A Guide on the Path from Poverty

[imgbelt img=Sacred-Pathwaysguide530.jpg]A rural community organization adds to its food mission strong guidance for low-income families to the tax credits, college aid, and other benefits that can boost their prospects.


Swirling Thoughts

A cascade of lights shine at the Robeson County (NC) Fair. A new program based in this high-poverty county helps families gain access to federal support.

A white house with a refurbished garage has earned the name Sacred Pathways, by facing head-on the challenges of persistent rural poverty.

With a mission of empowerment and meeting people where they are, this small community-based organization in Pembroke, North Carolina, has to date been primarily dedicated to feeding people. The organization serves two hot meals a day Monday through Friday, provides emergency food boxes through local churches, and distributes food as a partner in the regional Second Harvest food bank

Now, Sacred Pathways has taken on a new partner and another mission to nourish the local community. With The Benefit Bank® of North Carolina (TBB™-NC), Sacred Pathways is helping to connect low- and medium-income North Carolina families to tax credits, food and health benefits, and student financial aid. These government resources can constitute work supports and be key to moving struggling families out of poverty.

Sacred Pathways is located Robeson County, North Carolina, tucked between I-95 and the South Carolina line. Pembroke, the county seat (pop. 2973), is the home of the Lumbee tribe and of the 6,200-student University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

At the 2010 Census, Robeson County had highest poverty rate in the state: 31.5%. It is a minority-majority county – 38 percent American Indian, 29 percent white, 24 percent black and 8 percent Hispanic.

Because of barriers to access and lack of knowledge, many people who are eligible for federal support, especially in persistent poverty places like Robeson County, don’t avail themselves of the financial and educational programs that could help them acquire training, better health care, and added income. An estimated $70 billion in work supports goes unclaimed by eligible households in the United States each year, $2.3 billion in North Carolina.

To increase access to such work supports, The Benefit Bank of North Carolina equips local community and faith-based organizations to screen clients and assist them in completing benefit applications and tax returns using a powerful, user-friendly online service called The Benefit Bank (TBB).   

MDC’s Works Supports Initiative, a national endeavor to connect low- and medium-income individuals and families to work supports using The Benefit Bank. MDC’s program currently operates in nine states: Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas.

Through local community-based organizations like Sacred Pathways in Robeson County, North Carolina, The Benefit Bank is making a difference in rural communities across the country.

Michael Schultz, a recent graduate of Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, is an intern at MDC, a non-profit based in Durham, N.C.