Above, an early class in Lafayette, La.; St. Paul’s started the program three weeks ago.
BY TONI CASHNELLI
Linda LanclosWhen it comes to fighting poverty, “No one has all the answers,” says Linda Lanclos of Lafayette, La.
So where do you start?
“You figure out what is right to do and go in faith and you watch God provide.”
Three years ago she launched Escape From Poverty, a non-profit program that gives help and hope to those who want to change their lives but don’t know how. Linda knew the numbers – Louisiana’s poverty rate of 20.5% is third-highest in the nation – but that didn’t dissuade her. Starting from scratch, she enlisted churches as partners. Three weeks ago St. Paul the Apostle became the first Catholic parish signed on as a sponsor. Each Wednesday night for nine months, eight people will meet at Holy Family School to enhance their skills and self-confidence. They will pray, watch instructional videos and share dreams and challenges. And they won’t be alone.
“Each person has a mentor and a budget counselor that walks along with them,” says Fr. Robert Seay, Pastor of St. Paul’s, which purchased Linda’s curriculum and provided the space for the classes. Linda helps recruit participants, and a group called Love in the Name of Christ screens applicants. Enrollees pay nothing. Everyone who helps – including 81-year-old facilitator Regis Allison of St. Paul’s – is a volunteer. For all of them, Escape From Poverty is a journey of discovery that begins by forging relationships.
“Churches have people who love people,” Linda explains. “They respond to relationships. That’s why government hasn’t solved the poverty program. They throw money at it. It’s the church that has relationships that can help people out of poverty. I believe the answer to all the world’s problems is the local church.”
St. Paul’s did not commit lightly. “We studied it and spoke to the founder over several meetings before we introduced it to the parish at all the Masses,” says Robert. “There are many aspects to it. Each meeting is a little different and you keep progressing based on what is needed: budget planning; career opportunities; how to write resumes; how to go for a job interview; how to start a small business. We also have people coming in from the professional world” as speakers.
The group at St. Paul’s is the largest they’ve assembled. “We try to keep the classes under 10,” Linda says. “By the time you have participants, budget counselors and mentors, that’s 30 people. With a small group you have more intimacy, more honesty. Each class is two hours. For the first hour they’ll watch a film that is practical, then they’ll have discussion. People talk; they open up about what’s happening in their lives.”
Videotapes of speakers from the first classes are the basis of instructional materials.
The first session at St. Paul’s was about being organized, says Linda, who came to watch. “Regis [the facilitator] went around the room and asked every participant, ‘Do you use a calendar?’ One girl said, ‘I stay in trouble because I miss appointments all the time.’ We actually gave them calendars at that class. And we told them, ‘Write in the Escape From Poverty meeting for every week on the calendar. Put in birthdays, school activities, special events, and bring it back and show us.’” They did just that.
Later in the program, “We actually have a class on how to decorate on a shoestring. If you live in a dark, ugly home, you don’t even want to get out of bed and face it. So many of our participants deal with depression because they feel so hopeless. If they wake up and look around and feel cheerful, it affects everything.”
Another class called “Spiritual Smarts” is a character study based on the life of Joseph in the Old Testament. “There’s no doctrine; it’s all behavior-based,” Linda says. “We ask, ‘How do you handle life when life doesn’t go your way? How do you handle it when you get a bag of lemons?’” No matter what happened to him, “Joseph always did the right thing.” Values that may seem obvious are repeatedly reinforced in class. “You shouldn’t lie or steal or cheat; you should work hard, you should be responsible. We all agree on that and those are things we focus on.”
Still in the pilot stage, the program has a number of success stories, some white, some African-American. Three in particular have made remarkable progress. At the age of 11, Carroll saw his dad murder his mom. Kelly was a victim of sexual abuse. Tarah was homeless with two children born out of wedlock. Each of them found self-worth and stability through Escape From Poverty. “The biggest issues our participants have are transportation and [conflicts with] jobs,” Linda says, problems that derail the best intentions. Finding mentors for the long-term commitment isn’t easy. Despite those obstacles, Linda has already sold the curriculum to non-profits in 10 states through the Christian Community Development Association.
“We’ll have a graduation at the end of July for this group at St. Paul’s,” says Linda, whose optimism is based on faith. “Two weeks before this class launched we had two volunteers from St. Paul’s, a facilitator and one volunteer.” So she turned to the Lord for help. “After we put out the word through Christian radio stations and TV and our e-mail network, boom! By the time the class started we had 16 volunteers.”
Like Linda says, you do what is right and let God do the rest.
“Every time, He provides.”
(Donations are gratefully accepted. To learn more visit www.escapefrompoverty.org or call Linda Lanclos at 337-984-4858.)
Sessions deal with everything from Job Smarts to decorating on a shoestring.
Sr. Donna Graham, OSFNext week Sr. Donna Graham, OSF, will be leaving her position as the Director of our Office of Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation. On behalf of all the Province, I want to thank Sr. Donna for her 14 years of education, animation, and advocacy on our behalf. She has served our Province and the English Speaking Conference well, serving several terms as Conference President. She has represented us at meetings. She has educated our men in formation and written informative articles in the News Notes. I have appreciated her suggestions to contact our representatives in Congress and tried to do so. Thank you, Donna; we wish you well. We don’t intend to fill the position right away. With the help of the JPIC Advisory Committee, the Council wants to take some time to assess how we want to continue JPIC animation at this moment in time. In the interim, Scott Obrecht, OFM, will continue to offer animation, but we also invite you to share with us how we can best express how, as our former Minister General Jose Carballo used to say, JPIC concerns are in our “Franciscan DNA.”
Honored by Roger Bacon: Andy Kalb; Barb Coyle; Annie Timmons; and Jack Luhrman.
Thomas J. Fogarty in a photo from the Fogarty Institute for Innovation website, and in his days at Roger Bacon.
Today is a big day for Roger Bacon High School and one of its esteemed graduates. In a ceremony at the White House, Dr. Thomas J. Fogarty, class of 1952, was scheduled to receive the Presidential National Medal of Technology and Innovation, “the country’s highest honor for achievement and leadership in advancing the fields of science and technology,” according to Roger Bacon. Dr. Fogarty, one of eight recipients this year, is best known as the inventor of the embolectomy (balloon) catheter for removing blood clots. It is estimated to have saved the lives and limbs of more than 20 million patients. “Needless to say, the Roger Bacon family is very proud of the accomplishments of Dr. Fogarty,” says RB President Tom Burke. “In my conversations with Dr. Fogarty in the past, he appreciates the Franciscan education and values he received during his formative years at Roger Bacon.ﾠ He attributes part of his success to being a Roger Bacon Spartan.”
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