Area team works to combat poverty

Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA), for many years has offered programs that help individuals get back on their feet. Often times, once an individual learns skills to better his or her life they take it upon themselves to help others with the same knowledge they have learned. The Community Action Team (CAT) was formed so individuals could pursue their goals in assisting others who need the help. The CAT Team's mission is to identify the causing conditions of poverty at a local level and work with community members to help correct the conditions.
The CAT Team bridges the gaps between community organizing and family development segments within CMCA.
"Graduates of our programs asked 'how can I use the skills you taught me?' The answer to that became the CAT team," CMCA Community Organizer Evan Melkersman said.
After graduating eight individuals from the first Step Up To Leadership class in 2012, five of them decided to form the CAT team.
"These individuals decided they wanted to go beyond Step Up," he said. "It also gives the participants a way to get involved with many of the organizations."
"During our classes with Step Up to Leadership, we decided our goal was to make a difference in our community and use the knowledge regarding how boards work and utilize that in our team," CAT Team Secretary January Wadeen said.
Wadeen's husband Kevin currently serves as president of the team.
The idea for the CAT team is not a new idea. Recently Melkersman said they started from scratch to build the idea back up into a viable idea once again.
One of the first projects the CAT team assisted with was a 'Toys for Tots' drive around Christmas. The drive was successful and only added inspiration to a group ready to conquer a new project.
Additionally, as the CAT team grew, the curent goal is to get representation from all organizations. Melkersman spoke at one of the last city council meetings asking for any council member to represent the City of Boonville on the CAT team.
"You get individuals who represent all segments of the community and bring them together so they can identify poverty in their specific areas. The goal is to add 15-20 community leaders. When it is all said and done it will be more like a coalition," Melkersman said. "It is listening to the needs of the community."
The 2013 Step Up to Leadership Class is due to graduate in less than five weeks and they are already thinking ahead. They have added nine more members to the team. As a team they decided the next project they will tackle will be a community garden.
Melkersman said it was quite extraordinary how the garden came about. He said one member had the land, one member had the tools and the rest of the team wanted to help grow the produce. Furthermore, the team wanted to teach people, not only how to grow produce, but to can it as well.
"I have never seen a group come together this quickly who really want to better the community," Melkersman said.
Melkersman said the team has a good solid foundation, they just need to add upon that.
For further information regarding the team or the community garden contact CMCA at 660-882-5601.