Our goal: a healthier Hilton Head
The Circles program consists of in-person training and weekly meetings. Participants (called Circle Leaders) build friendships with volunteers (called Allies). Every week, Leaders, Allies and their families come together, share a meal, and learn from each other. Yes - we said families. This means children are welcome to participate in our programming as well.
Over time, these relationships help families climb out of poverty and achieve financial stability. As barriers that keep people in poverty are identified, participants become advocates who work to resolve those issues in our community. Over time, the opportunities and obstacles families experience are shared with the larger Hilton Head Island community, so successes can be celebrated, and the barriers can be overcome.
This process not only changes people’s lives; it changes the communities in which people live.
10% of households in Beaufort County, SC
are in poverty
(Their annual household income falls below the Federal Poverty Guidelines.)
About Circles USA
We reduce poverty
Circles USA gathers middle-income and high-income volunteers to support families in poverty. Surrounded by people who have landed jobs, negotiated a lease, or managed credit card debt, for example, people experiencing poverty are more equipped to achieve long-term financial stability.
We change communities
While participants are navigating their way out of poverty, their successes and challenges are shared with local community leaders. The barriers that keep people in poverty are identified, discussed, and often resolved.
We have a model that works
Our participants achieve a 39% increase in income after six months and a 78% increase in income after 18 months. Participants continue to increase their income–even after the 18-month period.
below the poverty line
1 in 6 children
living in poverty
14.5% of households
lack enough to eat
We have been conditioned to believe poverty is an unavoidable problem of society.
What if that’s not true? What if we have normalized a condition we could actually solve?
- Founder of Circles USA, Scott C. Miller
Our vision is that everyone has enough money, meaning, and friends to thrive.
We seek to inspire and equip communities to reduce poverty and remove the barriers that stand in the way.
When some people live in poverty, everyone in the community pays a price. Adults who cannot provide for their families and contribute to the community report feelings of isolation, shame, and depression. On the community level, having residents who depend on government assistance drains precious resources.
But when people achieve financial security, they experience a surge of pride and confidence. Often, they say they have regained their dignity, their value, and their humanity. And the local economy benefits as more families move off assistance and start contributing to the tax base.
The work of reducing poverty rests not only in the hands of those experiencing poverty but also in the hands of the communities around them. Poverty reduction is not simply a humanitarian goal — it’s an economic imperative.
Indeed, a solution to poverty exists, and it is nonpartisan. Many conservatives believe the answer lies in people accepting more personal responsibility. Many liberals believe the key to reducing poverty involves providing more benefits. At Circles USA, we believe the right and the left can work together to reduce and eradicate poverty. Our model focuses both on what individuals can do to change their situations and on what communities can do to remove the barriers that stand in their way.
Circles USA is not a faith-based program. It is intended for any community group, government agency, or nonprofit organization that seeks to reduce poverty. Yet, faith-based organizations do use the Circles model as a way to give their members an opportunity to work with their community.
“The name of the organization says a lot: If you don’t know somebody in your immediate circle, they know somebody in their circle.”
—Khyle from Columbus, GA
"My mom was a single parent, but she always made the best of it so that it didn’t appear we were struggling. We didn’t have a great financial situation though — she didn’t know a lot about how finances worked when I was growing up. Had there been a Circles program back then, I’m sure my mom would have loved to attend it.
I had studied business and finance in school, but for a long time I was doing a lot of warehouse work. I have epilepsy, and I was doing jobs that weren’t safe for my medical condition. I had to find something that was safer, but I didn’t know how to start that journey. I went into the rent office one day, and they had a flyer for Circles. Your goals aligned with my goals. So I gave Circles a call.
Circles matched me with volunteer Allies who were able to support me, even if I just needed someone to talk to. Anything that would have set me back, I had help. I love my Allies, Jane Wilson, and a couple named Scott and Mary-Virginia Wehrenberg. I love them being in my corner. The name of the organization says a lot: If you don’t know somebody in your immediate circle, they know somebody in their circle.
Circles helped me create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound) Goals, too. For the first time, I looked at the way I save versus the way I spend. When you go to school for business, they show you how to keep a book balance. But you still may not know you shouldn’t be spending over 30% of your income. It’s a lot of info that should have been brought up in high school or college or earlier on.
With the professional communications tools that I developed in Circles, I learned how to talk to different people in the workplace. It gave me the tools I needed to first gain an entry level job in a call center. Within two years, I won the job of business analyst.
And Circles is such a family atmosphere. My kids developed a strong friendship with the children of my Allies—I loved that. They would be excited to show me things they learned in the Circles youth program about saving money. Anytime I knew there was a workshop coming up, I made sure we were there. I wish I’d had someone to teach me those things when I was their age, and now I want to make sure they know.
To those considering joining Circles, or funding Circles, or volunteering with Circles, do it! This is a good thing. The education and the staff and the relationships are all life-changing.”
(Click the image to read the Circles USA 2021 Impact Report.)
(Click the image to read about the Big View policy platform.)
(Click the image to read about the Cliff Effect, which occurs when a pay raise triggers a disproportionate loss of government assistance.)
Scholarship help at Technical College of the Lowcountry
While The Technical College of the Lowcountry (TCL) and government grants can often cover 100% of tuition costs while people earn a trade or nursing certification or degree, sometimes students have other barriers keeping them from secondary education and a lucrative, meaningful career.
With the average age of TCL students being 27 years of age, Deep Well Project may be able to help with these barriers, providing non-traditional college students a hand-up. Transportation and daycare assistance are examples of some of the ways Deep Well's Scholarship Program, via TCL classes, can help students get the education they need to secure and retain careers with better paying/less seasonal work options.
Click HERE to access the Deep Well Project Scholarship Application.
Please note that scholarships are for Circles program participants.
Questions? Just ring our office Monday - Friday 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.: 843-785-2849.