Albany leaders want to end cycle of poverty - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany leaders want to end cycle of poverty

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Southwest Georgia is one of the poorest areas of the country. That leads to a lot of problems. Poverty goes hand in hand with higher crime and lower graduation rates. Community leaders are coming together to try to end the cycle of poverty.

So many people can't focus on tomorrow, because it's hard enough just to get through today. That's why the chamber is backing an initiative called Strive 2 Thrive. To pull people out of the despair of poverty and move them into a better life.

In a room full of some of the most influential and most recognizable people in Albany, C.C. Merritt finds it hard to believe that they are all here to help people like him.  He said, "It's good that people, that God done blessed more, want to help us that ain't doing so good. I'm glad they see us."

See people like Merritt who are having a tough time getting by, and help them help themselves to a better life. "We really want to see them thrive and have a better life and that's really what it's all about," said Cynthia George.

So the chamber is sponsoring a program called Strive 2 Thrive, asking community members to support and build a bridge for the impoverished to lead them into a better life.

"The goal is to develop a community wide plan to eventually end poverty," said Scott Miller, CEO of Move the Mountain.

C.C. already has people helping him work to get his GED, they even helped him find a job. In order to get to work, C.C. typically takes the bus, but the bus doesn't run on Sundays. So no matter if it's raining outside, or cold like today, C.C. walks from his house downtown, all the way down Dawson Road. By car, it's a short trip, but on foot, it takes C.C. an hour and 45 minutes, but to him, it's worth the time and the effort, because at the end of this walk, there's a paycheck.

He said he does it, "Just for my family because I know if I don't work, they can't eat."

C.C.'s story is much like others in Albany. The number of students getting reduced lunches, those on food stamps and crime rates in Dougherty County are far above state rates. But with the help of the people in this room, those struggling can do more than just get by.

"Go over. Yes ma'am, go over and beyond what we ever thought we could go," said C.C.

He's willing to do what's necessary to help himself and his family, especially since others have helped him. "I'm willing, yes mam, as long as God keeps energy in me and breath in my body, because if I don't do it, who else will do it?" And he'll have the help of allies along the way as he strives 2 thrive.

C.C. attends the Dougherty County Family Literacy Program. He should receive his GED by March. That program also takes care of his youngest child while he and his wife are in class, and provided him with a bike to help with that long trip to work on Sundays.

Albany's strive 2 thrive program will be the first of its kind in the state of Georgia. It will partner a family working to get out of poverty with middle and upper income Allies who lend their support and resources.

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