The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 29, 2013

A day in their shoes: Event highlights the struggles of those living in poverty

JOHNSTOWN — One-third of Johnstown’s residents live in poverty.

That is approximately 7,000 men, women and children struggling to financially get by.

The Cambria County Health and Welfare Council and Community Action Partnership of Cambria County want to help other citizens gain a better understanding of the challenges facing those individuals. So, on Tuesday, May 21, they will host Walk a Day in My Shoes: Understanding Poverty at Greater Johnstown High School.

The event will be a poverty simulation in which some of the area’s most well-known and successful individuals will participate in a simulation designed to educate them about the financial and personal decisions people living in poverty must make every day.

“The goal is to raise awareness in the community,” said Paula Eppley-Newman, executive director for Beginnings Inc., one of more than a dozen local organizations participating in the simulation. “We all kind of think we know, but we don’t.”

Half of the 88 spots open in the simulation already have been reserved by some local politicians, educators, foundation leaders and others, although no official list has been released yet. Participants will be divided into “families.”

They will then go from station to station, each of which represents a different location, such as a grocery store, bank, homeless shelter, school, etc., and determine how to spend their limited money and juggle busy schedules.

“We hope the people will broaden their understandings and challenge their perspectives of poverty,” said Kimberly Robertson, director of planning and program development for Goodwill Industries of the Conemaugh Valley.

CAPCC originally wanted to hold the educational event after purchasing the simulation from the Missouri Association for Community Action, however, the organization did not have the manpower to run the simulation.  

The welfare council, on the other hand, did not possess the information needed to hold the event, but did have plenty of willing volunteers.

“It became a perfect hand-in-glove fit,” said CAPCC Executive Director Jeff Vaughn.

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