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June 30, 2016

A Community United

Listen. Learn. Share.

That was the invitation extended to the crowd at the first all-community poverty summit by Sister Sally Duffy, president and executive director, SC Ministry, and co-chair of the Child Poverty Collaborative, which hosted the event. It set the table and tone for the crowd of 700+ as they began the work of co-creating a community action plan.

People from business, the civic and nonprofit sectors, universities, church groups, youth councils, and plenty of those desribing themselves as simply residents gathered for the nearly four-hour session, sharing thoughts, ideas and opinions on what needs to be done to eliminate Greater Cincinnati’s high child poverty rate. 

The passion in the room was ignited early on by Dr. O’dell Owens, Interim Health Commissioner and a co-chair of the Collaborative, which is managed by United Way of Greater Cincinnati. Owens was tasked with answering the question: Why are we here today?

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“We’re part of a great community, but we have too many children going to bed crying,” said Owens during his fiery speech. “A child went to bed hungry last night. Who is going to wipe those tears?” 

“We have one chance…one chance to get this right! Today is a day we can show our community love.”

A large portion of the day was spent having table discussions around questions provided.  

Why is eliminating poverty important to our community?

Why is eliminating poverty important to you?

A “systems” map was placed at each table to illustrate how complex poverty is. The map included things such as education, financial stability, strength of families and many other factors.

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Participants were asked:

What is missing from the map and what are the top three priorities?

The final question of the day:

When all of us are successful in taking on poverty together, what will change?

The answers inspired live art pieces throughout the day, as several artists were on hand to help create them. 

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After each table discussion, microphones were passed around the room for participants to reflect, as well as share ideas, opinions and experiences. There was plenty of passion, energy, anger, and most importantly, hope.

“How do I help get these kids off the corner?” said one participant. “They are afraid. They are very intelligent people if we invest in them.”

Another participant felt that this problem has to be addressed at the top.

“We don’t need to just ask how do people in poverty change, but we also need to ask how do people in power change?”

One passionate participant talked about a “Doughnuts with Dad” event at her kids’ school prior to Father’s Day. Her kids were sad their father couldn’t attend, but the teacher allowed the mom to come instead. When she showed up, she was not alone—all 15 parents that attended were women.

"There was not one dad at the 'Doughnuts with Dad' celebration," she said. "You talk about the kids who are in bed crying. Somewhere in the other room there is a mother crying because she doesn't know how she's going to feed her children."

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The day wrapped up with some final thoughts from each of the Collaborative co-chairs who were present.  Michael Fisher, president and CEO, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said he was asked what’s different this time around.

“The diversity and deep engagement, and having youth at the table in a meaningful way,” said Fisher.

Several members of the Avondale Youth Council were on hand at the summit, providing a different and real perspective as to what it’s like for children growing up in poverty. 

Pastor Ennis Tait, Church of the Living God, and Child Poverty Collaborative steering committee member, closed the day with words of inspiration. 

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“Stop telling children negative things,” said Tait. “If they grow up believing the lie, they will be unable to rise above the circumstances. Love makes you want to show up when nobody else does.”

The time is now for our community to show up and love our children. Let’s do this together.