Circles ®


Circles USA

Akron Summit Community Action, Inc. is the Summit County sponsor for the National Circles® Campaign. This evidenced-based initiative brings the community together to end poverty.


Circles® connects people who are motivated to move out of poverty and become self-sufficient (Circle Leaders) to economically stable volunteers from the community who are committed to changing the dynamics of poverty

(Allies). One Circle Leader and two Allies are matched, forming an intentional friendship of support. With the help of their Allies, Circle Leaders set and achieve goals unique to their individual needs and learn from one another,

while also having the opportunity to work together to address barriers within the community.

Circles® meetings are held every Wednesday evening at Westminster Presbyterian Church on West Exchange Street, Akron, Ohio.  Leaders and Allies are asked to attend at least two meetings per month for 18 months. 

To be eligible to participate as a Circle Leader or Ally, participants must have successfully graduated from a Getting Ahead program (Circle Leader) or complete Ally orientation and attend a Bridges Workshop.


For more information about Circles®, please contact the Circles Administrator at or 330-940-1105.

What is Circles®?

Circles® is a national initiative that connects people who are motivated to move out of poverty to economically stable people committed to changing the dynamics of poverty.

Circle = 1 Circle Leader + 2 Allies

Circle Leaders are individuals or families who are motivated to get out of poverty. After completing Getting Ahead, a 14-session course, the individual creates his or her own plan to increase their financial, professional, and social resources to move out of poverty.

Circle Allies are volunteers who form a supportive friendship with a Circle Leader. Allies work with the Leader to figure out how to accomplish his or her plan, offering help in areas in which they are familiar; whether it's financial, educational, or social/community connections. Allies create goals for themselves as well, which Circle Leaders can help them with – establishing reciprocity.

When, Where, and How Long:

  • Weekly Circles meetings are Wednesday evenings from 5:30-7:30pm at Westminster Presbyterian Church located at 1250 West Exchange Street in Akron.
  • Circle Leaders and Allies are asked to attend at least 2 meetings per month.
  • Circle Leaders and Allies are asked to make an 18-month commitment to ensure that long-term relationships are created.

Structure of the Weekly Meetings
All meetings begin with a community dinner for all Circles participants, volunteers, and their children. Then, children will go to structured youth programming and the adults will begin the work of Circles.

  1. Week 1: Individual Circles Meetings: each Circle breaks out into a different area of the church and meets to talk in-depth and privately about what is going on in each of the Circle members’ lives. Goals are discussed, plans are made, and relationships are built.
  2. Week 2: Topic meetings: each month, the Circle Leaders will choose a topic they want to learn about.
  3. Week 3: Guiding Coalition: This is the leadership group for Circles. Each team will have the involvement of Allies, Circle Leaders, and other community members. There are 5 teams on our Guiding Coalition:
    1. Resources Team,
    2. Recruitment Team,
    3. Big View Team,
    4. Community Team, and
    5. Economic Stability Team.
  4. Week 4: Big View: The Circle Leaders choose a community barrier which they want to address that keeps people in poverty.

Circles is part of the Bridges Out of Poverty Summit County Collaborative ( and is administered by Akron Summit Community Action, Inc. under the guidelines of Circles USA (

Bridges Out of Poverty Summit County CollaborativeCircles USA

Become a Circle Leader

To be eligible to participate as a Circle Leader, participants must have successfully graduated from a Getting Ahead program.

Getting Ahead - Getting Ahead is a 14-16 session course developed for those living in poverty that focuses on the impact poverty has on them, their families and their communities. Getting Ahead works with participants to examine their own situation and to create goals and resources to encourage positive change. Getting Ahead is offered at several locations in Summit County. Please click here for more information. Upon graduation, participants are eligible to apply to be a Circle Leader.

Get Involved

There are many ways to volunteer with Circles:

  • Become an Ally - volunteer as an “intentional friend” to a person/family in poverty, attend 2 Wednesday evening meetings per month. Volunteers must attend orientation prior to becoming an Ally, as well as a Bridges Out of Poverty Workshop within 6 months of becoming an Ally.
  • Become a childcare volunteer - Wednesday evenings, 5:30-7:30pm.
  • Help with weekly dinners - donate nonperishable foods, volunteer to cook, or clean-up after weekly Wednesday evening dinners.
  • Serve on the Guiding Coalition - a representative group of people from the community committed to the continued success of the BOP initiative in Summit County.

Other volunteer opportunities are also available. Please click here for more information.

Other ways to get involved:

Attend a Bridges Out of Poverty Workshop - This workshop is designed to assist social workers, teachers, medical staff, management and other professionals that work with people in poverty. Bridges Out of Poverty is a set of ideas and information on how to best work with, retain, and assist those in poverty as well as create a more in-depth understanding of the systemic barriers within our community that perpetuate poverty. There are several yearly Bridges Workshops which are open to the public. Our trainers are also available to provide on-site training at your facility.

Attend a Poverty Simulation - The Summit County Poverty Simulation is an out-of-your-seat interactive experience that will challenge your understanding of poverty, community services and public policy. It draws forth lively, humorous, heart-felt discussions between role-players at all economic levels. CEUs are available.

The Poverty Simulation is part of the educational/community change programming of the Bridges Out of Poverty Summit County Collaborative. The simulation is coordinated by Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority and its residents. For more information, contact 330-376-9699.


Circles accepts donations of many different kinds, including:

  • Clothing (all sizes, adults and children)
  • Household items (dishes, cookware, linens, paper products, cleaning supplies, etc.)
  • Small appliances (toasters, blenders, irons, etc.)
  • Nonperishable food items (especially in large quantities – we serve dinner to 50 people each week)
  • Prepared meals for Wednesday night dinners (coordinate with Circles Administrator – 330-940-1105)

Donations can be dropped off at Akron Summit Community Action, 670 West Exchange St. Akron OH 44302, Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00am and 5:00pm; or can be brought to Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1250 West Exchange St. Akron OH 44308, on Wednesday evenings only between 5:30pm and 7:30pm.

If you would like to make a monetary donation, please make checks payable to Akron Summit Community Action, Inc. and write in the memo “Circles”. Checks should be mailed to Akron Summit Community Action, Inc. ATTN: Finance; 55 East Mill St.; Akron OH 44309. Monetary donations can be used for weekly meals, program supplies, children’s programming costs, etc. If you would like your donation to be used for a specific purpose, please specify on the check or in a letter.

Circles® is proud of the support we receive from the United Way of Summit County, PNC Bank, the Akron Community Foundation, and our dedicated individual donors and volunteers.

Contact Us

Program Office:
Akron Summit Community Action, Inc.
670 West Exchange St.
Akron, OH 44302

Phone: (330) 940-1105
Fax: 330-253-8836


Bridges Out of Poverty Summit County Collaborative (BOPSCC) -
A 22-agency collaborative effort to end poverty in Summit County. As part of the BOPSCC, ASCA, Inc. administers Circles®. The BOPSCC also provides programming for Getting Ahead, Bridges Out of Poverty Workshops, and Poverty Simulations in Summit County.

United Way of Summit County -
Fiscal sponsor of the Bridges Out of Poverty Summit County Collaborative, provides funding for Circles.

Westminster Presbyterian Church -
Donates the space and use of equipment for the weekly Circles meetings.

Circles USA -
Provides the national curriculum, training, and framework for Circles®.

PNC Bank -
Provides funding for Circles.

Akron Community Foundation -
Provides funding for Circles.