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Be the change

With the decreasing condition of the United States economy, this year’s International Awareness Anti-Poverty Week is aiming to serve high numbers of people and families in need. History professor Mike Austin explained that through Anti-Poverty Week, which spans the week of Oct. 12 through Oct. 18 and is intended to primarily raise awareness and resources, officials hope to assist as many people as possible as winter approaches.

“With escalating fuel prices, going into the winter is such a crucial time to make people aware and put in an effort,” said Austin. “With an increasing financial crisis comes more and more people in crisis.”

Claims of people in crisis are supported by statistics on www.census.gov, which states that 37.3 million Americans were living in poverty by the end of 2007, which increased by more than 1 million people from 2006 figures.

While Anti-Poverty week is largely geared toward helping as many people as possible through local organizations such as the Castleton Food Bank, Fair Haven Concerns and Poultney Pantry Express, another main goal is keeping people informed.

“In general, we want to educate all of us, faculty, administration, and students, to be a caring community so we can take that into the world to make it a better place,” Austin said.

Although Anti-Poverty Week only lasts seven days, there are plenty of local opportunities to contribute to the community year-round.

Groups like the Vermont Economic Justice Program, the Peace and Justice Center, and the Pantry Express host a variety of volunteer opportunities ranging from food banks, community meals and efforts to make necessities like fuel and heat more affordable for all families. On campus, Jan Rousse and Chrispin White coordinate community service and civic engagement resources.

“Education [on poverty] is for life; it’s not a one-shot sort of thing,” said Austin.

Anti-Poverty Week ends with a Music Fest and Information Fair, from 7 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 18 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Castleton.

The festival will feature music by Castleton’s own Robert Wuagneux and Don Garside, as well as access to food banks, clothing resources, and fuel assistance. Suggested admission is a nonperishable food item to benefit local food shelves.