Hundreds attend presentation in Martinsville about building bridges out of poverty

By Colter Anstaett - Southside Bureau Reporter

MARTINSVILLE (WSLS 10) - Friday was the second and final day of the United Way of Henry County & Martinsville's "Bridges Out of Poverty" seminar.

More than 250 representatives from businesses and organizations across Southside participated.

United Way of Henry County & Martinsville Community Impact Director Joanie Petty said living in poverty often creates habits that make getting resources difficult, and that's where local businesses and organizations can help.

"The way you think, the way you plan, or the lack of planning, a lot of times is a barrier that keeps people from being able to access resources effectively," Petty explained. "So, it's up to us as providers, and employers and business owners to recognize that."

This is not the first time the United Way has held the Bridges Out of Poverty presentation, but it is the first time the organization has held the two-day presentation.

Martinsville and Henry County Public Schools are two organizations which stand to benefit from the seminar. Henry County Public Schools estimates that about 66 percent of its students are impoverished, which is a big reason why the district does things like taking meals during the summer to mobile home parks because many students live there but can't get to the district's public locations to get the free lunches that the district provides.

"We know that the poverty level in our school system is about 25 percent higher than the state average for school-level poverty," said Henry County Schools Director of Communication and Organizational Learning Monica Adams Hatchett.

That's why the district says it is so important to have all the business and organization representatives participating in Bridges Out of Poverty.

"We know that understanding that poverty and understanding the families who experience that poverty makes everything that they do more meaningful," Hatchett explained.

Martinsville superintendent Dr. Zeb Talley said about 89 percent of the district's students receive free or reduced lunches, meaning that about 89 percent of students are impoverished.

The superintendent said with the number so high, having an event like Bridges Out of Poverty is critical to helping students grow.

"This program reinforces what we do; what we stress to teachers. Build relationships. Understand that all people are valuable no matter where they live and where they come from," Talley emphasized.

Both districts said the information gained from the two-day seminar will help improve the districts.


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