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Invisible Poverty

am privileged to be a member of this year’s Chamber of Commerce Leadership Charlottesville class. Each week we are introduced to a different aspect of the Greater Charlottesville area – the history, the economy, etc. Yesterday we had a presentation on Health and Human Services. Even though I work at the United Way, and hear stories of poverty every day, I still learned a few new statistics. (Did you know that the infant mortality rate in Harlem is greater than that of Bangladesh?).


The local presenters were familiar to me, as were the local poverty related issues. Erika Viccellio of the Charlottesville Free Clinic talked about their efforts to help the working poor without health insurance. Kathy Ralston of the Albemarle Dept. of Social Services showed her excellent Power Point titled The Price of Poverty. It never fails to move me. Becky Weybright of the Charlottesville Housing Authority shared the podcast her Leadership Charlottesville team produced two years ago, Voices of Poverty. The link is on the right of this page.



Working at the United Way, I see the poverty related issues every day, and know of the many fine organizations and the people behind them that work to help people to self-sufficiency. But the session was an eye-opener for me in a different way. I guess because I work in the nonprofit sector, my radar is up and I notice the news stories about nonprofits and poverty, such as the excellent series Martha mentions in her blog post. And I like to think that I do a good job in creating awareness via the media about the work not only of the United Way, but of the many programs we partner with. But I was wrong.



What I learned yesterday was that I have failed. The majority of my classmates were shocked to learn of the nearly 25% poverty rate in Charlottesville and the true cost of self-sufficiency in our area. Many had not heard of the Free Clinic, an organization I thought everyone knew about. Wow. I need to re-think my strategies on how to inform the public. Most don’t even read The Daily Progress and so had not seen the front-page, three part series on poverty this week.They get their information from other sources like the Washington Post.

So for me, I learned a lot. Not about poverty in this area, but about my assumptions that everyone pays attention to the same news that I do. We are trying new things with this blog and fledgling Facebook and MySpace pages for the United Way. We are lucky to now be on the air every Thursday morning with Joe Thomas on WCHV 1260 AM and 94.1 FM to talk about the issues in the health and human services community. (Thank you Dennis Mockler of Monticello Media!)



But I obviously have my work cut out for me.



Posted by Kim Connolly.

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