, Muskogee, OK

February 11, 2013

Anti-poverty program proceeds at steady pace

Organizers don’t want to churn out graduates without having ‘allies’ to provide support

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Six months after completing a Bridges Out of Poverty program, Kim Durossette is working to make a clean sweep of her life.

“I’m taking care of things the best I can, trying to get ahead,” Durossette said. “Now, it’s ‘me’ time. I need to take a better look at my budget and finances.”

Durossette, a lead housekeeper at York Manor Nursing Center, was one of six graduates of the program in July. The program, called “Getting Ahead in a Just-Getting-By World,” is designed to help participants discover mind-sets that keep them in poverty and to find strategies and networks to help them get out. The program is a first step in the Community Circles program, which links the graduates with community volunteers, or “allies,” who could help them.

More than twice as many people are set to graduate from the second “Getting Ahead” program Monday. There already is a waiting list for classes in August, said Community Circles of Muskogee’s coordinator, Tom Martindale.

“Once word begins to spread, people want to go through the program,” he said.

However, Community Circles won’t schedule a lot of classes to accommodate a lot of people. Instead, before it schedules classes, the program wants to ensure there are enough “allies” to help graduates after the sessions, he said.

Martindale said Circles programs in other communities “shot themselves in the foot by starting large.”

“They put a lot of people in the Getting Ahead class, but lose them afterwards,” because of a lack of that vital post-class support, he said.

Durossette said her allies, Leslie and Kevin Mansfield, helped her get through the past six months.

“I always turn to them for help or advice. They’re behind me 100 percent,” she said, adding that she meets with her allies often.

Kevin Mansfield, an outside salesman, said: “We try to meet with her at least once monthly. We give her advice. It could be financial advice, spiritual advice. We can be a sounding board for her.”

They often see Durossette at church, he said.

She seems to have changed “quite a bit” since they’ve been allies, he said.

“She’s decided to take control of her life,” he said. “She’s taking responsibility not to let people run over her.”

Durossette said she was drawn to that first Bridges Of Poverty class a year ago to help her get out of debt. At the time, her son and granddaughter were living with her. She said she has worked at York Manor for 17 years.

“I’m not a very good budgeter,” she said.

Since her graduation from the program, she’s been able to find resources to help her, she said.

“You never know what resources you have in Muskogee until you actually research it,” she said.

Shelby Clark, who graduated with Durossette, said she meets regularly with her ally, the Rev. Ann Brizendine.

“We meet once a week, we sit and talk, share books,” Clark said.

The former air traffic controller said layoffs left her jobless  “and I quickly became homeless.”

She said she also had been losing money because someone with access to her Social Security number had been draining her account over the years. She said she found an attorney and a private detective through the Circles program. The case is going to trial.

Clark now works at the VA Regional Office and is helping her community through Action in Muskogee committees.

“I’m slowly climbing my way out,” she said.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or

If you go

WHAT: Second Getting Ahead Class graduation.

WHEN: 6 p.m. Tuesday.

WHERE: St. Paul United Methodist Church, 2130 W. Okmulgee Ave.

You can help

To become an ally for a Community Circles of Muskogee participant, call Tom Martindale: (918) 683-4600.