| News

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Connellsville area poverty simulation opens people's eyes

Mark Hofmann | Trib Total Media
Donna Kopitsky (left), minister of Unity of Connellsville Church, volunteers in the role of a community services employee during the Cost Of Poverty Experience, a poverty simulation exercise. Cris McDonough, an administrative assistant with Community Ministries, plays the role of an elderly lady living in poverty.

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 12:51 a.m.

Nearly 20 people involved in the mission to care for those less fortunate and also a couple of local leaders had the chance to experience what it felt like to live a month in poverty.

Connellsville Area Community Ministries, the Salvation Army and St. Vincent DePaul brought the Cost Of Poverty Experience (COPE) to the Otterbein United Methodist Church this week.

Members of Circles USA out of Springfield, Ohio, an organization that brings resources together to get people out of poverty, presented COPE to those involved with Community Ministries along with other interested parties including A.J. Boni, a candidate for state representative, and Greg Lincoln, mayor of Connellsville.

Lincoln, Boni and the others were separated into groups representing different families. Each participant played a different person in the family, ranging from the young to the elderly. Every family went through a scenario with work situations, money situations and other situations.

The participants had to live a month as that family with 15 minutes of their time representing a week. They physically moved to different stations in the room, which included community services, a gas station, pawn shop, bank, probation, police department, health clinic, school, megamart, minimum-wage job, day care center, homeless shelter and more.

Chip Rowan, executive director with Connellsville Area Community Ministries, said the COPE event will allow people in the community and those who volunteer with the ministries and deal with people suffering with poverty a chance to walk in their shoes.

“I'm told this is something that will stick with you, and you will have a better understanding of how people live in poverty,” Rowan said.

The COPE scenarios were developed in part by Karin VanZant, executive director of Think Tank Inc., an organization that unites entities to battle social issues.

“This is a real dose of what it's like to live this kind of life,” VanZant said.

VanZant knows from personal experience, she said.

She experienced poverty while attending college, took four years to get out of that, and the scenarios and people the participants were portraying were actual clients of VanZant.

“So while you're role-playing their lives, keep in mind they're real,” VanZant said, adding that in her years of doing such work she has seen many compassionate people who wanted to help but had no clue what they were getting into.

Lincoln said the poverty simulation was an eye-opening experience.

“Trying to complete basic tasks like paying rent, utilities, buying food for the family, finding enough money to buy gas for the car was a very difficult experience,” Lincoln said. “The unfortunate reality is there are lots of families in our community that go through this on a daily basis.”

Lincoln said Connellsville is fortunate to have the Circles program coming to the city as an effective way to fight poverty head-on; the program will be working with 12 families in the area.

Rowan said that group was the pilot group in what he hopes will be many future sessions.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Fayette

  1. Man sentenced for fleeing from Redstone officer
  2. Man charged with threats against Fayette firefighters
  3. Former Fayette commissioner plans run as independent
  4. Hundreds to participate in Nicholson Memorial Bike Run to benefit cancer patients
  5. Connellsville police search for armed robber
  6. Prison: Fayette inmates secure marriage licenses via videoconferencing
  7. 3 charged in Fayette County shooting
  8. Former Fayette County Democratic chairman, county commissioner Lebder dies at 94
  9. Uniontown homicide suspect says high blood sugar level should negate statements to police
  10. Police seeking suspect in Fayette motel robbery