Leadership Centre County | Simulation drives home message: Get involved with community

February 1, 2014 

Kristin O’Brien

It’s early on Wednesday morning as I stare at my sleep-deprived face in the mirror, pull my hair off my face and put it into a bun.

Next, I throw on the little bit of makeup I have left and grab a bottle from my bag. Gerald should be waking up soon and I don’t want him to wake anyone, so I hurry.

Hopefully Glen is up and ready on time, so little Gerry and I can see him off to work.

We have a quick hello and goodbye, as usual, then Glen’s beat-up car heads out of the parking lot. I pray to myself and hope he doesn’t break down again; we really don’t have the money to fix it right now.

I look at Gerry and say, “Well, buddy, it’s our job to get things done today. You ready to be mommy’s helper?

His angelic eyes look at me as if they were saying, “Whatever you need, mom.”

So I go back inside, grab my bus pass, bundle us up and head to the housing office.

First business of the day is to lock down a place to live. I was warned this morning again, not in a nice way, that we only have three more days to stay at the shelter. So this is priority No. 1.

After three hours of waiting, filling out applications and spending most of our money, we finally have a home we can move into.

How we are going to move? That’s tomorrow’s problem.

Next, all I can think about is the notice I read last night that we may be losing our benefits and food stamps, so back on the bus and we are heading downtown.

After sorting that out, it is way past lunch. I should have known it would take hours. I am exhausted.

However, we need food now or I won’t be able to get the rest of my list completed and catch the bus back to the shelter in time. Thankfully, a church downtown has a soup kitchen open with a free hot meal. Gerry loves listening to all the people talking.

This is just six hours out of the life of a character I role-played for a day with Leadership Centre County. Her name was Gale, and through an intense monthlong poverty simulation and in-person agency vignettes, we became close.

I saw the struggles that she and many other real Centre County low-income families face.

In the rewarding poverty simulation, I felt extreme panic, despair and frustration — with some humor to get me through. A huge theme of my day was asking, “What do I do? Where do I go? How do I survive today?” — never thinking about tomorrow.

Thankfully, Centre County human services agencies answered those calls.

A huge take-away for me was that there are a lot of services in our area and a great team of people who care. Also, I think this experience has enforced my belief that getting involved in the community makes a difference.

Going forward, I challenge more of our local community to get involved. Half the battle is educating ourselves so we can educate others.

Each of my Leadership Centre County class members experienced a low-income family situation, and it is our duty to grow from it.

I hope as leaders and community members that we support our nonprofit sector by serving on boards and being volunteers.

Through this we can bring our personal and professional strengths together to make a difference in our local community.

Get involved today!

Kristin O’Brien is a real estate agent at Keller Williams Advantage Realty and a member of the Leadership Centre County Class of 2014. For more information about Leadership Centre County go to www.leadershipcentrecounty.org.

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