Civic Institute leads poverty initiative

civic institute
The Mercyhurst Civic Institute will move forward on a new project aimed at reducing poverty in Erie County, thanks to the Erie Women's Fund, which recently awarded $50,000 in support of the initiative.

The grant represents the inaugural allocation of the Erie Women's Fund, which was established in 2007 at the Erie Community Foundation when 50 women agreed to donate $1,000 a year for five years. Because of the struggling economy, the benefactors chose as their first project the "Listen, Mentor, Act Poverty Reduction Program," a collaborative effort spearheaded by the Civic Institute, with the Greater Erie Community Action Committee and United Way as partners. The grant can be renewed annually for up to five years.

"We are very grateful to the civic-minded women of the Erie Women's Fund who generously pooled their resources to help make a difference in their community, particularly in supporting our attempts to decrease poverty," said Dr. Laura Lewis, a research fellow with the Civic Institute who directs the poverty initiative.

During the next five years, project partners will work to bring community members together to develop action plans for reducing poverty in 10 to 13 targeted neighborhoods. Involvement will be sought from existing organizations like Neighborhood Watch and Erie Weed and Seed. In addition, mentors will work with 10 low-income families a year within the targeted neighborhoods to help them address their particular poverty issues. For example, specific goals might include getting out of credit card debt, sending a child to college, or owning their own home.

In funding the initiative, Barb Lechner, chairwoman of the Erie Women's Fund, said the group is hopeful that the project will have a long-term impact on poverty, which has been the subject of intense scrutiny by the Erie County Poverty Works Group during the past two years. Lewis, who represented the Civic Institute on the group, also co-authored a study with Dr. Amy Cuzzola Kern that identified and described poverty in Erie County.

For information on the poverty project, contact Lewis at 824-2359. For more information on the Erie Women's Fund, contact Donna Buseck or Kevin Moore at 454-0843.
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