POVERTY: Several Projects Are Underway to Reduce Poverty in Lewis County 30 Percent by 2030

By The Chronicle

About 300 community members filled the Grand Ballroom at Great Wolf Lodge in Centralia on Thursday at United Way of Lewis County’s Annual Community Partnership Luncheon to hear area leaders talk about a community-wide collaboration and the goal of getting 30 percent of residents out of poverty by 2030. 

Master of ceremonies of the luncheon was Drew Mikkelsen, the south bureau chief with KING 5 News, who was first introduced to the community as a young reporter covering the December 2007 flood. Mikkelsen said he is always amazed at the comradery and collaboration which represents the community of passionate people coming together to strengthen Lewis County, one family at a time. 

“Every day, in all corners of Lewis County, one in three of our neighbors struggle with challenges that cannot be ignored. With your help, we can change this,” he said. “United Way of Lewis County is pushing boundaries that they’ve never done before with new, innovative ways to help people become financially stable.”

Court Stanley, United Way Board president, introduced members of the three Lewis County Rotary Clubs, Centralia, Chehalis and Twin Cities.  

“United Way is excited to partner with the Rotary Clubs for a three-year commitment to bring Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program to Lewis County,” Stanley said. “This early literacy program provides free, high-quality, age-appropriate books mailed monthly to Lewis County children ages birth to five years old, regardless of family income. Many of our local kids are not prepared to enter kindergarten ready to learn, and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library provides children the fundamentals of education and early literacy skills that put them on the path to succeed in school, and in life.”

He said the goal of the community partnership is to start distributing books in early December. Stanley said this new partnership with local Rotary Clubs fits into the focus area of early education that has been identified as an important piece to help children succeed and end generational poverty.

Other highlights of the luncheon included the potential of creating an early learning center at the former Logan Elementary School in north Centralia. That project is still under development, but its aim is to offer education programs that will allow parents to get out from under expensive day care costs and back to work, as well as prepare children as they enter the school system.

A 2-1-1 system, which connects people in need with available services has partnered with the 2-1-1 system in Pierce County. United Way also announced they have created a new position to promote the project in Lewis County with the hiring of Ryan Cole, the local resource development director for Lewis County 2-1-1.

“2-1-1 is an information and referral service that connects people with life-changing resources and helps people overcome their obstacles to reach and maintain self-sufficiency,” Cole said.

Another new project aimed at reducing poverty in Lewis County is Women United, a group that will bring women together to form bonds and build support systems.

“Women United is about women knowing and understanding the issues facing our community and rolling up their sleeves to help,” said Annalee Tobey, from the Chehalis Community Renaissance Team. “Our mission is this: committed to positively impacting the lives of women and children living in poverty in Lewis County by encouraging self-sufficiency and empowerment. We are joining a network of over 75,000 women across the country and worldwide.”

Centralia Councilor Peter Abbarno was one of the guest speakers. He talked about the new direction United Way has focuses on in the fight against generational poverty. He said the various new ventures by United Way as highlighted in the luncheon, through cooperation and partnership, will make a real difference.

“If we are truly to reduce poverty long-term and lasting, we need to strengthen homes and families, provide opportunity for financial independence, and deliver a pre-kindergarten system that puts every child on the pathway to a healthy and successful life,” Abbarno said.

 

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