SLO Communities Bridging Poverty is holding the first Opportunity Conference at Cuesta College on Feb. 26 from 9-4 p.m. for San Luis Obispo County residents living in poverty.

Opportunity Conference 2011: The Bridge from Poverty to Possibility, joins participants with “navigators” (volunteers) to provide inspiration, training and networking to help participants learn how to break the poverty cycle.

Dr. Donna Beegle, founder and director of Poverty Bridge and Communication Across Barriers, is the conference keynote speaker. Dr. Gil Stork, Cuesta College superintendent/president, is the honorary chairperson of the event.

Beegle broke the cycle of poverty in her own life before dedicating herself to helping others do the same. She was the daughter of a migrant farm worker, and at age 25, was a single mother of two children with no high school degree, no job and no skills. She found a program in Portland called Women in Transitions that offered her the information she needed and opportunities to build her self-worth. After that experience, she went on to earn her GED, an associate of arts degree at a community college, a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and a doctorate in education.

“We provide guidance with implementing a community wide approach called the ‘Opportunity Conference’,” said Beegle. “The process bridges the gap between social service operations and the people who need them by creating a system where everyone is working together, and people in poverty are given opportunities to realize their strengths and reach their potential for moving forward.”

The conference is free to all participants and transportation, childcare and lunch are provided. Every attendee will also receive gifts and a chance to win prizes at the event.

The event was organized by volunteers from several local entities, including Behavioral Health, Community Action Partnership of SLO County, Court Appointed Special Advocates of SLO County, The Community Foundation, California Rural Legal Assistance, Cuesta College, the Food Bank Coalition, San Luis Obispo County Office of Education and Social Services.

“When communities come together to harness the value of everyone, lives are changed forever,” Beegle said.

Released Feb. 11, 2011