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Capital Action Committed to Reducing Poverty

May 3, 2018, by Amber R. Tynan

Having worked in the nonprofit sector the last thirteen years, I have been privy to the incredible work of our local agencies serving our neighbors and community across all areas of need on a daily basis. And while I may not know the mission of all 2,000+ nonprofit organizations in Leon County, I have great faith that the needs of our community are well represented and/or supported by the programs and services available in providing a safety net for our community. Even still, the needs far outweigh the resources we have available which makes programs like the one in this article even more special.

Because of my experience within the sector, it’s always telling when I learn something new about what resources exist to enhance the quality of life for those who live here and how the breadth of the work nonprofits do collectively as a sector is not widely known or celebrated. Just last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World Transition Ceremony as a guest of Tim Center, CEO of the Capital Area Community Action Agency that sponsors the initiative. While I am familiar with this agency, I was not aware of the comprehensive system they have created to reduce poverty with programs like Getting Ahead.

Coming into the evening, I was curious how the program was structured and designed to assist in reducing poverty especially when we live in a world where systematic barriers will always exist. Two of the most prevalent of these systemic barriers are isolation and lack of social mobility; both of which are evidenced in our local communities. Inadequate transportation prevents people from accessing jobs, education, and housing that can provide upward mobility. Food deserts prevent people from getting adequate nutrition which is a factor in work performance, illness, and school attendance. And so, the cycle of poverty is reinforced, and opportunities to break generational poverty are harder to address.

The poverty line is defined for a family of three as an annual income of just under $21,000. More than 28% of our neighbors in the City of Tallahassee live at or below the poverty line. The figure is 22% for Leon County. Both are higher than the national rate of 14%.

What’s more is we are experiencing an increased population of citizens who work hard and are above the poverty line, however, due to high costs and factors often beyond their control, struggle to live paycheck to paycheck. For many, a small emergency can quickly become a major financial crisis. Car repairs and health care emergencies, to name just a few, can plunge these working families over the edge into poverty and financial chaos. When this happens, families, employers, and our economy suffer.

According to the 2017 ALICE Report, 41% of all households in Leon County are below the ALICE threshold (including those living in poverty). ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – households that earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, but less than the basic cost of living for the county. This means, 41% of our total population struggles to afford basic needs. In Jefferson County, where the participants of the Getting Ahead transition ceremony live, 49% of all households are below the ALICE threshold. Community conversations that help create long-term solutions in assisting to break the cycle of poverty, alongside access to programs like Getting Ahead - are paramount to ultimately addressing the barriers so many of our neighbors face in their quest for financial stability.

Getting Ahead, a research-based anti-poverty workshop developed by Dr. Ruby Payne and Phil DeVol based on the Bridges Out of Poverty concept that dissects the overarching idea that people in poverty are experts in their own situation. Too often people living in poverty are caught in the tyranny of life without the resources to get ahead. The defining factor though is that through this 15-week course, productive dialogue takes place outlining and addressing the realities of the conditions in our community and how they specifically impact us no matter our economic class.

During the ceremony, we were introduced to Melissa Watson, the Getting Ahead Program Coordinator who is an absolute dynamo. Her passion and commitment were evident as she dedicates countless hours with each class of the participants across multiple counties; working with them to discover why poverty exists and discussing what resources each would need to move out of poverty and successfully transition to self-sufficiency independent of public assistance. While the program does not provide answers or arguments for change, it instead fosters innate characteristics for motivation, insight, and planning from those who participate as they assess the potential consequences of their previous decisions and how they may have adversely affected their lives. People in poverty are not problems but problem solvers.

Of the twelve participants being celebrated that evening, five were called to share the growth they experienced personally as a direct result of what they learned in the program; there was not a dry eye in the fellowship hall. Each story we heard was truly moving because everyone present could relate to the struggles, obstacles, and setbacks they’ve witnessed in their lives – sometimes feeling like a direct narrative or excerpt from our own similar experiences (myself included).

Each participant I had the chance to meet correlated their current and future successes to gaining access to resources and bridging their social connections to attain the life they always dreamed of. Each testimony had its own version of struggles and adversity, yet every single participant was leaving with hope for their future while actively pursuing incredible things to see success on their terms.

I was honored to have had the chance to sit next to Ms. Sheffield, a participant who couldn’t wait for the road ahead. She literally beamed with her warm and bright smile, yet she had this fragility about her that spoke to the hard road she endured in her past. It was kismet we sat together because she turned to me and said, “with anything we go through in life, we are always better together;” a philosophy and credo I adopted years ago. Ms. Sheffield is already making plans to participate in the Staying Ahead program designed to help support the individual’s education, job training, and job placement needs based on the goals and visioning they prepared for in their Getting Ahead sessions. She shared that she wants to complete the next phase of the program so that she, too, can pay it forward for other future participants because we are always better when we work together.

Staying Ahead is the second tier of knowledge that follows a nationally-tested model to recruit, train and pair mentors from resourced families with those individuals taking steps necessary to lift themselves up from poverty.

What is even more promising are the reported outcomes of the Getting Ahead/Staying Ahead students over the last several years. With a 70% completion rate of the Getting Ahead program, more than half become employed, more than 40% complete some form of post-secondary education, and nearly 40% become independent of public assistance funding.

My sincere gratitude to Tim, Melissa, and the entire Capital Area Community Action Agency team for the work you do and the role you play in providing hope for so many in our community. This program gives me great hope for the good work happening in our community, specifically focused on helping those living in poverty reach their fullest potential.

If you’re interested in learning more, becoming involved or supporting programs like Getting Ahead, visit http://capitalareacommunityactionagency.com. Together, we can engage in equipping low-income families with the tools and resources they need to think about and develop their future story.

UPHS: 19th Annual Conference on Excellence in Nonprofit Management and Leadership

April 9, 2018, by Amber R. Tynan

United Partners for Human Services (UPHS) is excited to present its 19th Annual Conference on May 9th at Tallahassee Community College.

The importance of this conference is to provide a high-quality professional development experience for nonprofit professionals who are passionate about improving the quality of life for our neighbors in the Big Bend. Whether you’re a future leader or a seasoned Executive Director, the UPHS conference will introduce innovative practices and tools to help you and your organization succeed today and thrive in the future.

Nonprofit agencies in Leon County employ approximately 14, 000 people which makes up over 10% of the overall workforce available in our area. UPHS is a committed to helping human services nonprofits increase their operational capacity, especially with the many challenges they increasingly face by way of recruiting, retaining and developing a strong and stable workforce. When these challenges are overcome, our human services sector is able to carry out their missions more efficiently to meet the growing needs of our community.

Click here to read the complete blog post on Tallahassee.com

Fourth Annual Thunderdome Tallahassee Awards Issued to Volunteer Lawyers on 50th Anniversary

April 3, 2018, by Amber R. Tynan

On Thursday, March 29, 2018, the Legal Aid Foundation of Tallahassee (LAF) celebrated its 50th anniversary by announcing the winners of the fourth annual Thunderdome Tallahassee awards to over 200 distinguished guests gathered at the FSU Alumni Center. The awards recognize an outstanding participant and mentor of Thunderdome Tallahassee Class 4. Launched in September 2014, Thunderdome Tallahassee addresses a desperate need for equal access to justice by providing family law training, mentorship, leadership development and recognition to volunteer lawyers serving families and children.

Click here to read the complete blog post on Tallahassee.com

TFLA Seeking Non-Profit Business Partners

The Tallahassee Future Leaders Academy (TFLA), Tallahassee’s national award-winning youth leadership program, is looking to recruit non-profit business partners for the summer of 2018.

This year, in addition to our pre-existing partnerships within the private sector, we are seeking to introduce non-profit partners. We are seeking partner who will employ program participants for a minimum of 20 hours per week in a paid position. These partners will have the opportunity to be reimbursed for the youth they sponsor by the City of Tallahassee and other program donors.

Youth employment through TFLA will begin on Monday, June 18, 2018 and conclude Friday, July 27, 2018.

Other ways to support a youth in the program this summer include:

  • Sponsor a meal for the youth participants during the 2-week training period (6/4/2018 – 6/15/2018)
  • Donate to the TFLA program to help provide workshop supplies and food
  • Engage potential sponsors to help support a youth for your organization

If your organization is interested in employing a youth this summer please contact Dr. Willie Williams for more information, at 850-891-8134 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or click here.

We look forward to working together to make sure the Tallahassee youth of today have all they need to be the leaders of the future!

Let's Secure Dedicated Funding for Children's Services in Leon County!

As you know, many counties in Florida currently have Children's Services Councils which provide dedicated funding for a broad array of children's programs. Leon County does not currently have one, however, the Leon County Commission is considering whether or not to put a question on the 2018 general election ballot which would allow voters to authorize the creation of a Children's Services Council (CSC).

If enacted, a CSC could generate nearly $8 million a year for children's programs in our community.

Please find a fact sheet about CSCs, their impact and the need in Leon County here. Also, here is an agenda item on the issue prepared by Leon County staff (pg. 433-680).

At this point, we are encouraging nonprofit agencies interested in this issue to:

  1. Educate their boards of directors and encourage them to formally endorse the CSC initiative.
  2. Identify a board member to attend the Leon County Commission's April 10 meeting and speak in support of the CSC during the public hearing period. (Note: Please send the name & email address of your organization's speaker to Whole Child Leon's Courtney Atkins at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

To move this issue forward, we are urging nonprofits to empower their strongest private sector champions to advocate. This is about the future of our community, and now is the time to activate those strong community relationships you've built in support of our county's kids!

If you have any questions, please contact INIE Executive Director Jessica Lowe-Minor at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (850) 228-3646.

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