The initial Come and See meeting of Aurora’s Project RISE was held Thursday evening, June 21, in the basement of the old armory and has been deemed a huge success, according to Marsha Egan and Brad Boettler, local coordinators.

A total of 42 participants were on hand for the dinner and presentation, which featured Amy Blansit of Springfield’s Project Rise program, Boettler and Egan providing information on the framework and future plans.

By the end of the evening, five families had submitted applications for the program and five new volunteers had submitted paperwork requesting to help provide support, as well.

Project RISE has been in the works for Aurorans for over 18 months and is patterned after what was known as the Northwest Project in Springfield. Its focus is on connecting people and resources, while increasing resiliency for long-term stability. RISE stands for Reaching Independent through Support and Education.

The program is being launched this fall as part of the town’s GRO 2.0 Initiative, being led by John Paul Lee and a core group of community leaders, volunteers and citizens. The Growth in the Rural Ozarks Initiative is part of a platform supported by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. Aurora was the runner-up for the grant two years ago and was invited to jump on board this year for the second round of the program.

Aurora started participating in the two-year program to help promote growth, quality of life, economic improvement and streamlined communication amongst agencies and programs in January of this year.

Egan has been a part of the GRO 2.0 forum and stepped forward to carry on the initial work of the exploratory group who had laid the groundwork for the Project RISE piece last year.

Hundreds of people throughout the Ozarks from all walks of life are often one crisis away from financial trouble. This program will help provide the tools and resources to solve-problems, create new habits and provide a forum for networking and creating healthy dialogue with mentors, experts and others who have found ways to achieve additional success.

“Families in Project RISE will work on reducing debt, improving credit scores, increasing income, strengthening confidence and gaining hope,” explained Egan.

Participants in the program, which is set to launch in mid-August, can expect to work on: weekly accountability, help with how to spend tax refunds, parenting training, tailored resources to help with reliable and affordable transportation, housing resources through a variety of programs for specific needs, assistance enrolling in programs and applying for childcare subsidies, monthly budgeting, banking relationships, connections with job training and educational opportunities, discovering legal resources and referrals for a variety of needs and assistance finding healthcare and mental healthcare resources.

The requirements to participate are easy:

A family is one or more adults and at least one minor dependant. This family makes less than $50,000 for a family of four or more. Adults should have a high school education (or be able to complete in six months). The participants should be connected with the community and plan to stay in this community. Finally, the participants need to be ready, willing and open to make some changes to find new opportunities.

Egan explained there are five program opportunities for those wanting to get involved:

Recruit participants Provide incentives (the program will provide monthly gifts to those regularly engaged) Support a family (could be a church, a business or an individual or family who would partner to help meet the unmet needs of a family four times per year), Act as an ally (you would reach out weekly as a friend) Volunteer opportunities weekly to assist with program setup, childcare, dinner

“We will start with 5-10 adults who are willing to grow and learn and reach sustainability, then they implement changes in their families and affect perhaps 40 and then in a year they help us in the next class where these 10 help the next ten who become 40,” Egan explained as she talked about the plans for continued growth and success.

Additional committee members include Ashley Kennedy, Nicki Gamet, Christine Forrester, Martha Youngblood and Dianne Baum.

Check out the Facebook page under GRO 2.0 Aurora, Missouri: Growing Together and see more information at projectRISEMO.org.

Those with questions or ideas of support should contact Marsha Egan at 459-3394 or aumcmarshavolunteer@gmail.com or Ashley Kennedy of Bright Futures at akennedy@aurora8.org or 670-7436.