Building Bridges

What is Building Bridges?

Building Bridges (formerly Circles Joplin) is, at its core, about building relationships. Together, participants from our community figure out how to live better, more prosperous lives. Fellow community members assist Leaders in learning better ways to budget, resolve conflict, and gain successful employment. The best part about Building Bridges is that participants are changing their own lives. No handouts are given. It is simply people supporting one another through friendship and fellowship to make life better for our whole community.

Who does Building Bridges Impact?

The Building Bridges program reduces families and individuals relying on government programs and charitable aid. More importantly, it helps members of our community break the cycle of poverty. Graduates are armed with the tools to teach their children how to get ahead, not just get by. Successful completion of the program can increase the number of educated workers in the community, reduce the unemployment rate and increase the tax base, resulting in a more prosperous and healthy community. Building Bridges has served the greater Joplin area for the past five years, helping people lead more successful, dignified lives.

How Does Building Bridges Work?

At Building Bridges, we believe no one should live in poverty. Families and communities can and should take charge of their own destinies. And if given the right tools and support, economic stability can be achieved. We see it happen in our organization every day. Through our combined approach of individualized support from our dedicated volunteers and the resources of organizations and communities, we create a nurturing environment that educates, empowers, and equips our members to successfully pull themselves out of poverty.

We discovered several years ago that we need to have a very different approach to remedy poverty. The solution doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be personal. We have found that to make a real, lasting change, the issue of poverty needs to be addressed using a multi-dimensional methodology. Here’s how it works:

  • Community leaders and/or local organizations work with Building Bridges to establish a local chapter.

  • This begins with trainings. We take a collaborative approach during implementation by building on the strengths of existing community-based organizations.

  • Our model focuses on three stages: Crisis management and stabilization, education and job placement and retention, advancement, and economic stability.

Building Bridges sponsors groups of up to 25 participants who are known as Leaders. They are asked to:

  • Enroll in the Building Bridges Leadership Training Class to build financial, emotional, and social resources as well as an Economic Stability Plan,

  • Partner with trained middle-to high-income community volunteers, called Allies, who support a Building Bridges Participant’s efforts through networking, listening, and guidance,

  • Attend weekly community meetings with peers, Allies, and other interested community members for planning, support, and networking opportunities, and

  • Attend monthly Big View meetings, which include community discussions around systemic barriers to escaping poverty and the strategies needed to remove them.

Quick Links

Frequently Asked Questions

Building Bridges Leaders are individuals or families who are motivated to lift themselves out of poverty. Think of “Leaders” as members of the Building Bridges program. The Leader creates their own plan to increase their financial, professional, and social resources to move out of poverty. Participants will participate in groups and be willing to accept support from others, especially Building Bridges Allies. 

Building Bridges provides support by making personal and communal connections that are important for a successful life change.

Leaders are matched with Allies in accordance with their talents and interests, and are each asked to make an 18 month commitment. The relationships formed between Leaders and Allies during these meetings aids in building respect and understanding, linking people together to end poverty, one family at a time. Everyone is expected to meet with their network at least once a month. In addition, Leaders are asked to attend a weekly community meeting. Children’s programming and dinner are provided during this time. 

One of the fundamental roles of our volunteers is to serve as an Ally. An Ally works directly with a Leader to figure out how to accomplish their goals by providing help in areas they know. These areas might include basic finance, education, or building social/community connections. Allies can be anyone with stable resources who want to help and learn.

Leaders and Allies are matched by their talents and interests and are each asked to make an 18-month commitment. Leaders are expected to meet with their Allies at least once a month. The relationship formed during these meetings builds respect and understanding, linking people together to end poverty one family at a time. 

Through outreach events, Building Bridges disseminates the proper framework for understanding and defeating poverty in our community. Our goal is to raise awareness of the issues of poverty so that everyone can come together and break down barriers that make it difficult for people to pull themselves out of poverty. We rely on your help to continue our stamp out poverty and help communities thrive.

We meet Thursday evenings at St. Paul’s Methodist Church. Interested participants and volunteers can contact Building Bridges staff to learn about the specific meeting locations and times.

Leaders come from many different backgrounds. Prospective Leaders who are primed for success in Building Bridges are individuals who have their needs met but are still “stuck” in a place of limited resources and opportunities to move forward. Leaders are usually in a stable position in life but are considered low-income. They have taken steps to care for any personal needs or crises, such as substance abuse or mental illness, so they can focus on long-term plans and changes to improve their financial stability and make other changes to reach long-term goals.

Building Bridges has both Allies and Ad Hoc Allies. Allies are individuals who want to invest in a long-term friendship with another person, understanding that change takes time. Allies are willing to listen, ask questions, offer encouragement, and provide support within their network. Allies take genuine pleasure in getting to know other people. Allies must be willing to give at least 6 hours per month.

Ad Hoc Allies are more task-oriented people who enjoy helping others accomplish specific tasks and enjoy sharing their knowledge with others. They may be interested in completing tasks like providing pro-bono work as a financial consultant, lawyer, or mechanic, or they may be interested in teaching skills like budgeting or driving. Ad Hoc Allies may be people who wish to be an Ally but are currently unable to make a long-term commitment to devote and share their time and talent with a Building Bridges Leader.

An Ally is different from a traditional mentor because the focus is on a reciprocal friendship with a Building Bridges Leader. Rather than a mentor relationship, in which a person with more expertise comes into a relationship focused on one-way sharing and support, Allies will receive support and learn from Building Bridges Leaders and other Allies in the process. Allies and Leaders are matched in groups rather than in a one-on-one pair: each network is a group of at least three.

Building Bridges cannot work without people like you. We depend on community support and involvement to mobilize volunteers, community leaders, and organizations. Our volunteers partner with families that are ready and willing to lead themselves to financial sustainability and success. Currently, we are looking for meal and childcare volunteers! If your group or organization would like to sponsor a meal at one of our Thursday night meetings, please review this form. If you would like more information about our childcare volunteer options, please review this form. Ready to volunteer, but not sure how? Please contact us here.

We ask all volunteers (other than those providing meals) to attend a few introductory training sessions before they begin participating in Building Bridges. Additional training opportunities are also available throughout the year for interested volunteers. Allies and Resource Team members participate in a general orientation about the Building Bridges initiative. Allies also participate in follow-up training about forming healthy relationships with Leaders, which covers: stages of relationships, setting boundaries, and appropriate forms of assistance. After being matched with Building Bridges Leaders, Allies receive ongoing support.

Child care volunteers attend a general orientation to learn about Building Bridges and the roles of the child care volunteers. Rules and procedures related to the conduct of child care volunteers, behavior management, and addressing safety concerns are provided.

Allies and Leaders are matched in groups of one Leader or one Family and 2 or 3 volunteer Allies. The allies are invited to join the Leaders/Families for several meals towards the end of the Building Bridges Leader training. They are also invited to attend the Building Bridges Leader Graduation Celebration. These opportunities allow Leaders and Allies to form more informal connections while sharing meals. The graduation ceremony will enable Allies to hear more personal stories from the Leaders as they share what they took away from the Leader training and the types of goals that they have made for themselves.

After graduation, Allies are encouraged to attend at least four weekly meetings in a row for the matching process. During the first month of Building Bridges meetings, the group will do various Get-to-Know-You activities to facilitate conversations and connections between Allies and Leaders. The staff at Building Bridges focuses primarily on matching Allies and Leaders based on genuine relationships formed as everyone gets to know one another. Attention is also given to personal interests and the compatibility of the Leader’s goals and Ally’s skills. Allies and Leaders are also asked to provide input into the matching decision. Staff considers this input during the matching process.

We work to build relationships across class divisions as a way to improve community conditions. The Building Bridges program reduces families and individuals relying on government programs and charitable aid. More importantly, it breaks the cycle of poverty as graduates teach their children how to get ahead, not just get by. The program can lead to an increase in the number of educated workers in the community, as well as reduce said community’s unemployment and incarceration rates. Building Bridges has already begun the process of changing lives, right here at home.

To learn more about Building Bridges, please contact Adrienne Weston at (417) 782-9899, Ext. 24 or at