Lynette Fields (Executive Director, Poverty Solutions Group, Wintergarden, FL) and Janis Albergotti (Missions Director of, Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church and Executive Director of CIRCLES Lexington County, SC), two Circles chapter champions in two different states, recently co-presented the CUSA model at a missions conference in The Woodlands, TX.
The event, Beyond These Walls 2023, gathered an expert pool of faith-based organizers, mission directors, and theologians to share knowledge and stories from their institutions to deepen their impact in the world.
Lynette and Janis’s session was aptly titled “Circles USA: Building Community To End Poverty.” The session description offers an overview of CUSA’s methodology, goals, and best practices from our national network:
The Circles USA mission has always been to inspire and equip families and communities to thrive and resolve poverty. We believe strongly that responsibility for both poverty and prosperity rests not only in the hands of individuals, but also with societies, institutions, and communities. It’s the underlying foundation of the Circles model – engage people and organizations in the community to end poverty.
The Circles model was developed after the organization discovered that social service agencies could reach only a small portion of the population living in poverty with real long-term solutions. Since that time, Circles has worked to address poverty by increasing the capacity of communities. Our approach combines best practices in several disciplines including community organizing, case management, grassroots leadership, S.M.A.R.T. goal setting, financial literacy, mentoring, peer-to-peer counseling and learning, and child/youth development.
“It was such a new endeavor for both of us,” said Lynette, “creating this joint presentation and pulling all the pieces together. …I do believe attending national and international events like this [is] very beneficial to Circles USA. We had lots of good conversations and interest. And whether or not churches launch chapters or not, maybe they will keep their eyes open for opportunities to partner with Circles in some way. And it was really FUN to work with Janis and her awesome team!”
Janis agreed that the partnership was beneficial and praised her partner: “Lynette was instrumental in helping us get Circles Lexington County [SC] up and running. We met at one of the CUSA annual conferences and realized early on that our stories aligned. Lynette worked at St. Luke’s UMC in Florida and I was the missions director at Mt. Horeb UMC.
“Lynette already had several years’ experience leading a Circles chapter when we started ours in South Carolina,” she continued. “She was willing to offer advice and share her experience to aid us in getting off to a strong start. A mutual friend invited us to lead a breakout together at Beyond These Walls. It was a joy to serve with Lynette and share what we know about CUSA with those who attended.”
Circles USA is proud to partner with the United Methodist Church, one of many national organizations that support local Circles chapters in their commitment to good works in the greater community.