Doretta Abshire is ready to give back.

Abshire was hired March 1 as coach for Circles of McPherson County, a program that seeks to boost people out of poverty through education and intentional support. It’s a process Abshire knows well.

“I actually started with the Getting Ahead class, then became an ally, and I love it,” Abshire said. “I’ll probably keep doing this until I croak.”

Getting Ahead is the first class people take when joining the Circles program. It teaches participants about the cycle of poverty, and mindsets that can make it hard for people to escape.

Once they graduate from Getting Ahead, participants become Circles leaders — so called because they are in charge of their future. Allies, or intentional friends, provide whatever support the leader requests in their fight to escape poverty.

“I’ve never seen a community as generous as McPherson. I think that’s why the program works so well here,” Abshire said. “We have allies from every walk of life, and I’m astounded at how well it works.”

One area in which the program can use some additional support is in providing meals for the program’s Thursday meetings. The first Thursday of each month is a potluck, but the rest of the time, Circles depends on volunteer groups to provide food.

“Summer is hard because people are hesitant to commit,” said Alana Murphy, the program’s director. “Especially with a new Getting Ahead class started, it’s something we need more than ever.”

Between 50 and 75 people attend each week, many of them children whose parents are enrolled in Getting Ahead. Murphy said the idea is for the community to provide food so class members don’t feel like their allies are doing things for them.

“We want them to feel like they’re on an equal footing, and that’s hard if the allies are providing the food,” Murphy said. “When other people bring the meal, everyone is on the same level, whether they’re in poverty or middle-class or from wealth.”

In addition to providing a valuable service, Murphy said those who provide meals can gain valuable insight into the realities of poverty.

“You can sit with people and learn about them and Circles,” Murphy said.

Meals should be nutritious and preferably home-made. This is especially important because people living in poverty may not be able to afford the most nutritious meals.

“They rely on processed and fast food,” Murphy said. “The kids really light up when they see bowls of fruit — they just can’t get enough.”

For more information or to volunteer to provide a meal, visit the Circles of McPherson County Facebook page.