New group works to end poverty cycle throughout Allegan County

Kayla Deneau, Staff Writer

A new group  on the east side of the county is working to get community members out of poverty.

Bridges of Hope is a nonprofit organization comprised of individuals from five churches; Hope Lutheran Church, First Presbyterian Church of Plainwell, First United Methodist Church of Plainwell, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and St. Margaret’s Catholic Church.

“I think it is important there are five separate churches involved,” said founding member Nancy Heilig. “This way we are not strongly affiliated with any (one) of them.”

The group is an educational organization, working to enhance relationships between agencies and those living in poverty.

“We’re out to educate the community at large about the barriers that keep people in poverty,” Heilig said.

She said these barriers include language, employment, communication, medical needs, education and childcare.

In order to further educate the community at large, Bridges of Hope is offering its first class based on the book “Bridges out of Poverty,” Wednesday, Nov. 5, at the First United Methodist Church of Plainwell.

Heilig said more than 40 people have already signed up for the free class.

“Our goal is to have a class several times a year,” she said. “We want to educate all school employees, government employees and agency employees in the county.

“The community has to change the attitude towards poverty to give those in poverty a fighting chance.”

The organization doesn’t offer assistance services, but will connect those in need to the services available to them, she said.
In the future, the group will also offer training to impoverished individuals looking to rise out of poverty. The 12-week training will be based on a book called “Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World.”

“As people are going through the course, we offer transportation, babysitting and a meal for each meeting,” said Heilig. “Once they complete the course we’ll provide a stipend—we’re not sure how much yet— with the hope of getting them started financially and take steps towards getting better transportation, housing or whatever they need.”

For more information, to donate or sign up for a class, contact Heilig at (269) 664-6479 or Gail Hill at (269) 623-8066.

“People in poverty just need a chance,” said Heilig. “Someone to say we really do care about and we are

For full story, pick up a copy of the Nov. 3 issue of The Union Enterprise or subscribe to the e-edition.

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