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Groups will team up to show how those in poverty live
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Concerted Services, Inc. and Step Up Savannah are collaborating to hold a simulation on poverty on May 14 in Springfield at the recreation department.

This is the first such simulation to be held in Effingham County.

Participants will be given play money and assigned roles. They will have to provide for their families for the two-hour simulation, which represents one week while facing real life challenges. Volunteers representing employers, childcare providers, landlords and so forth will take part.

“There’s such a myth about poverty,” said Darla Johnson of Concerted Services, Inc. in Springfield.

So many people wrongly believe that if poor people would just work hard they could pull themselves up by their bootstraps, according to Johnson.

On the contrary, she said many poor Americans work very hard, but they still do not make enough money.

“The American Dream is a myth,” she said.

The U.S. Census Bureau set the poverty threshold at $20,444 for a family of four in 2006. The Urban Institute sets the low-income threshold for a family of four at about $38,000 a year.

Johnson hopes the simulation will help to dispel myths about poverty and increase the community’s understanding of what it really is.

Church leaders are being encouraged to participate. It’s important for them to understand the difficulties of the people they serve through their benevolent efforts, according to Johnson.

Businesses, too, can gain a lot from participating. Johnson said employers and supervisors should ask themselves, “What can we do to help our employees not be in this situation?”

Yet, some people reading about the simulation may feel like poverty does not affect them.

“I hope it never does,” Johnson said. “But I think the majority of us who are living comfortably are probably one paycheck away.”

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that there were 37 million Americans living in poverty in 2005, and Effingham County is by no means exempt.

The 2000 Census revealed that there were 743 families and 3,458 individuals living below the poverty level in 1999.

“We don’t want to see it, you know, we want to see all these new thousands of houses going up,” Johnson said. “There are real hardships.

“Poverty is our problem,” she said. “We’re all affected by it even if we think we’re not.”

Concerted Services, Inc., a community action agency, has been operating in Effingham County since the mid 1980s. Their mission is to fight poverty and help poor Americans reach self-sufficiency. It is one of 1,000 such agencies throughout the nation, Puerto Rico and the trust territories.

The community action network was established under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 as part of the America’s War on Poverty campaign.

The deadline to participate in the simulation on poverty is Friday. Anyone interested in signing up must contact Darla Johnson at 754-6910 or Spots will be filled on a first come, first serve basis.

Volunteers are also welcomed.

The simulation is from 10 a.m.-noon and lunch will be served afterwards.

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