Speaker urges ‘connection’ and ‘relationship’ in fighting poverty


Betty Bradley, executive director of Meals on Wheels Plus, talks with participants in a May 26 seminar on poverty held at St. Paul United Methodist Church. The forum was sponsored by Meals on Wheels Plus and featured guest speaker Elia Moreno, community engagement manager for Cal Farley’s Community Engagement Center. Photo by Loretta Fulton


By Loretta Fulton

During the Great Depression, the government instituted a plan to fight the high unemployment rate based on “relief, recovery, and reform.”

That was the philosophy behind President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program to immediately assist those in need, jumpstart the economy, and then keep the economy stable. The speaker for a seminar on poverty held May 26 at St. Paul United Methodist Church gave a brief history on the war on poverty and added a third “R” of her own.


Elia Moreno

“We need more than relief,” Elia Moreno said. “We need relationship.”

And that’s where people of faith and goodwill come in. Two centuries ago, the church took care of people living in poverty, Moreno said. Today, church people still are by building relationships with people, getting to know them on a one-on-one basis, and trying to understand the roots of poverty.

Moreno is community engagement manager for Cal Farley’s Community Engagement Center. She also is a frequent guest speaker on seminars dealing with poverty and is the author of such books as “Living Intentionally,” based on her own life.

She was guest speaker for the May 26 forum, which was sponsored by Meals on Wheels Plus. Betty Bradley, director of the meals program, said the agency serves 1,200 clients.

“A high percentage of them are living in poverty,” she said.

Moreno talked about the various types of poverty, among them generational, situational, recessional, and poverty based on homelessness. A different kind of poverty, she said, is a “poverty of being.”

That kind of poverty, Moreno said, teaches people that they are deficient, that it is totally their fault they are living in poverty. But Moreno disagrees with that type of labeling.

“It is the situation they’re in that is deficient,” Moreno said.

Moreno urged the audience to point out misconceptions about poverty and to challenge people spreading those misconceptions. People tend to judge what they don’t understand, she said, including the roots of poverty.

In order to truly help the poor, people who serve them have to connect with the ones they are serving, Moreno said. They must put aside any type of misconceptions and judgments about people living in poverty.

“We can’t be connected,” Moreno said, “if we’re judgmental.”


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