Serving Phillips County communities since 2009, Delta Circles is a nonprofit organization with the mission to support families, end poverty in those families’ lives, and inspire communities to commit to long-term solutions addressing poverty.
The Clinton School partners with Delta Circles in regard to strategic planning, organizational development, and the planning of its community gatherings, with the goal to better engage in community conversations with families and create additional partnerships with other organizations in the Delta.
Executive Director Patricia Ashanti, who is currently enrolled in the Clinton School’s first EMPS degree cohort, founded Delta Circles in 2009. A Helena native, Ashanti was inspired by the work of Dr. Ruby Payne, an expert in generational poverty best known for her book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” and accompanying workshops.
“If it was not for the Center on Community Philanthropy, I don’t think we would be able to continue to serve the community the way we have,” Ashanti said. “Their partnership has been consistent and has helped us to make an impact.
With funding and support from the Clinton School of Public Service and Arkansas Community Foundation, Delta Circles runs free classes — “Getting Ahead” and “Financial Literacy” — to help people develop skills to tackle problems they may face as they try to lift themselves out of poverty.
Another example of Delta Circles’ work is its savings group, “Women Increasing Net-worth” (WIN). Started in 2017, WIN includes opening a savings account with Hope Credit Union and attending weekly meetings led by Ashanti to increase financial literacy, knowledge, and skills.
The first class saved almost $10,000, increased their credit scores by an average of 89 points, gained an additional income of over $6,000, and eliminated the debt of two credit cards.
“Although we don’t serve a large number of people at one time,” Ashanti said. “We are changing the lives of the people we do serve.”
How was Delta Circles initially connected with the Center on Community Philanthropy?
Initially, we were connected because we were, at that point, a community development organization. We were dealing with the issue of poverty and had started doing something that we continue to do today, classes called “Getting Ahead in a Just Get By World,” in which an individual looks at poverty, how it impacts their life, and how it impacts the community. At that time, I believe the Clinton School was focusing on the Move the Needle initiative which helps to move people in Arkansas out of poverty. Their community liaison was looking for community partners who were addressing the issue. They’d noticed that we were already doing similar work, and that’s how we connected.
How would you describe Delta Circles’ mission?
Our mission is simply to support families, to end poverty, and to do that by enhancing the community as we move forward. The way that plays out, we work with individuals primarily in small intimate groups. By working with individuals, we find that as they gain the knowledge to improve their lives, it transitions into improvements for their entire family.
It helps them to look at the issue of poverty differently for their family. After being introduced to concepts like generational poverty and situational poverty, they’re able to understand why they made decisions they’ve made in the past and how they might want to do things differently. We also help them to clarify their vision and plans for the future. We become a conduit for them and connect them to other partners, like the community college or the department of workforce services.
How did the Center on Community Philanthropy help with the mission?
Initially, they helped us by providing Clinton School staff that would come and facilitate our focus groups and community meetings. We were provided with a practicum team that helped us to create a stakeholder’s analysis which was a tremendous help. They continue to assist in our community conversations about poverty and workforce. Also, they are great sounding boards for me as I work through different concepts and ideas. Even though I’ve worked through them with our team, which is small, it’s nice to have another eye to look at our missions and goals for a particular project. They’ve been very helpful in that regard and in so many other ways
I have meetings with Kevin Hunt and Kent Broughton. I meet with them on a regular basis, and they really help me to better understand the meaning of community philanthropy. Since becoming connected with the Clinton School, it has helped me to understand and recognize how individuals in our community are philanthropists in the giving of their time, talents, and treasures. Just working with Kent and Kevin, they’re able to help me to see the value of what we’re doing on a larger scale.