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Nonprofit helps Utahns achieve financial goals through strong community

Posted at 6:29 AM, Jun 25, 2024

PROVO, Utah — A recent study shows roughly 8% of Utah’s population, or about 275,000 people, are living in poverty. That's where one nonprofit is stepping in, eager to help.

Whether it’s substance abuse, student loan issues, losing a job or whatever the reason, the Utah Valley Circles Initiative is one of several chapters in the state providing help for those who need it.

People like Cody Martensen, who says it was two decades of drug use that led him to be broke, strung out, facing jail time and losing custody of his children.

When he finally decided to seek help, Cody said the Circles initiative helped him turn his life around.

“What I‘ve found in my that there’s hundreds of people that have been through similar situations so I just found those people and said, 'hey - how did you get through it? How did you do this? How did you do that,'" Martensen reflected.

Housed in a Seventh-day Adventist Church in Provo, the Utah Valley Circles Initiative helps people like Martensen, who decide for themselves it’s time they get help.

“What we try to do as staff is give them the education and some general life skills and connection to resources and connection to people," explained Shannon Matos, a full-time staff member.

For Cody, it wasn’t only the prospect of jail time and losing custody of his children, but realizing that as a few of them got older, he was setting a very bad example.

“I had that, ‘Oh no, what have I done,' moment," he explained. "So I just remembered them and realized I had to get to work to show them a better way.”

Martensen came to the program six years ago seeking help and now he works for Circles Initiative, counseling others in similar situations.

“I wanted to help people like me," he said. "So every day I wake up and get to fulfill that purpose, I get to help people move forward.”

Matos says success stories like Cody‘s are incredibly rewarding and gives her purpose.

“We get to help people out of the poverty mindset and out of the struggle mindset and get them to thriving," she said.