How can Geauga County become a more financially accessible place for the region’s low income families and individuals? A new collaboration between the Poverty Center and The Center for Community Solutions (CCS) will seek to answer this question.

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Following its most recent round of visioning, the United Way Services of Geauga County is focusing on Income (or “financial stability”) as a community impact area for its work, in addition to education, and health. To help individuals in the county become more financially stable, the organization is working through the Geauga Income Collaborative – a group of service providers and agencies committed to the financial well-being of Geauga County residents. The group had already been meeting regularly to discuss how to best provide services to the county’s needy.

However, the group itself recognized that in order to move the needle on poverty in the county, it had to address some of its own needs. This included limits to its ability to keep up-to-date on poverty trends in the county; to conduct outreach to spread real information about the impact and spread of poverty for area residents; to understand the barriers keeping their clients from accessing already available services; and to know all of the services available to low-income residents living in Geauga. With those needs in mind, the United Way Services of Geauga County sought out partners to help increase the Collaborative’s capacity. The Cleveland Foundation stepped in and is providing financial support for this work via its Lake-Geauga Fund.

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Enter CCS and the Poverty Center. These two organizations will be teaming up over the course of the next year to help the Collaborative improve its ability to reach out to new partners and help local households. This project will include a survey of low-income residents and social service providers in Geauga County, a series of community forums, a map of available services for low-income residents, and a learning series on best practices for the Collaborative. The year will end in June, 2016 with a Community Building Toolkit for the Collaborative, which will provide the group with resources and tools on how to best engage new/current clients and to expand the group.

On July 16th, CCS and the Poverty Center had its initial meeting with the Collaborative, taking the time to meet members, share preliminary information, and introduce its plan of action for the year. During a “get out of your seat” activity, the group gave their thoughts on how to engage clients and agencies, possible learning series topics, and questions they’d like answered about the process. Members enthusiastically participated and provided thoughtful comments which will prove valuable to the work. At the end of the meeting, the Poverty Center and CCS asked members to share how they’re feeling about the upcoming year, in 5-words or less. They said,

“Energized,” “Hopeful,” “Ready to get started,” and “Excited for things to come”.

Given this energy, passion, and commitment from the Income Collaborative, we have little doubt that this collaboration will produce positive change in Geauga County.

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