Needs and Deeds: Stillwater CARES
Stillwater organization helps combat poverty
BY ALEX STROHM, For The Oklahoman • Published: August 18, 2014
It was 1964 when Lyndon Johnson declared a War On Poverty and 50 years later, it’s a battle the U.S. still hasn’t won.
In a recent article from USA Today, Stillwater was defined as one of nine communities where wealth is soaring. However, poverty is also rising.
To try to prevent as well as to alleviate poverty in Stillwater, Stillwater CARES was founded and has since mobilized a passionate community into action — to not only help others in crisis, but to also give individuals independence.
Quinn Schipper, the executive director of Stillwater CARES, spoke about the mission and community involvement that drives the organization’s mission of helping people get ahead.
Q: What is the mission of Stillwater CARES?
A: CARES stands for Community And Resource Empowerment Solutions. We exist to coordinate strategic community alliances and synchronize best practices so that those who are disadvantaged may be empowered. In short, our mission is helping people help people.
Our focus is really weighted in helping people get ahead. There will always be a need for crisis relief and aid, but if we are just providing that without restoration and development then we feel like we are doing people an injustice. We can do far more collectively than we can individually. Traditionally, data reporting tells, for example, the X amount of food baskets or the X number of clients came to this service. There’s a big focus on output rather than outcome. Outcome is how a life has been changed and how has our work together made that difference.
Q: Whom do you serve?
A: Stillwater CARES does not provide direct services in the traditional sense. Our clients are the pastors of churches, leaders of agencies, and those who are serving others. Right now we have 56 churches and agencies that identify as associates to Stillwater CARES. The dominant focus of the association is how to address the prevention and alleviation of poverty in a way that helps people get ahead and bring stability and hope for their future.
Q: What kinds of services and resources do you provide?
A: Our focus is coordination. We provide the most comprehensive web-based service directory in the area. There are 51 categories with more than 275 resources for the services listed, which are provided by our associates. Anyone can access it.
Workshop Wednesday, a community benefit discussion series, is designed to help build capacity for social service agencies. We bring industry leaders to Stillwater or select them from within Stillwater to address topics. It’s been really helpful in building common language, practices and thinking in how we can do benevolence differently.
A discussion emerged out of the 2012 series about a one-stop resources center. It’s not a traditional service, but we’re looking at a way to bring agencies and social services together, literally, under one roof but also virtually. Our virtual network revolves around a product called CharityTracker, which is a data management system that is designed not only to track the giving out of services and resources, but also to engage clients.
We have also facilitated and co-hosted two one-day Bridges Out of Poverty workshops with more than 200 people attending. We have 27 Getting Ahead facilitators, 17 of those in Stillwater.
Q: What is Bridges Out of Poverty?
A: Bridges Out of Poverty is an international network started by educator Ruby Payne. Oklahoma is the only state in America that has a statewide initiative, called Bridge the Gap, to address the prevention and alleviation of poverty. Stillwater was asked three years ago to be one of the first pilot communities for the Bridge the Gap initiative, now under the Salvation Army. However, it’s not just what’s being done in Stillwater. There’s a bigger picture of what is being done around the state. As poverty reduces, you’re elevating the quality of life for everybody.
We have a curriculum out of the Bridges Out of Poverty network called Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World. It’s a class in a kitchen table-type small group setting that is designed to help people identify what they need to develop to get ahead. Here in Stillwater we have churches and community people who sponsor individuals to go through the class.
Here's a link to the original article.