Saturday, January 10, 2009

An upstate downstate connection in New York

Students from a New York City college traveled upstate to learn more about the groups fighting poverty in Ithaca. The students from Union Theological Seminary are trying to emulate the Poor People Initiative the Dr. Martin Luther King started in the 1960's.

Krisy Gashler of the Ithaca Journal details the first meeting between the students and the people helped by aid groups in the upstate.

Roughly 50 people attended Friday's forum at the Unitarian Church on Buffalo Street. The half dozen speakers represented agencies such as the Tompkins County Workers' Center, the Multicultural Resource Center and Tompkins Community Action.

Wayne Goodin, who spoke on behalf of the Natural Leaders Initiative, said after serving in the Army he found himself dependent on drugs and alcohol and scavenging for food in garbage cans.

What helped Goodin out of poverty were social service agents and community leaders in Ithaca who treated him with respect and equality, he told the room filled with many of the people who helped him.

"You guys looked at me like this," he said, motioning looking straight ahead, "instead of like this," motioning looking down.

Kris Townsend said what she needed to get herself out of poverty was someone to believe in her.

"When I got involved with the Natural Leaders Initiative, I realized that people actually believed in me and saw me as greater than what I was seeing myself. That was a big help," Townsend said. "I needed somebody to believe in me. I just needed a mentor."

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