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Conquering poverty – not just coping

Poverty Bridge meeting planned in Lake Oswego Oct. 22
by: , Donna Beegle

Donna Beegle says that America has been thinking too small about eliminating poverty.

With her new nonprofit organization Poverty Bridge, Beegle, who holds a doctorate in education, is seeking not to just offer poor people some short-lived relief but lead them out of poverty.

'In Poverty Bridge we want to move the country beyond the model that at best helps people cope with poverty,' Beegle said. 'We don't want to just give them a three-day box of emergency food. We want them to move out of poverty and stay out.

'For this to happen we've got to get a deeper understanding of poverty.'

Beegle is taking the fight to Oregon, so to speak, when she holds a 'Navigators' meeting in Lake Oswego on Wednesday, Oct. 22, at 4 p.m. at The Bank of Oswego, Suite 218, in Lake View Village.

Beegle is already off to a good start in this city because she already has Lake Oswegans like Terri White and John Heald fired up about Poverty Bridge and dedicated to helping it succeed. They see the organization as a way to avoid the tangle of charity bureaucracies and get down to immediately helping people.

'The thing I love about it is the ability to do things hands-on,' White said. 'Often charities only want a check.'

For Heald, an attorney, his first Poverty Bridge meeting in 2007 started out as a ho-hum affair that he attended only to fulfill a licensing requirement set by the Oregon Bar.

'I went in with a closed mind and was unhappy to be there,' Heald admitted. 'In 15 minutes Donna helped me realized how important her work is.

'I called her the next day and asked, 'What can I do?''

Heald is now a board member of Poverty Bridge and on Wednesday he will be heading up the effort to recruit 'Navigators' - the people who will be helping the poverty-stricken navigate their way out of poverty.

To do this does not take big bucks or an enormous amount of time.

'I'm not an expert on social programs,' Heald said. 'I do know people with answers because of my network. This is all about the power of networking.'

When it comes to success stories for Poverty Bridge, Beegle has the best possible example: Herself.

She was the descendent of a long tradition of family poverty, and in her mid 20s seemed to be well on a bridge to nowhere.

'I was the type of person who said 'ain't' every other word,' Beegle said.

Then she took advantage of the Transitions program at Clackamas Community College and totally transformed her life. Because she soon discovered she was a gifted speaker, Beegle found she could help many more people than just herself.

'After I got through he Clackamas program I thought, 'Where are the conferences? Where are the growth opportunities?''' Beegle said. 'Poverty Bridge tries to unravel the shame that defeats people and build hope.'

Wednesday's meeting is intended to set the stage for the Portland Opportunity Conference early next year when the work begins in earnest. People in poverty will be connected with middle class people who can assist them.

'I'm excited about being there myself,' said White, who will serve as volunteer coordinator for the event. 'Hopefully, that will be just the beginning.'

Besides Dr. Beegle, other speakers at Wednesday's event will include educators, justice providers, social service agencies, and community leaders.

To make reservations to attend the Navigators meeting in Lake Oswego, call Terri White at 503-675-7088 or John Heald at 503-594-2884.

The Bank of Oswego is located at 310 N. State St. in Lake View Village.

For more information, see www.povertybridge.org .