By Suzanne Schmidt
This year’s The American Dream Congress focused on fighting poverty in east and central Pasco County.
Presenters from all different organizations attended the congress including Anna Fulk of Projects of Pasco, Tim Mitchell of The Samaritan Project, Herb Roshell of Unwrap a Smile, Margarita Romo of Farmworkers Self Help, Gregg Hilfering of Boy Scouts of America and David West, president of the Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce. The congress was at the Zephyrhills City Hall June16.
Bob Loring started the congress nine years ago and continues to host it annually in hopes of helping the community work together to solve local issues. For more information or to contact Bob Loring with an idea, e-mail him at .
“I am very pleased,” Loring said. “The congress was well-attended. This is the perfect demonstration of how the government, public and private organizations can come together. I always say we need to close the ranks between public, private and faith-based organizations to face the future.”
Through his work as the coordinator for East Pasco Toys for Tots, he said he is always working with people from all sides.
“All the people here one way or another work with me for Toys for Tots,” Loring said. “We all need to talk about what we see in the community and talk about what is needed. I want everyone to trade cards and talk with each other.”
Margarita Romo, executive director of Farmworkers Self Help
Romo attended the event to share her expertise on poverty through her experiences with Farmworkers Self Help. Her organization helps migrant farm workers living in Dade City.
“I am here today because there are all different kinds of poverty,” Romo said. “It is not just a lack of food and people tend to forget this. There is not just poverty from hunger but also from spirit.”
She said she was at the meeting to network with people.
“I am hoping I can talk with the folks here about the unauthorized immigrant children that are here and how they fit into the American Dream,” Romo said. “I am hoping people here will understand the issue clearly and make a good judgment. It is our town; we have to decide how we want it to look. I think we all have to take part in that.”
Herb Roshell, co-founder of Operation Unwrap a Smile
Roshell said he wanted to attend the event to let people know about what he is doing. The organization he runs with his wife Stephanie helps children living in foster care in the area.
“Our main thing today is to bridge the gap between the secular and faith-based organizations,” Roshell said. “We do need each other in order for this program to work.”
Roshell said he feels people have lost sight of what the American Dream really is.
“We need to get all these organizations together so we can help children live the dream,” he said.
Gregg Hilferding, scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 72
Hilferding said he wanted to attend the event to explain how the Boy Scouts work to combat hunger and poverty.
“My main message is to explain the true goal of scouting as it relates to character development and leadership training,” Hilferding said. “I wanted to share with everyone all the work Boy Scouts does to combat hunger and poverty. I am also hoping to find new opportunities for the scouts to help other worthwhile organizations.”
He said Boy Scouts of America is helping to break the cycle of poverty.
“From a business point of view, we do a lot of services that help with situational poverty,” Hilferding said. “We expose them to new opportunities that they wouldn’t have normally. They are learning goal setting and leadership skills that they are going to need.”
David West, president of the Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce
West discussed what he considers to be the true face of poverty.
“I want to address the true roots of poverty,” West said. “I think for too long we have been hacking at the leaves instead of chopping it at the root. I am going to be the bad guy and say that I think most poverty is self inflicted by bad choices.”
He said there are three things he thinks contribute to poverty.
“There are three things people can do to stay out of poverty including finish in high school, wait until marriage to have children and get a job and keep it,” West said. “92 percent of poverty would be eradicated by those three things. I think most poverty is not something someone is doing to you, it is from the choices you make.”
Tim Mitchell of the Samaritan Project
Mitchell, pastor of Chancey Road Christian Church, said he wanted to attend the congress to provide encouragement.
“I want to encourage people to work together because we are all trying to help improve people’s lives,” Mitchell said. “I want to encourage people to get out of poverty and to become solid citizens so that they can give back to the community.”
Mitchell said the most important thing at the congress is for people to work together.
“We can’t do it alone but together we can make a difference,” Mitchell said. “The Samaritan Project is the perfect example of how the faith, public and private communities can come together. We need to focus on the long-term and not just help them get out of their current situation.”
Anna Fulk, founder of Projects of Pasco
Fulk said she was at the congress to encourage people to donate school supplies to Projects of Pasco for the low-income children in the area.
“I would like to see people come together,” Fulk said. “All the community organizations and churches need to come together to help us.”