Skeptical reporter for "Study Circles" becomes active participant
The Blogger Talks Closure
April 14, 2010
Alberton, Montana Community Blog
The Horizon's anti-poverty program in Alberton, Mont., is making a striking impression on this newspaper reporter and community: "As a reporter I cover a lot of events... and I am finding that the things I’ve learned from Horizons is having an impact that reaches far beyond the projects our group has chosen."
First, in the spirit of full-disclosure, it should be noted that my first contact with the Horizons Program came about through my work as a reporter/journalist for the Clark Fork Chronicle:
With that said, when the program was pitched during the Alberton Town Council meeting, in October of 2008, I listened attentively, included the program in my article, and, like Alberton Mayor Joe Hanson, maintained a large pool of personal skepticism.
To paraphrase Mayor Joe: Many programs have come to the area with outside funding or grant money; they have paid themselves to study the situation, create reports, and write papers; and they have moved on to greener-pastures; climbed up the ladder of opportunity, created by their reports, and left nothing behind but bitterness in the hearts of those who call the area home.
It was difficult for my mind, as both resident and reporter, to believe Horizons would bring anything different to the table, but I attended the informational meeting; chose to participate; agreed to sit on the Steering Committee, and have been actively involved since that time.
This is an excerpt from, and a link to the article I wrote about the program:
More than 30 people gathered in the basement of the Alberton Methodist Church to learn about, and possibly participate in an 18-month program that will address issues of poverty in the area.
Sponsored by the Northwest Area Foundation (NWAF), the Horizons Program reports that: “Poverty is more than just lack of financial resources.”
Poverty is far broader than just financial, it says, and can be defined in terms of things like emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical support systems; relationships and role models; and the knowledge of hidden social class rules.
A steering committee has been chosen for the program, and “Study Circles,” to address the needs in local area, will be meeting soon.
Along with 15 other communities, Alberton will be part of Horizons Phase III, “… an 18-month program that embraces the entire community where all voices need to be heard and actively engaged in poverty reduction strategies.”
During the first meeting the presenters made a point of saying that the goal is to have voices representing a complete cross section of the community – from young to old with respect to income, race, religion or politics, with a sense of community spirit the ultimate goal.
A DVD outlining the successful implementation of the program, in both Bolder and Whitehall, was played during the first meeting, and can be made available to anyone in the area who wants more information.
With the closure of Horizons Phase III, as both participant and jaded journalist, I am taking away an enhanced awareness of the multi-faceted part poverty plays in the wellbeing of my community, and an optimistic outlook that truly surprises me.
In an effort to keep this short, I will say that as a reporter I cover a lot of events, participate in a wide variety of meetings, and I am finding that the things I’ve learned from Horizons is having an impact that reaches far beyond the projects our group has chosen – that there is now a willingness to be involved and that the need to address the issue of poverty in rural areas dominates what I bring to the table.
I see the impact of my experience influencing everything from my interviews and interaction with Senator Jon Tester, to conversations with our local officials; from the questions I’ve posed as the moderator of political debates to phone interviews of the candidates; from the Mineral County Challenge to the Montana Legacy Project, the West Valley Community Council, the Frenchtown Fire Department, the Alberton Town Council, the Mineral County Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, the Alberton Senior Citizens, the churches in town, individuals, and a multitude of other organizations…
The list is endless, the education appreciated, and, in my opinion, the time well spent.
I can truly say that I see positive changes in both my community, and my life that have come about as a direct result of the Horizons Project, and I am happy to report that, as Phase III concludes those changes will continue – the project hasn’t really ended, it’s morphed into the Alberton Community Foundation and it will be here for a long time to come.
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