For 93 years the League of Women Voters has been a force for civic engagement in communities across the country. League volunteers from coast–to-coast are working to make their communities and their government better at every level. As part of National Volunteer Week in April, we heard some truly inspiring stories from Leagues across the country, starting with this story of impact from the League of Women Voters of Moscow, Idaho.

LWV of Moscow noticed that the local demand for the services provided by homeless shelters, food banks and other local charitable institutions had increased dramatically. Such increases caused concern in the League as well as in the halls of government. “In November of 2010, the director of the local homeless shelter approached the mayor about escalating demands for services, especially for families. At the same time, area food banks were publicizing requests for more donations, and a faith-based job training site struggled to place people looking for work,” League member Nancy Chaney explains.

“Although poverty in the area was not generally perceived as widespread, the coincidence of apparently disconnected circumstances was unsettling.”

The mayor, recognizing that this could in fact be a serious concern, scheduled a forum to gauge the extent of the problem and identify potential solutions. “That forum became an ongoing series of meetings, which in addition to inspiring the League’s study, also improved communications among service providers, enhanced public awareness, attracted a program to house homeless families, drew a Federally Qualified Health Center to Moscow to provide sliding-scale medical care, and galvanized collective determination to improve circumstances that lead to poverty, as well as the means to help people emerge from it.” Chaney told us.

As a strong and active presence in the Moscow community, the League of Women Voters jumped at the opportunity to engage with an issue that was directly impacting their neighbors. “The study that LWV of Moscow undertook looked into five of the major elements of poverty including homelessness, food insecurity, health care, child care, and transportation. They also studied deficiencies in communication, job training, as well as access and funding for necessary services. Such studies are a huge undertaking and really take a coordinated effort by many League members who are passionate about their community and want to see it thrive.” Chaney said.

The League of Women Voters was just the organization for the challenge, and the findings of the LWV of Moscow study were substantial. They concluded that poverty alleviation programs at every level should be more fully utilized to identify people in need, provide information on what services are available through a single informational hub, and to assist the needy in acquiring these services, while advocating for coordination of eligibility rules and phase-outs so those receiving multiple benefits do not lose them all simultaneously.

In Moscow, League members voted to “support programs and approaches that improve the availability of goods and services by coordinating existing programs or by altering, enhancing or creating new ones.”

The value of the League’s thoughtful and engaging facilitation and action on a poverty study is a great example of the unique value the League brings to understanding and acting on issues of importance and specifically how the LWV of Moscow is making a positive difference.  In Moscow, Idaho, like in other communities nationwide, the League of Women Voters continues to engage people who care about the issues in their community. The League is a place that they can learn about local issues and advance solutions that lead to a healthy and vibrant community.

 

If you would like to highlight a story of community impact from your local League please email 2-3 paragraphs to Shauneen Grout at sgrout@lwv.org with the title “League Impact” in the subject line.