Bridges Out of Poverty

Bridges out of Poverty

The Bridges Program  was developed by Ruby K. Payne, PhD, Philip E. DeVol and Teri Dreussi Smith, and based on work by Ruby Payne in her book Understanding Poverty, which deals with the community challenge of multi-generational poverty. The premise of the program is that individuals in poverty view the world through their lens – the lens of poverty.  Often, this lens is in direct conflict with those holding middle and upper-class models.  The program strives to introduce and encourage participants to analyze their situation and view the world through a different lens while determining how to best move to attain better resources. 

The program identifies 15 participants per cohort.  They attend weekly sessions for 2.5 hours that provide insight into a variety of topics working together determine the best path for their future success.  In addition to the 16-week curriculum, additional sessions will occur in Ardmore to address personality styles, healthy lifestyles, financial education, and how to sustain their progress. 

The cohort is selected from individuals recommended by our partner agencies. Current partners include the Grace Center of Southern Oklahoma, Ardmore Family Literacy, Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army and several area congregations.  Attendance at each session is required and a stipend is provided to cover the expense for attending.  Additionally, child care with enrichment activities is provided.  The evening meal for both participants and children is included with the program.  

The Bridges Program, commonly known as Getting Ahead, impacts the community by addressing and attempting to reverse the many challenges facing the population rooted in multi-generational poverty.  Utilizing Getting Ahead, a program that has documented success, the impact will occur one family at a time. The goal over time is to impact individuals/families, benefiting the entire community.  The success of the program will be measured by metrics indicating increased employment and decreased reliance on charity.  Members of each cohort will be encouraged to continue involvement in the program as mentors. Additional support programming will be provided to assist them in sustaining their progress.  They will be requested to provide information on their progress for a period of 24 months after completing “Getting Ahead” programming to determine the effectiveness of the program.  A Report to the Community will be provided at the end of each year. The ultimate goal is to provide the community more productive and better citizens and employees while ensuring that the next generation of those families will have a opportunity for continued prosperity.

The Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Inc. (a 501 (c)(3) adopted and instituted the Bridges Out of Poverty Program as a result of a Community Leadership Retreat in December of 2017.  The program introduction was made during the retreat and staff spent several months in research and investigation and evaluation of the program and its potential in Southern Oklahoma.



Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Inc. Board:

Mark Reisen, Edward D. Jones

Curtis Davidson, First National Bank

Mike Chandler, CPA

Trish Long, Mercy Hospital Ardmore 

Mita Bates, President and CEO

Blake Bush, Bush Family Eye Care

Kevin Lassahn, Valero Ardmore Refinery

Associate Board/Steering Committee – Bridges Out of Poverty

Cynthia Pickens, Program Director

Leslie Dvorak, Grace Center

Leslie Kutz, Ardmore Family Literacy

Gerald Johnson, Catholic Charities

Stephanie Coleman, OG&E

Greg Newhouse, Jehovah Baptist Church

John Credle, Mt. Zion Baptist Church,

Mita Bates, Chamber & Chamber of Commerce Foundation)

Warren Blackmon, Michelin North America