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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Where is Circles located?

Circles Joplin meets Thursday evenings at St. Paul’s Methodist Church. Interested participants and volunteers can contact Circles staff to learn about the specific meeting locations and times. Circles is an evidence-based, national program that operates in over 80 communities and 26 states.

Q. What do you look for in a Circle Leader?

Circle Leaders can come from many different backgrounds. A Circle Leader who will experience success in the Circles initiative is someone who has his or her basic needs met but still “stuck” in a place of limited resources and opportunities to move forward. Circle leaders are usually at a stable place in life but are still considered low income, and have taken steps to care for any personal needs or crises, such as substance abuse or mental illness, so that they are able to focus on long-term plans and changes to improve their financial stability and make other change to reach long-term goals.

Q. What do you look for in an Ally?

Circles has both Allies and Ad Hoc Allies. Allies are people who want to invest in a long-term friendship with another person and understand that change takes time. Allies are willing to listen, ask questions and provide support and encouragement within their Circle. Allies enjoy getting to know other people and have time to participate at least 6 hours per month.

Ad Hoc Allies are more task-oriented people who enjoy helping others accomplish specific tasks and enjoy sharing their knowledge with others. They may in interested in completing tasks like providing pro-bono work as a financial consultant, lawyer or mechanic, or they may be interested in teaching skills like budgeting or driving. Ad Hoc Allies may be people who are too busy to give a long-term commitment to being a regular Ally, but want to share their time and talent with the Circle Leaders.

Q. Isn’t an Ally just another name for a mentor?

An Ally is different from a traditional mentor because the focus is on reciprocal friendship with the Circle Leader, rather than a mentor relationship in which a person with more expertise comes into a relationship focused on a one-way sharing and support. Allies will receive support and will learn from their Circle Leaders and the other Allies as part of the process. Allies and Circle Leaders are always matched in groups rather than as a one-on-one pair: each “Circle” is always a group of at least three.

Q. How can I volunteer?

Call Circles staff to schedule a meeting to discuss your volunteer interests. All Allies, child care staff and Resource Team members go through an informal screening process with the staff to ensure that their volunteer placement is the best fit for their skills and personality.


Q. What training and supports are available to a Circles volunteer?

We ask all Circles volunteers (other than those providing meals) to attend a few basic training sessions before they begin participating in Circles. Additional training opportunities are also available throughout the year for interested volunteers. Volunteer Allies and Resource Team members participate in a general orientation about Circles initiative. Allies also participate in a follow-up training about forming healthy relationships with Circle Leaders, which covers stages of relationships, boundaries and appropriate forms of helping one another. After being matched with Circle Leaders, Allies receive ongoing support.

Child care volunteers attend a general orientation to learn about Circles and the roles of the child care volunteers. Rules and procedures related to the conduct of child care volunteers. Rules and procedures related to the conduct of child care volunteers, behavior management and addressing safety concerns are provided.

Q. How are Allies and Circle Leaders Matched?

Allies and Circle Leaders are matched in groups of one Circle Leader or one Circle Family and 2 or 3 volunteer Allies. The allies are invited to join the Circle Leaders for several meals towards the end of the Circle Leader training. They are also invited to attend the Circle Leader Graduation Celebration. Both of these opportunities allow Circle Leaders and Allies to begin forming more informal connections while sharing meals together. The graduation ceremony allows Allies to hear more personal stories from the Circle Leaders as they share about what they took away from the Leader training and the types of goals that they have made for themselves.

After graduation, Allies are encouraged to attend at least four weekly meetings in a row for the matching process. During the month of Circles, the group will do various Get-to-Know-You activities to facilitate conversations and connections between Allies and Circle Leaders. The Circle staff focus primarily on matching Allies and Circle Leaders based on natural connections that are formed as everyone gets to know one another. Attention is also given to personal interests and the compatibility of Circle Leader goals and Ally skills. Allies and Circle Leaders are also asked to give input into the matching decision and both will submit written lists of the top three people that they want to be matched with based upon their interactions in the group. The Circles staff also consider this input during the matching process.

Q. How does Circles really make a difference?

Circles works to build relationships across class lines as a way to improve community conditions. The Circles program reduces the number of families and individuals who rely on government programs and charitable aid. More importantly, it breaks the cycle of poverty as graduates teach their children how to get ahead, not just get by. The program can increase the number of educated workers in the community and also reduce the unemployment and incarceration rates. Circles has a proven track record for success nationwide and has already begun changing lives right here at home.