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Monday, September 3, 2012

Not the Stereotype

This weekend, I had an interesting Facebook interchange with a friend from high school about the availability of jobs and what constitutes a living wage. What I found distressing about our conversation was not our disparate points of view, but rather the persistence of negative stereotypes of low-income families across the political spectrum.

Every time I think we’ve moved beyond the presumptions that the majority of low-income adults mis-spend money on lavish luxury goods, that presumption rears its head. I don’t know which families my friend has been encountering, but when I look at the Benevolent recipients and their families, I see people who are striving to reach new goals, working hard to make ends meet, and trying hard to hold on to the things that matter.

Here at Benevolent, we look at things person-by-person; moving past stereotypes to learn the stories behind the people. Al was homeless and unemployed. He’s now working as a waiter. Al’s not aspiring to luxury purchases, simply to self-sufficiency.

Christina was a low-wage worker when she worked in after-school programs. Now she’s employed as a nurse - a profession that promises a better future for her and her family. Christina's family scrimped and saved to support her as she completed nursing school and those sacrifices paid off.

Behind all the statistics, there are faces, stories, families. Some are success stories like Al and Christina and others continue to struggle to gain and maintain their footing. At Benevolent, our mission to is to help low-income adults over their hurdles along the way towards their goals. We’d also like to be a part of the growing chorus of voices countering negative stereotypes with the real stories of real people who inspire us.

Al’s not sporting $200 gym shoes and Christina’s kids won’t be heading off to school with iPhones this school year. These families are working hard, reaching for their goals, and overcoming challenges many of us can’t imagine.

So, this Labor Day, I want to honor Al, Christina, Bridgett, and all the success stories on the Benevolent site. Thank you for sharing your journeys with us and for providing us all with proof positive that those negative presumptions about low-income families are the exception, not the rule.

- megan kashner, founder & ceo