Economic Empowerment Ally
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Circles Grand Rapids

Economic Empowerment Ally

You’ll have dinner with the Circles community twice a month, then meet with and lend your support to someone striving to meet their goals for moving out of poverty. You can also meet with your partner outside of regular meetings to grow your relationship.

You’ll work with your partner on steps to achieve the financial goals they’ve set for themselves. It’s not a traditional model of connecting people to social services (though that’s certainly a part of it), but rather facilitating economic improvement and mobility in their lives. For example, you may support them as they apply to colleges and scholarships. As you meet with your partner, it would be talking about connecting with an admissions officer and finding scholarships, offering to go with them to the campus admissions office, and holding them accountable to goals they’ve set. You may help them organize their budget and share your knowledge of the community with them.

Circles gather the first and third Monday of the month. The Monday night meals begin at 5:30, then programming goes from 6:15 - 7:45 p.m. You may meet with your partner 1-2 hours/month outside of the Monday evening meetings. You can be a Circles ally as an individual, couple, or family. Dinner and childcare are provided for volunteers and their children at each Circles meeting.

While parents receive tools to help manage money and time, improve career skills, and progress toward goals, Circles children and youth are building their own community of support.  Children's programming includes interactive, age-appropriate sessions on financial literacy, emotional health, mindfulness, service and volunteerism, compassion, and more.

Show me how to get started
Two Monday evenings per month (5:30 - 8 p.m.), plus a monthly meeting with your partner at a time and location that is convenient for both of you for one 18-month cycle
18+; pass a background check
East Hills
Trinity United Methodist Church
1100 Lake Dr SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49506 1100 Lake Dr SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Is This the Right Fit for Me?

You have a passion for helping and learning from others. You are open to meeting people from different socio-economic and/or racial backgrounds. You understand the value of listening, particular to someone who is facing a different set of challenges than you’ve faced. It would be helpful to have a basic knowledge of financial goal setting and experience in applying for and attending higher education or for jobs. You’re willing to support your peers in this work by talking with other allies about how things are going.

About Circles Grand Rapids

Circles GR is a chapter of Circles USA, whose mission is to inspire and equip families and communities to resolve poverty and thrive. Circles is a nationally-known, proven and innovative way of connecting people across socio-economic lines in an effort to support people and families out of poverty. Through long-term relationships, training and networking, participants are moving from generational or situational poverty to self-sufficiency. Along the road, the community at large is invited to learn more about poverty in Grand Rapids and what can be done to resolve it through actions and policy change.

What Others are Saying

The Circles model recognizes the person in poverty as the leader. It's a nationwide organization and has proven to be effective in changing peoples' lives. The model also encourages identification of systemic issues which keep people in poverty and in community involvement to address these issues. Becoming part of a true community was a privilege. An 18-month period allowed development of trust and honesty and I grew from the experience. Change is a slow process and sometimes difficult to see during the process. Although 18 months may seem like a long commitment, the time will go by quickly.


Contact the Organization

If you’re ready to ask some questions and get started, contact the Circles Grand Rapids directly.

Julie Liske Chapter Director

What to Expect

Reach out to Julie to find out when the next Circles orientation is, then complete and return the volunteer application. Someone will reach out to you for a phone interview to help determine the best Circles team for you. You’ll be required to attend an Access of West Michigan poverty simulation (cost: $35) that fits your schedule as well as one morning of Ally training on either March 10th or March 24th. Before getting started, check out The Circles Story, edited by Scott Miller to learn more about the organization.