The last Manna Connect graduation ceremony was on a frigid fall evening. I arrived cold, hungry, and tired due to a busy day at work and long drive in rush hour traffic. Within moments, however, I was greeted warmly, welcomed into a bright and cheerful space, and offered a fantastic taco dinner. The extended kinship of connection is just one way that Manna Connect and the community came together to celebrate its Fall 2019 class of graduates. And it was inspirational.
Since that night, I have learned so much about the life-changing work Manna Connect does every day in support of Douglas County residents and their families. The team at Manna Connect, led by the fabulous Erin White, has supported 32 graduates since the program launched in 2018. Based out of the Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Manna Connect works thoughtfully to address the rising needs of those living in suburban poverty. They have developed a unique career and community development model, which aims to rebuild community around people and coach them in developing pathways out of poverty through meaningful careers. The team at Manna Connect focuses on creating sustainable independence and wholeness that build on each individual’s inherent strengths and goals.
And although they cannot come together now in person as planned, Manna Connect is celebrating the 10 individuals who make up their Spring 2020 Graduating class. The stories that the graduates share, the hope and pride in their eyes, and statistics about the collective changes they have made in their lives are powerful.
As Erin White said, “This group of graduates was all in!” The combined annual income for the graduates increased 349% from $106,579 to $372.268. In addition, the graduating class experienced an increase of their total self-sufficiency score by 35%. As a group, they invested a total of 238 hours in individual coaching or wellness sessions and an additional 319 hours in community with other graduates and allies.
But maybe just as important to what Manna Connect helps people do, is how they actually do it. Erin and her team are warm, create a welcoming atmosphere whether by phone or in person, listen deeply, and show empathy for their community. They are humble, and seem tireless, as they advocate on behalf of their community and think creatively about how to provide meaningful and sustainable supports to others. They truly walk alongside others on their journeys.
We at Tennyson Center for Children are grateful to partner with Manna Connect in our Rewiring Child Welfare work in Douglas County. Manna Connect is a fundamental part of the work and we believe strongly that they will help us demonstrate that their type of service is crucial in rewiring how the child welfare sector functions. Thank you, Manna Connect staff and community for all that you do.