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Group mapping vision for future of New Kensington, Arnold, Lower Burrell area

Poverty hits close to home

According to Circles Initiative's Scott McMannis, three precincts that comprise lower New Kensington and the Kinloch section of Lower Burrell have the highest concentration of poverty in Westmoreland County.

McMannis said more than 6,000 people — or 40 percent — of the people that live in these areas live in poverty. McMannis also said that one-third of children in New Kensington, Arnold, and Lower Burrell live in poverty.

By R.A. Monti
Saturday, April 20, 2013, 1:01 a.m.
 

More than 70 local leaders, business professionals and citizens met Friday afternoon to discuss the future of the New Kensington, Arnold and Lower Burrell area.

The meeting, which was held at the Westmoreland Community College New Kensington campus, was held in hopes of spurring ideas to revive the area, according to Scott McMannis, who is with the Circles Initiative.

The Circles Initiative is a group that teaches people how to overcome poverty.

“When people live in poverty, they live in the moment,” McMannis said. “They don't take a step back to look at the ‘future story.'

“What we want here, today, is for everyone to look at the future story — where we want to be.”

John Turack, a community development educator from the Penn State Cooperative Extension in Greensburg, and Whit Watts, assistant professor of geography at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, led the group through exercises designed to spark ideas on how to better the community.

The group was given tasks ranging from drawing the community and labeling its assets, to working on a concrete community plan.

“Sometimes it takes an outsider to act as a catalyst for change,” Turack said. “Maybe we can play the role of catalyst.”

The group, which was split into 10 teams, worked on developing a strategy to create new ideas.

“The biggest thing we're hoping to bring out of this is discussion,” Turack said. “When that happens, things progress.”

Watts, who brought a team of IUP graduate students with him, said he was happy with the group's size and demographics.

“I'm really happy it's such a diverse group,” he said. “It's a cross-section of the population of the area.”

New Kensington Mayor Tom Guzzo was one of the day's participants.

“This city means so much to me, and I'm glad these people took time out of their schedule to try to make it better,” Guzzo said. “It's important to see other people's ideas.

“It's important to see where they think this city can go.”

Circles' McMannis said his group will collect the data that the participants provided Friday and release a detailed breakdown in the coming weeks.

“We want to build on this,” McMannis said. “We want to do whatever we can to change our community.

“To build the area and end poverty.”

R.A. Monti is a freelance writer.

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