Circles program founder optimistic for Chanute success

By Joshua Vail, ChanuteTribune reporter


CIRCLES PROGRAM: Circles program founder Scott Miller spoke at the Chanute Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors Luncheon, then held meetings with Chanute business leadership and human resource professionals in the afternoon, and volunteers and human service organizations and the faith community in the evening at the Good News Center. Shanna Guiot/Tribune

Circles program founder Scott Miller was impressed with the turnout at several meetings he had with leaders and volunteers in Chanute, Kan., on Tuesday.

Miller met with Chamber Ambassadors, community leaders and volunteers in four separate meetings to discuss Circles, a program designed to bring communities together to help bring residents out of poverty.

He has been working on reducing poverty for about 30 years and his approach has evolved over time. He said the Circles program in its current form started around 2000. Leaders and community members wanted to help bring others out of poverty, but didn’t necessarily know how, he said.

Miller said the Circles program helps direct volunteer, human services, faith and community leadership efforts in productive ways and bring the entire community together to support people.

“What Circles is doing is saying ‘all of these programs need to be put in a plan that’s personal to you,’” he said. “We work with people for sometimes three to 10 years if necessary to help them get where they’re going and their children to have a better future.” Miller also said community involvement is necessary because systems often need to change to get many people out of poverty.

“That can only happen when the public will wants it,” he said. Miller said he saw many leaders and volunteers in Chanute who are willing to do that kind of long-term work with people in poverty. “There are so many people that have done their research and done their homework and know what it’s going to take,” he said.

Miller was also impressed with the diversity of those represented at Tuesday’s meetings, with representatives from education, government, churches, human services and philanthropy. Miller said he focused significantly on the children of Chanute.

“You have 1,000 children in poverty,” he said. “Let’s get the first 100 out and then see how we need to change things to get lots of children out of poverty, and lots of families.”

“The meetings in Chanute were well-attended and the community was highly engaged in this effort to improve the lives of people in poverty,” said Heather Morgan, Project 17 executive director. “A number of citizens expressed that they were ready to work on this effort which allows people to develop friendships which will help people improve their lives.”

The Circles program is implemented in Chanute by Project 17, a southeast Kansas economic development initiative.How to help the Circles Movement. Interested in:

  • helping promote Circles
  • hiring Circles graduates
  • becoming an Ally (providing support to someone in poverty)
  • assisting with meal coordination
  • assisting with meal preparation
  • assisting with child care coordinaiton
  • assisting with child care
  • assisting at the Circles meetings
  • observing a Circles meeting in a nearby community, Iola, Joplin, Wichita, Newton
  • Serving on a Circles Team (helping to plan and implement the program).

For more information on how to get involved or volunteer with Circles in Chanute, contact Tim Fairchild by phone at (620) 431-3200 or by email at

Originally published online here.

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