What is Circles?

Circles is a high impact, long term initiative that empowers low-income participants to permanently move out of poverty. The Oneida County Chapter is part of the Circles USA national initiative with a mission to “inspire and equip families and communities to resolve poverty and thrive.” Circles engage community members and leaders across socioeconomic lines to change conversations around poverty, learn from those moving out of poverty, and build pathways of self-sufficiency through relationship building and community advocacy.

How Does Circles Work?

Circles works intensively with motivated, low-income individuals and families as they work to achieve greater financial stability and other goals. Participants begin by attending a 12-15 week “Circles Leader” training that provides the focus for the next 18 months (at minimum) during which participants work to build resources.

After the training, participants are matched with Allies (intentional friends) who provide supportive friendship and encouragement as they work together on goal progression. Allies are community volunteers who have a vested interest in helping to alleviate poverty and traditionally come from a more stable background. At least two Allies from a circle of support around each participant/family.

Circle groups meet weekly to discuss strategies for attaining self-sufficiency and to provide peer support. A family-style meal and child care are provided free of charge during weekly meetings.

How is Circles Different?

Empowerment Based: Participants create their own goals and identify ways in which staff, Allies, and the community can support their journey to financial stability.

Community Level Change: Circles engages in community outreach and advocacy to address systemic and community level barriers to prosperity and helps to develop strategies to remove them.

Scaling Deep: By working with small groups of participants, Circles is able to provide high quality and sustained interventions for a targeted group.

Initiative vs. Program: Circles strives to be a community movement rather than an isolated program. We partner closely with others to provide holistic support and resources from participants.

Hand-Up Approach: Circles does not provide financial assistance and looks to resolve the roots of poverty rather than the symptoms of poverty.

Become a Circle Leader

  • Do you want to try something different, but don’t know where to start?
  • Do you have goals and dreams, but not the support the achieve them?
  • Do you feel that “just getting by” is no longer enough?

Click here to download the Circle Leader Application.

How Can You Help

The success of the Circles initiative relies heavily on community support and volunteer efforts. There are many ways to get involved!

  • Donate, prepare and serve a simple evening meal for 30-50 people;
  • Volunteer to provide child care for 2 hours an evening on a regular basis (ranging from once a week to once a quarter)
  • Volunteer as a Circles Ally and be an intentional friend who supports and learns from low-income individuals and families.
  • Serve on the Resource Team, an action-oriented advisory council that helps shape the initiative and mobilize resources for its success.

Become an Ally

  • An Ally is a community volunteer who joins a circle of supportive friendship with several other Allies and a low income individual or family who is working on goals to move out of poverty and achieve economic stability. Allies support the individual or family as they work together to accomplish a goal.
  • Attend at least 2 Circles meetings a month for a family style dinner, fellowship, and a chance to connect with your
    Circle" and people from other Circle groups.
  • Bring your skills and experience to share with others.

Download the Ally application or the recruitment flyer!

The first Circles graduation class.

Become an Ally

National website:

Building A Stronger Community