An effort to reduce poverty in the area that includes Iowa’s third largest city will take a big step forward Saturday. The Opportunities for Quad Citians Committee will match volunteer mentors with local residents who are struggling to leave poverty. Committee spokeswoman, Liz Dierolf, says 100 volunteers who’ve experienced success in their lives, called “navigators,” have been trained to offer help.

“So, that person can say, ‘you’re having trouble with this barrier to getting a job. OK, I’m going to work with my contact at the local college and we’re going to do some job searching and career coaching…and get you on the path to finding a new job,'” Dierolf said. Another volunteer with experience in health care will meet with people struggling to pay medical bills. Dierolf says the committee did a lot of research and chose a national model for eliminating poverty called “Opportunity Community.”

It was developed by Donna Beegle who grew up in poverty. “She found success through interactions with people along her path who really took time to work one-on-one with her and say, ‘OK, let’s work through particular barrier on its own and then move to the next one,'” Dierolf said. According to the most recent figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, 18-percent of the population of Davenport is living “below the poverty level.”

The statewide rate is just over 12-percent. Opportunities for Quad Citians is funded by the United Way, and is a cooperative effort by a variety of agencies and organizations.