate the work of existing agencies, but may work with them to bring efforts together.
   For every dollar it spends, MaCAT will be attempting to come up with a $3 match.
   The Central Oregon Partnership has already had an impact in Jefferson County. It contributed $25,000 in seed money for the creation of soccer fields at Juniper Hills Park.
   For more information, contact the local office at 475-0301.