Published by The Critograph on March 8, 2017
Katherine Graves, Copy Desk Chief-
The evening began with the City Council awarding the recipients of this year’s Mayor’s and Vice Mayor’s Awards of Excellence—one of which went to Lynchburg College graduate Chip Berry, E. C. Glass High School’s athletics director—and the mayor thanking many of the people that help the city to run as well as it does.
Afterward, Foster and Tweedy broke tradition and stood together to discuss that the city needs to help those struggling with poverty, which the City Council identified as a priority at their fall retreat.
“It is unacceptable for Lynchburg to have a poverty rate of 24 percent. Thirty percent of that number is children, many of whom will not be able to reach their full potential because they are living in poverty without the resources they will need to thrive,” Foster stated.
Tweedy stated that a four-person household of two adults and two children is considered to be in poverty if they have an annual income of below $23,624. Foster stated that one statistic that contributed to their knowledge of the city’s poverty is that 60 percent of public school students receive free or reduced lunches during the school year.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is our call to action. It is the first step in the journey. Poverty is a community issue, and it will take the community to make a difference. We are issuing a call to each of you this evening to rise up. I know that if we work together, all of us—government, faith leaders, non-profit organizations, schools, private citizens. We can do it,” Foster stated.
Foster and Tweedy addressed business owners, schools, institutions of higher learning, non-profit organizations, social services, mental health agencies, the medical community, houses of worship and parents on how they could help assist those in poverty.
“Studies show, and I know from my own work in this community, that not only are most poor people willing and able to work hard, they do so when opportunities are available to them. The real trouble has to do with problems like minimum wage jobs, the lack of skills necessary to obtain better paying jobs and a lack of access to other resources,” Tweedy said.
Tweedy stated that businesses have available jobs that are not being filled because people don’t have the skills necessary to fill the positions. She stated that the City Council will work with public schools, institutions of higher learning and non-profit organizations to help citizens gain the skills to fill these job opportunities.
“We are asking business owners to work with us, to provide training opportunities when possible and to be willing to take a chance on someone who may not have a stellar work history,” stated Tweedy.
Foster stated that social services, mental health agencies and the medical community could provide “wrap-around services” and other services to assist those in poverty.
Foster encouraged faith leaders of all denominations to work together to continue their generosity within the city.
“Just think if every community of faith adopted one family living in poverty and wrapped services around them, we could move many more families out of poverty,” Foster stated.
Tweedy encouraged parents to be involved in their children’s education and schools to help parents to do so. Foster suggested that schools could provide tutoring and mentoring for students.
In addressing those in poverty, Foster stated, “Lastly, to those of you who are living in poverty, you have the most important role to play. You must be willing to take the initiative to work to make your future and that of your children the best it can be. If you are willing and able, we want to work with you so you can realize your American Dream.”
Foster stated that the City Council will be taking this goal 90 days at a time, assessing what else needs to be done after each 90-day period. Tweedy stated that this will be an ongoing journey for the community.
Lynchburg College President Kenneth Garren attended the address with the city’s other higher-education leaders.
Garren stated, “Most everything that’s good is built on relationships, and you really develop the relationships when you’re face-to-face and personal with people… If we work on new things together, if the relationship is there, things happen with the teamwork.”
Garren expressed that he feels it is important for the city to have these meetings so that people can address important issues and work together.
“The only way for us to make a sustainable difference is by working together, government and private sector, businesses and non-profits, colleges, neighborhoods and houses of worship, individuals and groups. We are going to need each of you to work with us as we move from poverty to progress,” said Foster.
The City Council will continue discussing how the community can work to assist those in poverty at its kickoff event “From Poverty to Progress” on Thursday, May 4 at 6:30 p.m. in E. C. Glass High School’s auditorium.
All members of the community, including LC students, are invited to the event.