SILVER SPRING, Md. — Every day, seven days a week, the staff and volunteers at A Wider Circle, a Montgomery County nonprofit devoted to fighting poverty, get 600 calls for help. “The phone’s ringing right now,” said Jenna Patchen Metzger, director of development.
On Monday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan visited the Silver Spring warehouse and workforce development center to get an overview of the needs of the program’s clients and to talk about how the program works. “We were just talking about how we might be able to utilize the services more and how the state might be able to provide more assistance,” Hogan told reporters.
Mark Bergel, the founder, president and CEO of A Wider Circle, said they get calls from 17 counties, and that families who call are looking for the basics: mattresses for an apartment they just got, or clothing suitable for a job interview.
Bergel says the bulk of the money for the services provided by A Wider Circle comes from individuals and families. “We’re a real grass roots operation. It’s just people helping people.”
“I think the notion that you can just raise yourself up by your bootstraps really misses how people are born and raised in our country,” said Bergel. “Nobody makes it on their own, and if you’re born into poverty, it’s extremely likely you’ll die in poverty,” he said.
Bergel said his job is to interrupt that cycle, and that working with the state on job training is the key. “I think the state is looking innovatively at how you help somebody get into the job market while having their family succeed as well.”
On the day Hogan visited, 17 families were given assistance; some were there to get a mattress for an apartment, others were looking at some of the job-appropriate clothes for a first interview, and still others were selecting much-needed dishes.
Looking at the activity around him, Hogan told reporters, “They contribute so much, and they do a better job in some cases than the government agencies, but we want to see how we can coordinate. It’s just a wonderful thing, and I want to take my hat off to everybody involved in the organization.”