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At Stand Together Foundation, we have a deep belief in people. With the right mindset and support, everybody is capable of extraordinary things. But too many people have been left behind and trapped in circumstances that limit their ability to realize their fullest potential. As a result, persistent poverty has become widespread and worrying in our country.

Whether it’s a single mom struggling to make ends meet, or a man just released from prison. Maybe it’s a young woman who has aged out of the foster care system and now has nowhere to turn. So many people trapped in the cycle of poverty don’t have the safety nets or the relationships that so many of us take for granted. The lack of a support network can be a major driver of poverty. Poverty is most often a deep disconnection from community. Individuals feel invisible. Forgotten.

People experiencing poverty have all the initiative, talents, and desire to lift themselves up. But first, they must be remembered, valued, and supported by the power of relationship.

That’s one of the reasons that our Catalyst partners (a network of 150+ top-performing nonprofits across the country) are so successful. The Phoenix has impacted more than 26,000 people across dozens of cities not just because it recognizes the healing power of athletics in overcoming addiction, but because it offers a community of support for those facing this struggle. Back on My Feet isn’t just a running group; it’s a community that offers compassion, hope, job training and resources to those combating homelessness, to just name a few. Thread seeks out the most academically underperforming students in Baltimore and radically reconfigures their social support networks, helping them with things from packing lunches to getting to school on time. And Family Independence Initiative offers a platform for families to exchange financial and social capital with other families experiencing similar challenges – relying on relationships rather than expert “help.”

These organizations have impacted people like Norma, who overcame drug addiction, homelessness and what she refers to as intense “self-hatred” to become a Harvard graduate. And Aisha overcame hunger, the death of her grandmother, and entry into the foster care system to graduate from high school and begin community college.

These top-performing organizations – the catalysts for change - include incredible staff and volunteers who have often experienced and overcome the same struggles that they are now working with others to help solve. They understand the challenges and the depths of despair that have to be transcended for people to start believing in themselves and in the power of their own unique talents. Individuals who’ve experienced poverty and transformed their lives become a witness and testimony that change is possible.

Evan Feinberg

Written by Evan Feinberg

Executive Director, Stand Together Foundation

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