Struggling to Make It
Missouri Community Action Network hosted the rally. It represents Missouri's 19 community action agencies and the Missouri Association for Community Action.
Leann Clemons attended the rally. Clemons, a single mom with three kids, hit rock-bottom two years ago.
"I just stayed wherever I could, you know- friends' houses, my van," Clemons said.
She had become one of more than 38,000 mid-Missourians living below the state's poverty level. The federal government defines poverty as a family of four living on less than $21,000 a year.
The main speaker at the rally, Donna Beegle, encouraged those in attendance to not give up hope.
Beegle dropped out of high school at age 15, and she was a single parent of two and had no job skills. Through a life-skills program offered by her local community action agency, Beegle learned some skills and began to lift herself and her family out of poverty.
"A lot of people in poverty, they believe no one cares, and I'm here to tell you, people care," Beegle said.
Beegle has a doctoral degree in education, and said if she can succeed, anyone can.
"You just have to keep, keep persisting, until you find the person or the people who will link you into the resources and start helping you to discover your potential," Beegle said.
Beegle is president of Communication Across Barriers, a consulting firm that helps people improve their relationships and find opportunities.
Clemons said goal-setting was an important task she learned from her community action "circle."
"Everybody takes three steps forward and two steps back sometimes, but now when I take two steps back, you know, it's not the end of the world," Clemons said. "Things were going to be OK; I know how to handle things differently."
Clemons' first goals were small, and her eventual goal was to buy a house.
"My dream was to have children, and a home for them, and to send them to college and I'm not out of poverty yet but I know my children are going to go to college cause I'm going to make it happen," Clemons said.
Missouri Community Action Network said more than one of every seven Missourians lives in poverty, and an estimated 26,100 Missourians are homeless.
The Columbia branch of the Missouri Community Action Network plans to start a "circle" in Boone County. The network currently has circles in seven other counties across mid-Missouri.