As one of the new chapters in 2022, Debbie Smith, Assistant Director of Circles of Allen County in Fort Wayne, IN, is excited to share that they not only have grown their chapter staff, they have also seen some inspiring results with the Circles model.
Starting with the new staff, Debbie shares, “We are so excited to tell you about our new folks. As you can see, we are keeping the GAL POWER going!”
Megan Horsley is Circles of Allen County’s new Program Director. An experienced educator, Megan holds a Master’s Degree in Special Education and a Master of Arts Certification in applied Educational Neuroscience (focused on long-term effects of childhood trauma).
Kayla Justice, a former Circle Leader with Allen County, joins the staff as a Marketing Assistant. Debbie describes Kayla as “extremely social media savvy” and “a true asset to our team in helping to get the word out to our community about the benefits of being a part of Circles of Allen County.” Kayla’s husband will join the chapter’s second cohort of Circle Leaders in October.
Emily Burns will facilitate Circles of Allen County’s teen program. She will graduate from St. Francis University with a degree in social work in December and is currently a small-group leader for teen girls at her church. “She can speak teen language!” Debbie says. She adds that Emily, a former intern at Inasmuch Ministry, has impressed chapter leadership with her “compassion and work ethic.”
With new specialists in place, Debbie plans to reduce her weekly hours—a nod to the tireless contributions many chapter staff make in order to keep their local teams afloat. Debbie can now shift her focus to bookkeeping and financial reporting for federal grants Circles Allen County has secured through the City of Fort Wayne and the State of Indiana. She will also collaborate with Chapter Director Mary Ann Ming to vision new solutions to multiple poverty issues in their community.
In fact, “Mary Ann continues to be sought after for her advice on poverty alleviation from all corners of Fort Wayne and for procuring funds for Circles,” Debbie writes. “Just yesterday we received a second check from an endowment fund from a church. This was HUGE because she was told last year, when given the first check, that they do not give a donation to the same agency twice. However, they were so impressed by Kayla sharing her Circles story when we went to a special church service earlier this year. The gift we received [will go towards] administrative expenses and scholarships for our Circle Leaders to further their education. We are so excited about this gift!
“As if what I have shared already isn’t BIG enough,” she continues, Circles Allen County hosted a celebration dinner for Cheryl, a graduating Circle Leader. She crossed the 200% FPL after increasing her prior salary by 75%, has found more stable housing, and has totally changed her outlook on life.
Debbie says that, though her Allies knew Cheryl prior to joining Circles, “they cannot believe the change in her after just ten months being in the program. Cheryl is over 60 years old and took on three part time jobs to get herself on her feet. She even paid back the benevolent agencies that lent her money to get settled in a new apartment. She has reached her goal of having over $1,000 in an emergency fund and hopes to grow that by the end of the year.”
In keeping with the chapter’s upward momentum, their upcoming Cohort #2’s Teen Program will use the newly released Teen Curriculum.
“We couldn’t have been so successful without the help of all of you at Circles USA,” Debbie says, “and the advice given during our peer Zoom meetings and our support calls with you one-on-one. Thank you for all you do running this great organization!”