Changing life with a little help from her friends
When Draxa Langley moved to Peabody five years ago because it was the most economical town she could find, she had no idea townspeople would help her find a way out of stifling poverty she was in.
Wichita, where she had lived before moving to Peabody, was no longer a place for her and her family. Family issues were only part of reason.
“A pipe bomb went off about 50 feet from my house,” she said. “I couldn’t take it anymore.”
Now, she’s about to graduate from college and seek a master’s degree in library science from Emporia State University.
She’s taken classes via computer at Peabody Township Library. She even got her college books online.
A library is a tremendous resource for the poor, Langley said.
“When we came here, one of the first places we came was the library,” she said.
She had no Internet at home. Both she and her son, who is home-schooled, take classes online.
The library became integral to the family being able to settle into the community, Langley said.
“The only person I knew was Rodger Charles,” she said.
Charles, the library director and a Baptist minister, also assisted her in other ways besides providing Internet access. He helped her get a state library card.
Her state library card opened the door to a plethora of information and services. The state library has whatever information a person wants or needs in electronic format.
Now Langley is assistant librarian at Peabody.
Charles is a coordinator with Core Communities. He told her about the program, which helps people living in poverty climb their way out by showing them the ways to help themselves.
There are many stereotypes about poverty, and people who live in poverty often are afraid to admit their circumstances, Langley said.
She had to think about going to a Core Communities meeting because her situation embarrassed her.
“He said to try it once, and he would be there,” she said.
She found that volunteers for Core Communities made participants comfortable talking about their lives and challenges.
Helpful things she learned were self-assessment, budgeting, and time management. That knowledge helped her understand what sort of poverty she was in and how to look at it in better ways.
“I understood how I was looking at it,” she said. “I’d always been poor.”
She faced poverty not just as an adult with a family income of her husband’s Social Security disability payments — but also when she grew up.
She realized that the family she grew up in gave her an advantage that some people don’t have.
“I knew how to cook,” she said.
That might seem like a paltry advantage, but many people whose income qualifies them for food stamps aren’t able to make best use of them because they spend their benefits on prepackaged foods because they don’t know how to cook.
She knows how to prepare meals from scratch, and that helps her stretch the food stamps her family gets.
“Once you get it in your head that you can make your life better, it’s liberating,” Langley said.
It also gave her an opportunity to see that her own challenges were not the same as others face.
When she assessed herself, she decided she wanted a degree.
“I wanted a career that was going to take me to retirement,” she said.
It’s not easy to overcome poverty. Enrolling in college meant losing part of the family’s assistance programs.
“For people who want to get off assistance, there are roadblocks,” she said. “I’m not going to sit around and wait. I’m going to do something to make my life better.”
Her state library card allowed her to save money by accessing her college textbooks online
She also improved her ability to work with people to accomplish things she needs to do.
When her car needed to be replaced, she was found the courage to contact a car salesman she already knew in El Dorado, where she had lived before, discuss what she needed, and buy a car without a down payment.
“Core Communities gave me the ability to brave talking to him,” she said.
It also let her see she could do better in life.
“I can do this,” she said. “I can go to school. I am smart. I can change my situation. Can I do it overnight? No, but I can do it slowly over time.”
Tracy Lowe, Core Communities site coordinator and coach, agreed that Core Communities was not an instant-change program.
“You’re not going to come into Core Communities and have it happen in six months,” Lowe said. “It’s not going to work like that. It does take time. It’s a process.”
Three people will graduate from Core Communities’ “getting ahead” program — the first class participants take — at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The ceremony will be at Trinity Mennonite Church in Hillsboro.
Besides the three graduates, seven participants who already have graduated and Core Communities’ staff and volunteers will be at the ceremony. That would make it a great opportunity for anyone who wants to know more about the program, Lowe said.
Core Communities’ regular weekly meetings include a meal at 5:30 p.m. Thursdays followed by a meeting at 6:15 p.m. at Trinity Church. Child care is provided.
The next “getting ahead” course will begin in September. Summer meetings also are a great time for people to attend and learn more about the program.
“All we ask is that people who are going to come RSVP so we have enough food and enough child care,” Lowe said.
Core Communities is looking for volunteers and participants who want to change their lives,” Lowe said.
“We call them leaders because they’re going to lead their lives out of poverty and we’re going to show them how to do it.,” she said.
Lowe said she knew it was difficult for people to start out in the program, but she’s proud of Langley for coming as far as she has.
“All are welcome,” she said. “We’re not a place of judgment, and we’re available to everybody.”
Volunteers need only a passion to help people.
“We have a lot of things for volunteers to do, so we can find something that fits their interest,” she said.
Core Communities pays mileage to participants who drive from outside Hillsboro for classes.
“Starting in the fall, we will have a van, so if somebody does not have transportation, we will come pick them up and take them home,” Lowe said. “If they’re willing to come, we’ll help them get there.”
Lowe also is helping start up a Narcotics Anonymous group that will begin meeting in Florence in the fall. Anyone interested in being part of that can contact her directly, she said.
An Alcoholics Anonymous group meets at 6:30 Tuesdays at the Baptist church in Peabody.
More information about any of these programs is available from Lowe at (720) 971-7133.