Albert Lea busts poverty myths to build community

Posted in Community Leadership

Photo courtesy of Leaders Partnering to End Poverty Freeborn County Facebook Page

What does poverty look like to you? For many, it looks like a crumpled-clothed, weathered-looking man holding flimsy cardboard sign with chicken-scratch writing.

BUSTED MYTH #1: Not all poverty looks like this!

In fact, poverty might look like your next door neighbor, the woman you say hi to in the grocery store or the child with crisply-pressed pants. Poverty comes in many forms. It’s not easy to identify and even less easy to talk about.

BUSTED MYTH #2: Poverty isn’t easy to talk about

So how do you start the conversation?

Community leaders in Albert Lea, Minnesota started by having a bit of fun. As part of Leaders Partnering to End Poverty (LPEP), Albert Lea launched Poverty Busters, a action-oriented game designed for people to get to know their fellow community members.

“Living in a rural setting, we don’t always see poverty the way we might if we were in a metro area,” said Amanda Irvine, marketing and communications specialist at United Way of Freeborn County. “The Poverty Busters game helps break down those stereotypes and build a sense of community by getting to know our neighbors.”

This is only one of the poverty-busting efforts the Albert Lea LPEP group has taken on.

Last month, to kickoff the LPEP initiative, they held a community meeting with Jodi Pfarr as the keynote speaker. The Albert Lea Tribune reported from the event:

Ann Austin, executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County, said she was encouraged by the variety of community members who attended the event and she hopes even more will get involved.

“We have to restructure how we look at solving problems and be honest about what’s working and what’s not working,” Austin said.

BUSTED MYTH #3: There’s no one-fits-all solution to poverty.

In another Albert Lea Tribune article, Irvine said

“The idea is to focus on poverty in Freeborn County,” Irvine said, “and what Freeborn County might be like without poverty.”

As Albert Lea moves forward, facing poverty myths head on in their rural Minnesota community, they hope to bring the whole community on board.

“It’s just an exciting time for Freeborn County,” Irvine said. “There’s a lot of poverty in the community, so to really find out what the needs are and see how we can work together to make the community better.”

Click here for more about the Leaders Partnering to End Poverty Program.