by: Chrystal Blair, Ozarks First

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate in Taney County is more than 17 percent — and 15 percent in Stone County.

In an effort to address these alarmingly high poverty rates, dozens of local organizations have joined together — for a first of it’s kind comprehensive study on the issue.

“It requires a multi-faceted approach and people uniting and coming together to do something about it,” said Elizabeth Hughes, Executive Director for Christian Action Ministries.

Community leaders formed a 24-month community assessment of poverty initiative — which began in September. From this initiative, “The Truett Poverty Summit Community Listening Tour” was birthed and set to kick off in Febuary at College of the Ozarks. The public is urged to get involved.

“For people to come and bring their voice and explain what they’re seeing in their community..the challenges, the successes. We want to know both,” Hughes said.

“We know that the agencies and ministries, they get it. But, we need to broaden that scope and really bring in the business,” said Sue Head, Vice President of Cultural Affairs and Dean of Character Education at College of the Ozarks.

Head said it’s about linking arms and addressing the issues, collectively.

“We’ll get the hard facts that show us really what the extent of poverty is in our area,” Head said,”I think that this time of the year is a good time to think about those in our..we call them our neighbors in need. Those who are struggling. Most people are one paycheck away from being in the same boat.”

Those on the frontline, understand that those living in poverty are often left without hope.

“Without hope what do you have. Without hope, what do you have,” Hughes said, “I’m a believer. I think the first thing you ca do to address hopelessness is bring Christ into the picture. He is the ultimate Savior.”

The summit starts on Febuary 1st, at C of O.

Click here for complete story with video from Chrystal Blair of Ozarks First.