Families in Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle are facing serious challenges to their very survival. Barriers to success are almost insurmountable to many, and the need for social services has risen dramatically over the past several years. The local service sector has had a sharp increase in the numbers of families requesting service. More families are being served at the High Plains Food Bank, Downtown Women’s Center, Family Support Services, Panhandle Community Services, and many others.
Poverty rates have climbed, from one in ten individuals living in poverty in Potter County in 2000, up to one in three living in poverty in 2009. Over 68% of Amarillo ISD students qualify for the federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program, which includes families living below 185% of the poverty rate. At the state level, Texas’ poverty rate was sixth-highest among the states in 2010, at 18.4 percent, well above the national average of 15.1 percent.
While the numbers are staggering, they represent real people with real needs and real challenges. Panhandle Twenty/20 has worked with international poverty expert Dr. Donna Beegle to implement an innovative program which can bring success to these families, allowing them to get out of poverty.
Working with an amazing committee made up of dozens of local agencies, institutions, churches and volunteers, Panhandle Twenty/20 sponsored the community’s first Opportunity Conference in October, 2010, led by Dr. Donna Beegle, of Poverty Bridge. Hundreds of individuals from all walks of life connected at an inspirational Saturday conference at Central Church of Christ designed to offer hope and opportunity to low-income individuals (Neighbors), connecting them to trained volunteer Navigators and to Resource Fair assistance during the event. Dr. Beegle, who grew up in generational poverty, helped dispel myths about poverty, and coached the participants that it was ‘time to get to work’, and make wise choices to move up and out of poverty.
Partnering with the Don Harrington Discovery Center in 2011, Panhandle Twenty/20 continued to impact lives by hosting Post-Conference events for Neighbors and Navigators, working through the barriers that keep individuals mired in the cycle of poverty, helping them find success in life. Panhandle Twenty/20 is working with local churches and organizations to expand the the Navigator Program. Interested individuals may sign up below, or contact us for more information.