A group of people in the Sioux Falls area see poverty as a growing concern. Together they are the Hope Coalition whose goal is giving aid to the needy.

Director of Community Relations for Avera McKennan Randell Beck is one of the members and says multiple types of visionaries are on board with the effort.

“We are a broad diversity of business, non-profit and civic leadership," said Beck. "It’s really a remarkable group of folks who are at the table.”

Tom Dempster who is a former lawmaker, City Council member Michelle Erpenbach and Sioux Falls School Superintendent Dr. Brian Maher are just some of those who want to face the issue of poverty.

Beck says attacking the problem at the family level will help build a foundation for the children who are affected. Their goal is figuring the best way to succeed. “We have a growing number of children in poverty in Sioux Falls and entering the school system. Isn’t it time for Sioux Falls to unite behind an effort? What should we as a community do to keep those kids from failing?”

Citing one example that stems from Anne Sullivan Elementary, Beck relayed what Dr. Kirk Zeeck the Principal faces within his student body.

“They have 570 kids and a heavy percentage of them living in poverty," explained Beck. "He was very eloquent in describing the growing gap between the actual needs of those kids and what the school can do to meet those needs.”

Within the public school system, the general sense is that the school is doing what it can when considering the resources available.

“I mentor a young boy at Laura B. Anderson (Elementary) and he gets two meals thanks to the school district.” Beck said. “He needs them. Without them, he’s sunk.”

A lot of people define poverty with a broad stroke as a category of people who have less means than others. Beck says advancing toward a solution takes a narrower approach.

“If I can (befriend) that kid as a community and begin to enter his or her life to figure out the forces in their life that need to be addressed, that breaks it down to a pretty basic level.”

As a whole Beck says the Hope Coalition currently is in the education phase and trying to assess the totality of the job ahead. During the upcoming weeks, the group is expected to join with the Sioux Falls School District and announce some initiatives to combat poverty.


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