Poverty Forum Summary Report Part 4 of 5

Throughout the week, we will post portions of our summary report from the forum on poverty. This fourth post answers questions that audience members asked our panelists.

Audience Questions

  1. Do we have any place here in town that can help with drug addiction? Free help? I see many parents and many people within the community that neglect their children for drugs? 

Missy Kolowski (Health & Wellness Clinic of Fulton County)

  1. We don’t have counseling services where we are at, but it is something we would help pay for.

Monroe Bailey (First Baptist Church)

  1. At United Jesus Outreach we provide services for drug and alcohol addiction the past 11 years. We’ll make sure you get the services whether you can afford them or not. They´re not only open to those that are mandated by the court, but they are open to the community. We meet with children as well just to help them know that things are going to be ok and how to help them deal with some of the issues they´re having in their home. We see that those services are met, whether this means getting you into treatment centers in Peoria, Springfield,  Quincy, even as far as Chicago. We work to get you in those places and see that you get there as well. Our goal is that it´s always been that everyone gets treatment, whether you can afford it or not.

Can our schools do more to educate all grades of students on poverty and how we treat those kids in poverty by making fun of or bullying only keeps them in poverty, giving them hopelessness?

Rolf Siversten (Superintendent CUSD #66) –

  1. Implement mentor programs: Yes I think we can. One of the programs that I would like to see implemented at Canton schools is a mentoring program for elementary children. This is something that everyone in this room can help with. Right now we have a Kid´s Hope program which is in Eastview Schools which is an outstanding program that I´d like to see migrate to our other elementary schools.
  2. Better train staff to alleviate poverty: We also need to provide more training to our staff and emphasize that no matter what economic background children are from, they’re all important, theyŕe all treated with respect, and they can all learn.

What will happen if a mandate forces all DHS clients to be required to work off their aid? Where will they go to do this?

Rhonda Morgan (Salvation Army) –

  1. Salvation Army is one of the resources because DHS is volunteer. You have to put in x-number of hours to earn your benefits. Many of our clients have anywhere from 15-30 hours a week depending on the family set up. There are a limited number of agencies programs and opportunities out there that can take people. We are trying to be responsible with everybody’s tax dollars, with the benefits that people are getting. You need to have somebody that can supervise them, hold them accountable, work with them on job skills. We can handle about 3 at 15-20 hours a week out of how many people that are out there in our community that are on assistance. There would be a huge need from businesses, non-for profits to figure out where these people are going to do these volunteer hours and be supervised adequately and not just to sign-off and get them out of the door without gaining skills. They need the skills to go out and get the job they need. If this becomes mandated, I’m not sure where we´re going to put them all.

Monroe Bailey (First Baptist Church)

  1. At First Baptist Church people are able to get their hours as well.

Brooke Denniston (YWCA) –

  1. With someone having access to children during our hours of operation, people have to be fingerprinted. We did have a success story a while ago where someone was trained and then gained employment through us. We have had individuals come to us for services like child care and transportation, but sometimes there are so many levels to things they have to tick down to get there that sometimes we stop hearing from them.


We typically think of urban areas when we think of poverty. How do we combat the notion that it can’t happen here and realize that poverty is closer than we think?

Missy Kolowski (Health & Wellness Clinic of Fulton County)

  1. No child thinks about their future and thinks ¨I want to be on food stamps and have people take care of me the rest of my life.” Poverty happens because of a number of reasons, it´s not 1 thing. The big thing is to excite our kids and get them into things. It starts as a child in building them up and asking them what they want to be. Instead of forcing them into things, find out what they’re interested in and how it changes as they move along. I wanted to be a singer and that didn’t happen so I had to figure something else out. Things change, ideas change, but poverty is something that just creeps up on you and you don’t ever expect it until it hits you.

Rolf Siversten (Superintendent CUSD #66) –

  1. Poverty is here in Canton. I can attest that. We have 2,600 children enrolled in the Canton school district. 52% are categorized by the state as coming from low socioeconomic status. Thatś 1,352 kids that we see everyday, 175 days a year. I can’t say enough good things about our staff that are in the trenches combatting it. The bus drivers are probably the most important staff members because they see the child first thing in the day, and they see them last. Teachers spend the most time with children. Most importantly, rural poverty is almost worse than urban poverty because they have less access to services. It´s a battle that has to be fought as a community. The people up here now it´s evident what they’re up here doing to fight that battle and this community is lucky to have them.

Rhonda Morgan (Salvation Army) –

  1. What I see is that we need to educate the middle class and the upper class within our community because we have an invisible poverty group. We have homelessness within our community. We don’t have them living in cardboard boxes but we have them camping out in Canton Lake, couch hopping from house to house until they wear out their welcome. Because it is rural it is invisible to the average person going about their daily life. Those that engage with them in social services know but we have to somehow inform and educate the general public to see what these faces are. That they are human beings. You pass them on the street. You see them in the grocery store, but you don’t know that´s the life that they live.

Teri Williams (Spoon River Pregnancy Center)

  1. I taught in Peoria for 12 years and saw the same situations and some of the same circumstances and then I came here. People often ask me what’s the difference between being in Peoria and being out here and I can honestly tell you I see the exact same situations out here but it’s much more desperate. It´s much more desperate and it’s much more complicated and it´s much more difficult to solve. The only other difference is the color of the skin. Primarily in Peoria there is a lot of Black poverty but out here, it is more desperate and complicated.

Monroe Bailey (First Baptist Church)

  1. We talk about the children and the need there, but if it doesn´t change in the home we are really fighting a losing battle trying to keep that child upbeat and prepare for college. When you talk about the middle class and the upper class, I don’t know about them. But when everybody realizes that they matter, they see hope. And then parents see that they go to church because all the sudden somebody cares about them.  I believe that the churches have to step up in our community. The pastors have to say ¨We want you at our church.” If you bring the poor into your church, guess what the middle class and the upper class do? They want to be part of something that is really alive and making a difference. So I´m praying that the pastors not just talk about the situation, but congregations begin to open up and say ¨You need to come where we’re at because you´re welcome. I believe a lot of hope will happen when the Church begins to see the people.

Missy Kolowski (Health & Wellness Clinic of Fulton County)

  1. I would like to just add that I grew up in an abusive household and it was the teachers and the pastors. My aunts and uncles took me to church my parents never did. It was the pastors and the teachers who brought me where I am today. I understand what children go through in a home. They didn´t watch me play basketball or help with homework. It is those outside influences that can mean the world to you and that’s what every single one of us on this panel is a part of.


Should we place more emphasis on technical training for skills such as plumbing, electrical work, car mechanics rather than just emphasize college?


Rolf Siversten (Superintendent CUSD #66) –

  1. The statistics say we should place an emphasis on college. Earlier I mentioned there was 11.6 million jobs created since the recovery and only 8% of those jobs went to someone with a high school diploma or less. Nonetheless, I think we have the responsibility to prepare students for college whether they go to college or not. If children want to go to technical schools or the military and that’s their interests, we have a responsibility to find out what careers they’re interested in. If they go to apply for an apprenticeship, they will have to take a test that´s going to require them to do algebraic equations. If we don’t prepare them with the skills to pass that test, they won´t be selected. We prepare them for college with the skills. We challenge them and put an emphasis on math and science, then we find out what careers those students are interested in and direct them towards those careers.


Further questions we were not able to get to

  1. Do you believe those growing up in poverty can make a difference in people’s life? Can a person raised with less possessions and more love grow and pass on those things that they needed at a younger age?
  2. I think it is agreed that poverty breeds poor eating habits. Does the jr. high and high school still have a ¨Life Skills”or nutrition class or Home Economics program? If so, is this mandatory before graduation? Or do you think these important classes should be?
  3. College is not an option for many. Why not create a very strong trade program? Classes to teach kids the proper way to find jobs and keep them; think outside the box and create their own business?
  4. What are school administrators doing to keep or increase vocational programs in the middle/senior high school? Do colleges recognize the importance of keeping the teacher training vocational programs (Industrial tech, Ag, Family and Consumer Sciences, Welding)?
  5. Is the military pushed as an option in high school anymore? I served 6 years in the Navy and learned skills that have provided me a career. Also the educational benefits and lifelong medical benefits.
  6. 10 million dollars are spent on police in Fulton County to protect the rich and oppress the poor. Not much is spent to solve poverty in the county. Is this fair?
  7. What opportunities are resources might we have to coordinate services that individuals and families receive (i.e. through case management) to maximize the distribution of available services?
  8. Do we have anyone who is living on the street or out of their cars?
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