McPHERSON, Kan. – McPherson County has about 30,000 people but also features a relatively low poverty rate. About seven percent for families, according to the most recent U.S. Census data on demographics.

Yet for anyone battling through the cycle of not having enough of the basics, it can feel almost impossible to break out of.

“Many people experience poverty because it is generational,” said Monica Frye, the board president of STEPMC, which stands for Steps To End Poverty of McPherson County. The group operates out of the McPherson United Methodist Church on East Kansas Avenue.

STEPMC has kept its doors open in McPherson County for 14 years, providing the tools for 81 adults and even 68 children to shift into higher earning potential and to surpass the benchmark of double the federal poverty guidelines.

Frye doesn’t call them ‘clients’ but rather ‘leaders’.

“They’re leading their own story out of poverty and they come out of many different backgrounds and many different reasons,” said Frye.

We can all see the basics at a shelter. Blankets, food, perhaps rent assistance. STEPMC works on the next stage for reaching financial self-reliance. Showing people how to be more successful, professionally, and to build a financial future that can break out of the past.

STEPMC gets no state or federal money but Frye said people, everyday people, can be the driving force to help their operating costs.

As the leaders reach the point of graduation from the program, that is a true celebration to mark the discipline for new habits and a new outlook.

“The community gets dressed up and we run it like a full graduation celebration and the leaders get to share their own stories, with a certificate and some cash for doing their own work,” said Frye.

This moment not being the end of a course or a program but a fresh start with a more solid approach.

“People who have experienced poverty to get onto leadership boards and positions so that, when questions come up about living in poverty, we have a lived experience,” said Frye.

To reach Steps to End Poverty of McPherson County, reach www.stepmc.org.