News & Events

July 19, 2021

Generational Poverty Brought to Focus with Bridges Out of Poverty

Long-term vision of reducing generational poverty in Copper Country introduced to community members

Late last week about 100 community members were introduced to Bridges Out of Poverty – a program Portage Health Foundation (PHF) is committed to bringing to Michigan’s Copper Country to help reduce generational poverty in Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties.

Bridges Out of Poverty Logo“Eyes were opened during these sessions,” PHF Executive Director Kevin Store said. “Generational poverty is a serious issue in our community. Bridges Out of Poverty is going to help build our community’s understanding of its effects, and more importantly help our friends and neighbors find their way out of the vicious cycle poverty creates.”

Treasure McKenzie led sessions introducing the program on Thursday and Friday in Houghton. The programs focused on defining poverty and discussing the multitude of solutions that are possible by utilizing the framework of Bridges Out of Poverty. McKenzie is the Bridges Out of Poverty Director in Muskogee, Oklahoma, which is about 10 years into the Bridges Out of Poverty implementation.

“This is a systems-change approach,” McKenzie said of Bridges Out of Poverty constructs. “It has allowed Muskogee to make huge strides in addressing and combatting the effects of poverty. I met a lot of great people this week and feel confident similar results will be seen in this community.”

The training was the first step of implementing Bridges Out of Poverty in Michigan’s Copper Country. The next step will be creating a multi-sector steering committee for Bridges Out of Poverty to create a framework and timeline.

“Over the coming years you’re going to hear a lot about Bridges Out of Poverty,” said Store. “We are going to work hard to implement a program our community will be incredibly proud of. Many families will be impacted and find their way out of poverty because of the experience.”

If anyone in the community is interested in helping out with this program or learning more about it – email

Learn More About Bridges Out of Poverty

PHF Podcast: Get to Know Bridges Out of Poverty with Treasure McKenzie

Bridges Out of Poverty InterviewIn July 2021 Portage Health Foundation (PHF) welcomed Treasure McKenzie to Michigan's Copper Country to introduce community members to Bridges Out of Poverty. McKenzie leads the Bridges program in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and through 10 years they've seen more than 300 families utilize the program. Of those, 73% have found their way out of social services. Now PHF is looking at how this program can be implemented here in the Western Upper Peninsula.

“We have the right ingredients at the table right now to bring it all together and really serve this community," PHF Executive Director Kevin Store said. "This program provides a framework for the willingness, passion and work ethic of the community to come together and have real change.”

This might be the first time you've heard the words Bridges Out of Poverty, but with a commitment to improving the health of our community through this program, PHF knows this won't be the last time you hear it.

Bridges Out of Poverty News Coverage